Chickens for Sustainability

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by 3girlzcraft, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. 3girlzcraft

    3girlzcraft Out Of The Brooder

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    I would love to know more about raising a flock for eggs and meat. Have been looking into it and would love to hear comments from people who are already doing this. The sooner the better, as we are now preparing for more chickens in the spring. Mainly, I want to know how many chickens are needed? How do you rotate your flock? What is the cost compared to the lbs. of meat in the freezer? When do you slaughter? Pretty much, I know nothing. We do have room to expand. Live in a rural area. So, the world is open for chickens. Thanks for your help!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    There are a lot of threads on this general topic. Here are a couple of recent ones.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/847448/self-sustainable-homesteading#post_12609926

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/848552/dual-purpose-for-meat#post_12638176

    It’s not a simple topic. There are many different ways you can go about doing this. I suggest you check out these threads, and maybe go to the sister sight “Selfsufficient Self” or maybe look through this forum for other threads. It will take some research and work, but you seem to have the right attitude. After you’ve read some, come back with mire specific questions. Plenty of us will be glad to help if we see your post. You can help the right people see your question by posting in the meat bird section or maybe flock management. The topic might fit either. And put enough information in the thread title to get the right people’s attention, like the one you chose for this thread. That’s much better than just saying “HI” or ”Help”. it's surprising how many members haven't figured that out.

    And welcome to the forum. Glad you found us.
     
  3. 3girlzcraft

    3girlzcraft Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks! Will totally check these out. Pretty new to the chicken scene (only had ours 9 mos.) but the whole family really enjoys them. Thanks for the help. Will return after homework is finished! Appreciate your help.
     
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    The above post does give excellent advice. I have flirted with the idea for years, raise a large garden, we have our own cattle, and I have the chickens. It is more difficult than one might think to raise all of your own food. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. And really, you can loose a lot of money if you are unlucky. For me, and granted, I rather play at this idea, but some years the chickens do well, some years the garden does well, some years you get great potatoes, and some years you don't.

    If you don't have a lot of experience with chickens, you might consider starting with a dual purpose breed, like the Delawares. Big meaty birds, but do give you eggs too. They are slower growers, so do not all have to be processed all at once.

    The true meat birds are on a FAST growing schedule, and there comes a point that after that age, their heart can't keep up. If you don't get them butchered on time, you can loose a lot of them.

    As to number, start out smaller, and gradually go bigger. There are 52 weeks in the year, do you want one or two chickens a week? Would it be better to butcher a couple or a dozen at a time? How much help can you muster each time? And do you have freezer space?

    Mrs K
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
  5. ChickenCurt

    ChickenCurt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    There are several breeds that are ready to butcher in 8-10 weeks which will keep meet costs down as we as production layers that'll give you an egg or more a day but for sustainability I'd recommend a well rounded heritage bird. The production birds grow into issues as Mrs. K stated; meat birds have short lives due to cardio problems, egg birds waste away due to the high tax demanded of their bodies to produce so much. Heritage birds mature slower but will brood to maintain a flock. 6-14mo. to mature. They'll give between 250-300 eggs a year and dress between 4-8lb. depending on the breed.
    Leghorns, Rhode Islands Red/White, Cochins, Orpintons, Brahma and Jersey Giants have done me well in the desert but many other breeds may be more suitable elsewhere.
    These birds are self sufficient on the range or easy to care for in a yard and I have had some go feral on my property and raise chicks without intervention but they average 40-50% mortality rate with young due to predation and climate though the survivors due better and are heartier. They have better instincts than the production birds though none match the skill of a bobcat (waiting for that chicken to hatch ;) ).
    Keep 4 or more generation between sires or undesirable traits as well as high mortality will appear.
     
  6. 3girlzcraft

    3girlzcraft Out Of The Brooder

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    Mrs. K, thanks for your input. I will definitely start small as you suggest. We aren't looking (at least now) to total sustainability. Mainly wanting to limit steroid use in our meat. Have wanted to try for a long time and since we have had such great luck with our heritage breed egg layers, we thought we'd try a little more. Never butchered a chicken, so we'll see how well we do this year. I have read to mix meat birds and heritage breed so that you have a little along, meat quicker, eggs, then meat again.

    As for a meaty bird that grows faster, what would you suggest? I have read about Cornish Rocks as long as you harvest them around 7-8 wks. Do you know how they compare in flavor?

    Thanks for your help and thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
  7. 3girlzcraft

    3girlzcraft Out Of The Brooder

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    ChickenCurt, thanks for your info. Question please, How do I go about insuring the generation gap for our hatchlings? Should we mark chickens from a certain rooster and make sure another rooster breeds the ones we hatched? Very confused on this.
    Thanks for your help and comments.
     
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    There are no hormones or steroids in commercial chicken. The birds in the grocery store are not genetically modified or engineered, or given steroids. The're simply selectively bred and fed to gain a huge amount of weight in a very short time. You can achieve the same results with regular chicken feed (no hormones or steroids) at home. Just sayin' [​IMG]
     
  9. ChickenCurt

    ChickenCurt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Band them according to age. Most bands are numbered and colored so can log specifics, i.e. #45 yellow Johnny Roost/21lb RIR/DOB 2011 etc. Now you have your stud per say from your first flock and if he breeds all your yellow banded hens (15 max for good fertility some say 20) keep that offspring from him as well as from the hens once they mature (most roosters are for the Barbie anyway). I keep my roos with desirable traits for future generations. Do similar for hens. Keep rooster with hens for three weeks before saving eggs for incubation (2nd & 3rd year hens give better quality eggs for breeding) and keep breeding flock separate from free rangers until you've gathered enough eggs for hatching. Eggs kept at 50-55deg. will keep for 4-6 weeks if needed before incubation (think of it as suspended animation for chicks) but I don't do more than 2 weeks personally. 10 hens will give you 100-120 eggs in that time. Once your done breeding you can let them free range with everyone again or keep separate flocks if space allows.
    Hope I didn't forget anything.
    I was reading an e-book copy of an early 17th century writing on chicken keeping and they would use mobile coops on skids and move flocks of 50 every season to different 2 acre paddocks and then winter the birds in houses with sand boxes and the brooders were glass panels placed over compost piles during the winter months. Compost stays warm and has everything a chick needs to eat. Thought to share for anyone off the grid or wanting to keep costs to a minimum. :)
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You might want to do some research on "Spiral Breeding" to understand this concept. It requires some record keeping and you need to keep the specific birds isolated for the hatching eggs during breeding season. It is a very common method for people raising show birds or developing project birds, whether new breeds, new colors and patterns, or special production traits. There are different specific ways you can do this. One way is to divide your flock up into three groups, yellow, red, and blue bands. The pullets always get the band color of the mother. But every year, the yellow roosters go to the red pullets, the red roosters go to the blue pullets, and the blue roosters go to the yellow pullets. Just a different way to keep up genetic diversity.

    If you don't want to go through all this, a much simpler method is to bring in a fresh genetically different rooster every 4 or 5 generations. They can be the same breed if you want to maintain a breed as long as they have been genetically separated for a few generations. That will keep the genetic diversity up enough as long as you pay some attention to which ones you eat and which ones you breed, hens as well as roosters. When you introduce new blood you're not sure exactly what genetics you are introducing, so there are some tradeoffs in simplicity versus control of genetics. Still this is a very standard way people have used for centuries to keep a flock.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014

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