Breeding your own meat birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Ariel301, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    This seems to be a popular subject, and one I am interested in myself, as my family is unable to purchase meat we are able to eat from any local store (We're Orthodox Jewish, and none of the stores here carry kosher certified meat, there's just no demand here with fewer than 10 practicing Jewish households in town. The only option is to drive 2+ hours and pay $10 a pound for chicken!). Plus, we'd just prefer to raise as much of our own food as we can. We are already raising goats for eating/milk, and we can butcher cattle and sheep that we buy from local farms. I want some chicken though.

    We're not huge meat eaters, maybe a couple of days a week, so I am thinking 25-30 chickens put in the freezer a year would be plenty for us plus a few to share with friends. I am planning to buy some Cornish cross from a hatchery when I can, and raise them for meat, but I would like it if I could do something more self-sustaining and not have to keep re-ordering those guys. I'd like a bird that can be slaughtered fairly young. I know I won't be able to get another chicken to grow as fast as the Cornish cross, but something more reasonable than 5-6 months of grow time would be great. We're planning on keeping about 15 laying hens (various dual purpose/ heritage breeds) for eggs, and will be eating any excess roosters we hatch from them (and probably some hens too) but I was wondering what sort of breeds/crossbreeds would make the fastest bird to process? They don't have to get super huge, it is more important to me that they are somewhat quick, especially roosters, as we don't want to hear 20 of them crowing all the time lol. And we are limited on space and feed budget, so it would be better not to have to have them so long...the goat we are about to butcher, we've had to feed for a whole year to get him to any decent size, and that just gets expensive, you know? (We accidentally ended up with a mini-goat, he's only 60 pounds at a year old-barely worth the effort to process!)

    I know that the cornish cross won't breed true as they are a hybrid, but I was wondering if anyone has successfully bred these? Do they mate naturally, or do they absolutely need AI? What kind of offspring did you get? What about putting a regular cornish or Plymouth Rock or Jersey Giant rooster over some cross hens?

    What about making your own 'cornish cross'? I know it won't be as good, but I'm wondering if it's worth it to try. Anyone tried crossing a regular Cornish with something else for meat birds? If so, what did you use and what did you get?

    What about just raising regular Dark Cornish? How good are they as meat birds? At what age do you process? How big are they?

    I'm just wondering what experiments people have already tried.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  2. Bossroo

    Bossroo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 15, 2008
    Take a clue from your mini-goat, and stick with the Cornish X. Best feed conversion rate of any chicken out there plus 6-8 weeks and you are done for the year. Also no seperate breeding flock to lay over and feed for an entire year just to get a few chicks to raise wich equates to tons of extra labor, space, feed, and dollars.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  3. Buster52

    Buster52 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 28, 2009
    Geronimo Oklahoma
    I like my Dark Cornish, but then I don't mind waiting 20 weeks. Slow maturing birds taste better in my view. I think creating your own meat bird cross is worth a shot, and while it won't get as big or big fast as the CX, it might be good enough for you.

    I have heard the various Rocks grow pretty fast, and the White Plymouth Rocks I butchered recently were young and big, although I don't know what their exact age was. They lacked the breast meat of my DCs though, which is why they are crossed with the Cornish to get the CX.

    I don't know how accurate is, but Henderson's Chicken Chart does tell whether or not a breed is fast maturing or not. Maybe you can find some helpful information there. I'm going to be experimenting with a couple of breeds this summer to see how they do, and might cross them with my Cornish some day, but I haven't tried it before and so have no advice for how you should proceed.

    And don't let the Cornish X Fan Club discourage you from your goals. They are fine for certain people with certain goals, but it is okay not to want to raise them.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  4. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    Thanks, Buster, that is very helpful. I know that the one white Plymouth Rock pullet I have is huge, it might be worth crossing some of those with a cornish, to try to get something more self-sustaining than always ordering more chicks.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  5. AZKat

    AZKat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 7, 2009
    For what its worth, when my grandma was a girl, they raised white plymouth rocks for eggs and meat. They bought 100 chicks each spring, and maintained a laying flock of 12 birds year round.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  6. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    The Plymouth Rocks are definitely becoming a considerationg for an alternative meat birds. I'm thinking of trying a few of those (since they're good layers anyway) with a Dark Cornish rooster over them to hatch out some crossbred meat birds...might be good, might not...we'll have to see.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  7. petrelline

    petrelline Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 13, 2009
    Los Gatos, CA
    I'm in the middle of a barred rock meat bird experiment, and just started slaughtering them. They're 14 weeks and 3-4 lbs, dressed. I don't plan to keep them beyond 18 weeks, they're getting too big for my taste. Terrific leg quarters but thin breasts. I'm OK with that because I like dark meat, but you may have a different preference. Barred rocks are everywhere and cheap, but the dark feathers do make them less pretty dressed (the pin feathers can leave dark spots.) White rock of course solves that problem.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  8. smith2

    smith2 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 5, 2008
    Paris, TN
    I like BOrps as meat birds. They are super easy to dress, have little or no pin feathers and the meat is really tasty. They do about 15-16 weeks to mature and their skin is white not yellow like some birds, but I love them. You might want to try 2-3 of a couple of different kinds and see which ones you like best.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  9. TimG

    TimG Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 23, 2008
    Quote:I started a thread about this in May or June and have read a lot and discussed this topic with a number of people.

    I think the real short answer is that in order to get a meat bird that will grow quickly enough to process by 16 weeks you will have to undergo a pretty serious breeding program. Rather than use just one breed, you'll likely need to maintain at least two lines (and maybe four) of breeder stock and it will take you a few generations before you get results you will be happy with. Maintaining the various lines will mean that anyone doing this on a small scale will not be saving money.

    The sustainable dual purpose type breeds (Buckeye and Brahma come to mind) will generally take longer than the 16 weeks you have targeted. But, this doesn't mean you necessarily have to spend a lot more on feed than you would with an 8 week old Cornish cross. You can put these breeds on pasture (in tractors) and they will get a significant portion of their feed from grass and bugs.

    As I have mentioned elsewhere, I recently visited a homestead where they raise Brahmas. They hatch chicks every spring. In the fall they butcher the six month old roosters and the 18 month old hens. This way they get some larger roasters (the roosters) and some smaller birds for slow cooking (the hens), they get the most productive egg production months of the hens' lives, and they are able to sustain their flock without purchasing chicks every year. They, of course, keep a rooster to take care of business in the spring and they trade roosters with others in the area from time to time to keep new blood in the flock.

    You might also want to look at Colored Rangers. They are a hybrid that will not breed true, but they are not as extreme as the Cornish crosses, I am confident that they could breed without AI. I think they would be a significant head start towards raising your own line of meat bird if you go the breeding program route.

    I hope whatever you decide you will report back and let us know how you're doing. It is of interest to a lot of us.

    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.
  10. clyde

    clyde Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 3, 2009
    berry, illinois
    I just finished with my first batch of cornish cross. at eight weeks they finished at an average of 3 1/2 pounds. i suppose i am happy with that...i'm not really sure what they were supposed to weigh after 8 weeks. I;m not sure i'll do this again.

    i just bought some buckeye stock from a breeder that says they are great layers and will have more meat on them than a hatchery version barred rock...this i believe is true because there isn't much to my hatchery bought barred rocks, though their rate of lay is top notch. based on what i saw of the parent stock of my buckeye pullets, i think i will get some large birds, but over a much longer period of time. i'll stretch the feed by letting them forage, something the cornish cross didn't care to do much of. i'm willing to wait...besides they'll taste better i think.
    Brahma Chicken5000 likes this.

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