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Commercial Hybrids, Farm chickens, Heritage debate.

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by VanUnamed, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. VanUnamed

    VanUnamed Chirping

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    Hello,
    I was thinking about something lately, as what is best, or what you guys think about something in general.
    I have 3 flocks of meat birds. I had hatched 50 eggs of my flock (rooster biefeldern, it's a large dual purpose breed) and various hens, 25 of these, were not from my farm, I bought eggs, light sussex, But I didn't see the parents. so as to now, I cannot say if they are bantams or they are just small. of these sussex, 20 were taken by the fox, so I bought a mix of "chicks" about 5 weeks old to a local hatchery, a mix of red rangers, 1 naked neck and some that look like my rooster. I have the survivor Light sussex on one area, the other 2 flocks, are in two chicken tractors, one contains the bought ones, another the ones I hatched, divided equally. What I noticed: when I fill their feeder, that gets full at about 5lb, when the flock that I hatched has finished all, the bought stock has still left in it. My thought is: better feed conversion rate, or maybe this bought one are bigger hence need less as they are almost grown up, whereas the ones I hatched are a bit younger. The sussex, somewhat eat a lot less that either flocks, they are much more active and go hunt for food and bugs. I still can't figure out if they are bantams or not, but at 3 months and a half the males don't crow and they are a bit big to be bantams maybe, they are the size of a commercial laying 18 week old pullet.
    I do know that asking "what's best" is silly because it depends on one's target. My target is to have tasty meat, i always process at minimum 5 months if not more. I think, that in theory I should hatch my flock's eggs and not buy the commercial ones, as despite maybe slightly worse feed conversion rate, and some are smaller in size, the chicks cost next to nothing, and I can have them hatch out when outside is solid 90F and save a lot on heat lamps during the day as the outdoor brooder gets to that temp easy.
    Thoughts?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    "Tasty" is kind of an individual thing. I typically butcher my cockerels after 5 months and my pullets after 8 months, once I've evaluated their laying and decide which pullets to keep as replacements. That means I do not raise Cornish Cross or Rangers.

    If you are buying feed for your breeding chickens, your hatching eggs are not free, though if they forage for a lot of their food they may not be that expensive. Or maybe you have a use for the eggs. How many eggs do you want to hatch at the same time? That will tell you how many hens you need to keep. If you hatch eggs about half will be pullets, how important is to to you that you only butcher cockerels? Some people sell the pullets and pay for a lot of the feed and other costs. If you buy only males from a hatchery the individual chick cost is less than straight run and you avoid pullets. How important to you is size? I can get two meals out of a pullet but there are only two of us. A decent sized cockerel just means I also get an additional lunch or two. Is meat your only concern or will you be selling hatching eggs or chicks? Purebred is probably more desirable for that than a barnyard mix.

    One of the problems of buying chicks is that all the cockerels of a certain breed don't always mature at the same rate or grow to the same size, even if they come from the same source. Each hatchery is different but they tend to not put much emphasis on size. I've seen a huge variation in cockerels of the same breed from the same hatchery. With breeders, if you can get sexed chicks, it will depend on what the breeder is breeding for and how good they are. You probably don't want to pay the price a good breeder would ask but to get really good stock for a breeding program it might be worth it. You have a lot of different things to consider and many options.

    To me, one option would be to buy cockerels of different breeds from a hatchery and raise them together to get a true comparison. They all need to be the same age and raised together. If you find one breed that you like then order that breed from that source in the future.

    Another option would be to choose your best rooster(s) and hens and breed your own. Select your best stock and in a very few generations you will be hatching chicks that come closer to your goals than hatchery chicks. That's basically what I do but you have to be pretty ruthless in eating the ones you don't want to eat and breeding the ones you do.

    There are other options and several nuances to each of them, but I think these are the two basic ones. The main thing is to try something, eat your mistakes, and move on.
     
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  3. VanUnamed

    VanUnamed Chirping

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    I also didn't want rangers, but it was that or no chickens at all. eggs are cheap as basically I would count the feed of the rooster, as eggs are eggs either go in the incubator or we eat them. Thanks for the advice on the pullets best to wait 8 months so one can decide who to keep. As in tasty i mean not 2 months old cornish cross. Also here we are just two, usually we never do a whole roasted chicken, tend to roast in pieces mostly.
     
    Ridgerunner likes this.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Crowing

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    It's really simple when you think about it. Two things effect how tender meat will be-

    Age of bird and how confined they are. It's all about muscle.

    Let's take another look at maximum age of a bird for the various cooking methods:

    Broil or grill- up to 14 weeks.

    Fry- up to 18 weeks

    Roast- up to 9 months even one year. Better if around 6 months.

    Stew or crockpot- anything over that.

    What makes commercial meat birds so tender is they are never over 10 weeks of age. Supermarket labels may call them Roasters but they are decidedly Broiler by age. The term roaster is boasting size only. You can stew a broiler but that seems a waste of tender meat I'd prefer on the grill.

    If you intend to batch out birds for the freezer and want lots of it there is nothing more economical than hybrid meat birds. If you want to perpetuate your flock, eat fresh cockerel culls at all ages and in general be a homesteader than propagating a dual purpose flock works very well. Keep in mind that raising dual purpose birds to 20-24 weeks is the least economical way to have meat on the table.

    Take another look at the age of birds for method of cooking. Cull out the runty K's early, have a BBQ or two. After 14 weeks cull some more for Southern Fried Chicken a Sunday meal. Or roast it. Smaller but roasts just fine. The idea is you want to cull many sooner and in exchange will spend less in feed. Meat to feed ratio only gets worse after broiler age. Savings on two fronts- cheaper meat per pound the younger you cull and those culls aren't eating anymore.

    The older a bird is the more "flavor" it has. Not everyone enjoys the added flavor and most can't get accustomed to the texture of birds older than broiler. I like both. But I don't like thawing birds from freezers and also prefer to butcher in small batches. Cull as they grow, culling smallest or those with defects I'd not breed. Plenty of roasters left for culling as you make final choices on breeder cocks. Side sprigs on combs and autosomal red isn't going to show up until 24ish weeks. You've always got to keep plenty of potential keepers to Roasting age or some ugly defect can pop up.

    For those that want layers and enjoy the flavor of older than supermarket aged birds (6-10 weeks) a dual purpose is a great niche. Your not butchering a dozen or more birds in a batch then freezing it all. I like small batches, don't mind the thin breast meat of dual purpose.

    If dual purpose is a persons management style then they should seriously consider obtaining quality stock of one particular breed and maintain it. Too many varieties and breeds need conservation and working to standard of perfection. Get out of the hatchery bird rut and get quality dual purpose breed. They have meat carcass attributes hatchery "breeds" don't. No need to cross this mutt bird to that mutt bird just work a traditional meat breed to it's potential with selective breeding. I never understand people crossing heritage "breeds" and working to a better dual purpose when they could have just started with an actual breed from breeder stock to begin with and work that to SOP and meat quality potential.
     
    Mosey2003, RUNuts and Parront like this.
  5. aliciaplus3

    aliciaplus3 Crowing

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    In my area and within a reasonable driving distance there are no breeders of repute. So I have taken what I do have access to and kept the biggest, best, fastest growers and started working twords what I want with a sustainable dual purpose bird that makes a better amount of meat.... I do not claim to be anything special, but I like my birds and i am starting to get better results, ok closer results to my personal ideal.
    I would love to have access to better birds but being in the middle of nowhere, eh it's a crapshoot. I do have an incredibly colorful flock both in bird colors and egg colors.
     
  6. Mosey2003

    Mosey2003 Crowing

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    I'm doing both heritage dual purpose (breeder quality Barred Plymouth Rocks) and commercial Cornish X broilers now. I'll always have the dual purpose, because I'm breeding the Rocks simply because I like breeding them (and trying to do it well). So there will always be culls to eat.

    I got a good deal on the Cornish X and just butchered half of them a week ago, and by golly I love them. They're huge and tender and hand-butchered, which to me is far preferable to the mechanically-butchered ones in the store. Don't get me wrong, I'll still buy store birds when the need arises, and not anything special like organic or free range, but I really like them hand-butchered (by me).

    What I really like to do is filet the breasts off of the dual purpose birds. They are the perfect thickness for cooking quickly like for sandwiches or to go on salads, etc. The big broiler breasts you really need to slice in three plus pound them down to get them to cook well, since you don't want to overcook breasts. Those I save for fried chicken, or for something where the chicken is cooked in chunks. And the leg quarters on the dual purpose are meatier than the breasts and wings, so those work out pretty well just on their own. I typically do my males at 16 weeks, but I will go down to 12 depending on how long it takes me to breed birds that will be a decent weight that young.

    The other good thing about butchering your own birds, whatever type, is the unlimited supply of chicken stock you can make. My mother is on a salt-restricted renal diet now, and you still cannot buy salt-free chicken broth in stores (although within the last couple months they have started selling unsalted beef), so whatever undesirable parts you have can be used for stock. Nearly free, and less wasteful. If you cook a lot, especially soups and casseroles, you can go through quite a bit of stock, which adds up when it's, what, $3/quart now? I pack all the backs together in a bag whenever I butcher, plus the necks, and depending on the birds either the whole wings or just the wing tips, too. This is plenty to make quite a bit of stock at a time, which I then freeze.
     
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  7. VanUnamed

    VanUnamed Chirping

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    Yes, we also prefer home butchered as well. we do the same with the breasts, leg tights winds all roasted with potatoes, backs, necks, stock. the bones are then made into bone broth.
     
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  8. aliciaplus3

    aliciaplus3 Crowing

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    Ee started canning the broth.... saves on freezer space. And the hubby can use as much as he wants without me having heart failure over the price
     
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  9. Mosey2003

    Mosey2003 Crowing

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    I really ought to can it, too. It's just time time time for me. And I've never used the actual pressure canner before, only done hot water bath. Luckily, Mom is still alive (that was almost a certain no last year) so she can walk me through it, but it just seems like such an ordeal. Maybe this fall I'll have time to actually do it.
     
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  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    Pressure canning can be intimidating if you've never done it. So can butchering a chicken. But once you've done it most people find it's not that bad. Since you've never used it as a pressure canner you might contact your extension office and see if they will check it out for you. Often they have someone that will inspect it for flaws and check out your gauge to make sure it is reading properly. Talk to them about your elevation above sea level too. If you are up very high you may need to adjust your canning pressure upwards. All this may give you more confidence. Having your Mom walk you through it can be a big help too.

    It does take more time to pressure can than to freeze broth. Th actual processing time isn't that long, 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts, but getting it into jars and the canner up to pressure takes time. It takes time for it to cool off so you can take the jars out. I let my jars set overnight on a towel on the kitchen counter and take the rings off the next morning and wash the jars to make sure they are clean. Since you hot water bath you know that occasionally one won't seal and you can tell. Washing them in hot soapy water gives me that little bit of extra confidence that they have sealed well plus anything that may have boiled out is washed off.. I've never had a lid come off due to the washing that I thought was sealed, whether broth, veggies, or jelly.

    Making broth is a three day event for me. I start cooking it one day and cook it overnight. The next day is intense, I strain it and can it, probably takes 6 hours for 18 pints. Expect your first time to take longer until you learn how. And man, do you wash a lot of dishes. The next day I wash the jars and store them.

    To me the advantages of canning broth are:

    1 - Saves freezer space, which is valuable to me.

    2 - I give a lot of broth to friends and relatives. Jars are so easy for that.

    3- It is very convenient to go to the pantry, grab a jar of broth and use it without having the thaw it, and store the unused part in the jar in the fridge with a lid.
     

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