Best way to have plenty of chickens in the freezer and in the backyard????

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by zabrielle23, Feb 13, 2015.

  1. zabrielle23

    zabrielle23 In the Brooder

    Jan 30, 2015
    tylertown, ms
    I have only had chickens since December. I have 3 Rhode Island Red hens 1 Rhode Island Red Rooster 2 Barred Rock hens 1 Dominic and 1 Delaware rooster the Rhode islands are separated. Basically how should I go about picking chickens to cull and which to keep and reproduce once we get an incubator. We have a family of 6 with 3 adults 2 teens and a growing boy I need enough in the freezer for mainly fried, baked or grilled chicken. I looked into the fast growing meat chickens and that is not what we want we are not looking to have show birds nor production birds. We want happy home grown chickens that are healthier to eat and the Cornish Cross X seems a bit like what you buy in the store. I am worried that if I get too many hens I will have more eggs than we can actually use but I don't want to kill a good layer. To me this sounds a bit like a math problem but I need an answer so I don't have to go and buy eggs or chicken.[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]Please someone have an answer like I said I am new at this.
  2. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Songster

    Mar 31, 2009
    SouthEast Texas
    I don't know if there's an easy answer to your question, but i'm going to take a stab and helping you with a starting place. :)

    Of course, the answer depends partly on how much land you have and how many chickens are going to be enough. With a big family like yours, i'm guessing you want to butcher something like 100 chickens per year??

    Obviously, about 5 months after each time you hatch, you'll have some number (around 50% of your hatch) that will be males, mostly males that you will not keep around for breeding. These, of course can be butchered.

    The other thing you can do in order to fill your freezer is to develop a system in which hens who are a certain age - say two years old or three years old, are culled for meat as they are replaced by younger hens for laying. Of course, in order for this to work your flock will need to be much larger than it is now. If you do not think your family can use the eggs, why not sell to neighbors and other locals? This will help to offset your feed and other costs.

    As far as picking whom to cull for breeding, i think you should give yourself a little time to develop some personal opinions about what attributes you like and which ones you don't really want in your flock. It's so early in your "chicken experience," as it were, that hard and fast rules seem hard to come by. I hope that makes a little sense.
    Minky and cavemanrich like this.
  3. glib

    glib Songster

    Dec 8, 2007
    100 chickens a year for the family is a lot. We butcher 15, and we will eventually go to 25, for 3 people, at about 5 lbs dressed. After we eat through one (it takes 3 dinners) the leftover bones and carcass and feet produce a gallon of rich broth, that also needs to be eaten (that is another 4 dinners during which we eat some other meat).

    If one thinks about 100 animals per year it is worth investigating rabbits, which are the only animals that can be raised without feed in small spaces. A friend has the most delicious rabbits (she gives me some), and all they eat is hay that her husband scythes around the property or in a ditch, acorns, some branches and table scraps. She processes 120 a year, and they are 10 times easier to process than chickens. They are lean meat (though with high vitamin and mineral content) and they need to be cooked in some lard to really be great.
  4. TXRooster

    TXRooster In the Brooder

    Feb 4, 2014
    San Antonio, TX
    Hello! Another guy that's going to take a stab at it .. So the Cornish hen is what you feed it, it's not like the store ones because this will be your "from chick till grill" bird. Just like the luxury of knowing what's in your eggs, it's comforting knowing how you bird became so big and healthy. I would prefer the Cornish for the very reason that it can fill my freezer in such little time without jeopardizing the nutrition of poultry. You can keep these guys with your layers, no issues. Another thing I started doing was raising quail, 5-7 weeks and their ready for the grill or freezer. You'll never go hungry with how quail are always laying fertile eggs for the Bator. One male to three female.

    Rabbits are a good idea, I have some as well. California's are really good for meat
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  5. Putting 100 chickens in the freezer is going to be a lot of work, a lot of feed, and in my opinion hardly worth the effort using the breeds you currently have. The roosters you will be hatching will take 6+ months to get any amount of meat on their carcass. Then they will not be frying or grilling meat. And having to raise them to 6+ months means you will always have 50+ chickens running around growing and eating until they are butchering size. Check out the dark cornish, freedom rangers. Dixie rainbows AND rabbits. Rabbits are easy to butcher, at the age of 6-8 weeks, and don't require as much room. You will be very greatful that they don't crow.
  6. Nupe

    Nupe Songster

    Jun 13, 2014
    I'm looking to accomplish basically the same thing though I don't have as many mouths to feed (unless you count dogs). I have a mixed flock for eggs and now I'm looking into meat. The Cornish X is a terminal cross and cannot replenish itself. Same goes with Freedom/Rainbow Rangers. The CX will lay eggs and you can try breeding them but most will die of a heart attack within a year. The oldest CX I've heard of is 18 months. I've seen a lot of experiments started on this forum with breeding terminal crosses but none that I would consider successful and they usually stop posting before starting a 3rd generation so I couldn't tell you how it works in the long run.

    The last commercial breed before terminal crosses took over the market was the Delaware. This is the one I'm looking to start. They grow a healthy sized carcass and are ready for the freezer in about 16 - 18 weeks vs 8 for the CX. They also do a decent job of laying. The breed standard was almost lost since the commercial market quit using them. The biggest producers of Delawares are now hatcheries and they don't put a lot into selective breeding. Fortunately it is coming back. A few breeders on this site is doing a good job at bringing the standard back up. I hope to one day be one of them.
  7. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Songster

    Mar 31, 2009
    SouthEast Texas
    Great information!

    I remember reading that Barred Rocks were once considered a preferred breed for meat, in the "old" days. I've noticed that rocks and rock hybrids have more generous breast meat than some other dual purpose breeds. I have never raised Delawares.

    Like i think i'm understanding from the OP, i also do not find the terminal crosses attractive at all, especially since i am working toward a more self-sustaining situation. I don't want to have to buy the chicks every spring. And the more you are able to offer free range and other feeding options, such as chicken food gardens, meal worms, etc., the more feasible you can make raising the dual purpose breeds for meat. If you butcher the roosters, pretty much as soon as you hear them starting to crow (at about 5 months), they are not very big - not like we're accustomed to buying at the grocery store, for sure - but they are definitely yummy fried, or however you want to prepare them.
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    You can eat any chicken of any age or sex. You have to adjust your cooking methods to their age, the older they are the longer and slower you have to cook them. Males that have entered puberty have a stronger flavor which can get stronger as they get older, the hens also but not as much. The chicken you get at the store are 6 to 8 week old chicks so they are really tender but have a much blander taste. Because that is what they are used to some people object to the older chickens we raise and butcher ourselves. Personally I prefer that flavor.

    Many people find the chickens we raise too tough to fry or grill after about 12 to 15 weeks of age. It’s not because of the breed, it’s because they are older. Different chickens mature at different rates so not all reach this stage at the same time. That’s not a breed thing; it’s an individual chicken thing. There’s not a lot of meat on one of our chickens at that age.

    Mom could serve a family of seven with one hen. The neck, back, heart, and sometimes liver (depending on how she cooked it) were separate pieces so it was not like something you get at Kentucky Fried. To stretch a smaller chicken when you have several mouths to feed you might want to think in terms or chicken n’ dumplings (now that is comfort food), coq au vin, or stews. These all taste better to me if the chickens are older. Over the long term, half of what you hatch will be female and you’ll have to feed them quite a while before you can tell the sex of them. To meet your dream you are going to have to eat the excess females or find a way to get rid of them, maybe by selling once you can identify them.

    I don’t know how many chickens you plan to eat a year or how much freezer space you have. There’s only two of us so one chicken, even a pullet, gives us two meals a week. With visiting my granddaughter and other relatives and occasional other things that disrupt our weekly routine, I only need about 40 to 45 chickens a year. My main laying/breeding flock is one rooster and seven hens. That gives us way too many eggs but I want that many to keep genetic diversity up a bit since I raise my own replacement pullets and rooster most years, plus I play a bit with genetics. Also, I raise 3 or 4 replacement pullets every year while removing the oldest hens to keep the laying flock young enough to keep a steady flow of eggs. We all have our own systems that evolve over time. And you have to be flexible. Things never work out exactly as you plan.

    Freezer space might be important. If you raise the broilers you have to process them at a certain age, no real options. With dual purpose chickens you can stagger the butchering as you wish, but you have to feed them. That costs money. With our dual purpose chickens you might consider hatching just a few at a time instead of having massive hatches so you can butcher them as they reach the level of maturity that you decide suits your unique circumstances. The downside of that is that you have to keep the incubator going a lot (which some people love, right Puddin?), you are constantly brooding chicks, and you are always integrating chickens. All this can be done but you might have to build more facilities and it may cut down on your travel time if you take many trips. It ties you down more. Everything is a tradeoff.

    Fifty to sixty years ago certain breeds and colors were raised as meat birds, the Delaware, New Hampshire, and some strains of White Rock for example. With selective breeding they developed strains of these birds that could reach 4 pounds weight in 10 weeks, but that special breeding has been lost in the last several decades because of the advent of the broiler. Some people are trying to bring that back, not just size but rate of growth. If you can start with some of their stock you are going to be starting in a much better place than hatchery chickens. Hatchery chicks are bred for the mass market. You are likely to see a big difference in cost for that stock for a very good reason. It costs money to develop those strains. Unless you learn something about genetics and how to select your breeders you will probably lose that advantage is a few generations. On a simple level you need to eat the ones you don’t want to eat and breed the ones you want to eat, but it goes a bit deeper than that. There are production, health, and behavioral things you need to look for too.

    Over just a few generations you can take hatchery stock and move toward your goals by carefully selecting your breeders, but you are at a much better starting point if you stock starts out closer to your goals.

    If you plan to skin your chickens it doesn’t matter, but if you pluck them you might want buff or white chickens. You are going to leave some pin feathers behind in any case, but the darker ones show up a lot more than the lighter ones. You get a prettier carcass with less work if you have light colored chickens if you pluck.

    Since you are not breeding for show or to preserve a breed, there is no reason to keep your chickens separated unless you just want to. Mine is a mixed breed flock. I select which chickens come closest to my goals as my breeding flock and eat the rest. I’ll never win a chicken show but I’m OK with that. I’ll never enter one. But if you are planning on selling the pullets, you can probably sell pure breeds easier than from a mutt flock like mine. I don’t sell hatching eggs or chicks either. I use what I hatch.

    Your goals are doable but I think you will find that your goals change a bit as you gain experience. There are a whole lot of different ways to achieve what you want and you can get there. Along the way you will learn a lot and have some disappointments but it is a great adventure.
    Minky and Finnie like this.
  9. Finnie

    Finnie Crowing

    Oct 27, 2014
    That was a great post. Very educational.

    The whole thread is interesting. It has got me to wondering how many chickens our family of 7 eats in a year. (Store bought, of course. I am also new to this, and only intend to produce eggs, not meat. [​IMG])
  10. LindaB220

    LindaB220 Crowing

    Aug 23, 2013
    Portland/Vancouver area

    Great idea. Delawares are fast
    Try mixing them with a good new Hampshire
    Even better hybrid vigor. Plus it will give Golden Comets
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2015

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