Conclusions about MMH's All Heavies Assortment

Sunny Side Up

Count your many blessings...
11 Years
Mar 12, 2008
Loxahatchee, Florida
Last October I ordered MMH's "All Heavies" assortment, 25 standard breed rooster chicks. This order had White Leghorns, Delawares, Buff O's, NH & RIR, Americaunas, Barred Rocks & Black Stars. This being sunny South Florida, I raised them first in a box on the patio, then out in a tractor once they feathered. They weren't hard to tend, just kept their food & water filled and moved the tractor once a week.

I fed them the budget Purina start & grow, their Country Acres brand. I meant to keep good track of how much they ate but was not very diligent about it. There were also some other chicks eating out of those feed bags & I didn't keep careful accounting. But it seemed they eventually got up to 1/2 a pound of feed each every day when they were eating the most. They also got the grass on the floor of the tractor and other goodies & handouts & leftovers. A very rough estimate would be $15 each in food, does that sound reasonable?

They were kept to themselves so they didn't bother the rest of the laying flock, and they weren't too rough on each other. For a while they kept pulling each other's tail feathers out, and sometimes they'd all gang up on certain individuals. But nothing too bad, they could have behaved worse.

I think one of the best advantages of this assortment was that I didn't have to butcher them all within a short period of time. It was mostly myself & my girlfriend doing the work with little other help. I started with the beefiest ones at about 17 weeks, did them about 4 a week, and just finished the last ones at 24 weeks.

Since I don't have a big freezer I have been slow-simmering them with fresh herbs until the meat melts tenderly off the bones, then picking & separating the light from dark, and vacuum-sealing it for the freezer. There seems to be an equal amount of light & dark meat. It has been great for the way I like to cook with meat, stretching it with vegs, rice, noodles, sauce, etc. Mister would prefer it to be the main attraction & have great big slabs of it roasted & hanging off his plate. But he's going to have to spend a lot more time tending to & butchering chickens if he wants to see that!

The meatiest breeds were the NH Reds, Delawares & Black Stars, also the Buff O's & Black Stars. These RIRs were smaller, and the Americaunas had been picked on the most so they went first. The White Leghorns were the thinnest of all.

Overall, for my purposes, I was pleased with this assortment. This was the first time I had raised so many birds just for meat, instead of the home-hatched roos processed just a few each season. I would like to do it again, timing the order so I'm not standing out in the broiling Florida summer trying to slap mosquitoes with my hands up inside the carcass of a chicken. I'd keep closer track of the amount & cost of feed this time too.

I'm interested to hear of other suggestions for an order of meat birds. Other hatcheries? Ordering only specific breeds? My main criteria would be good feed to meat conversion, easy care, and wide margins of time for butchering. I appreciate your imput.
Try an old european meat breed that has existed since the roman empire. The Dorking. Feed conversion for a non cornish cross is great and they have a great carcass weight. They roosters range very well and will grow to 9 - 11 lbs. Hens grow to about 8.

Have heard some good things about freedom rangers for meat birds also.
This is very good info - thanks! I have 13 golden freedom rangers, currently 3 weeks old. This is my first attempt with meat birds, and I've never butchered one so it will be an adventure. They do grow very fast but should be culled at 9 weeks. Once these are done, I was trying to figure out what breed to get next and want a nice multi-purpose bird. From the info you gave, I think I will lean towards the black stars. We have a few now for laying (along with RIR, BR, EE, red stars) and they do seem to be the most laid-back friendly birds.

Roughly how many pounds were your birds when you culled at 17 weeks?
Raising any purebred for meat is pretty disappointing. It just takes too long and the carcass yields aren't that great. If you calculate your costs, you'll probably find you could have bought a free range, organic chicken from a high end supermarket for less $ per lb.
I agree on this. Cost wise it is inefficient. The meat crosses have been breed for efficency. However, emotionally and practically, if you don't want to see the birds grow to eating size in 8-10 weeks in a machine like fashion, don't have storage space for them in a freezer, are fine with the tougher meat, slow growth rate, what you are doing is fine. Just isn't economical. I personally raise cornish x in small quantities and eat excess roosters for variation.

I'm sure my 16-20 week old heavy breed, cochin x's, standard roo's that came in at about 5 lbs dressed ate 2-3x the feed than the same weight in Cornish x in 8 weeks would have. The strain of leghorn I have, the roo at 8 months only weighed 3lbs dressed....I could get that on a cornish x in lie 5 weeks.
Well, you'd think that somewhere during this process I'd get myself a kitchen scale to measure how much meat was coming from these chickens. But, with all the demands of raising, feeding, cleaning, butchering, cooking, & serving them I just never got around to it.

Each time I'd butcher I would choose the heaviest-looking birds at the time. Of course they didn't yield the amount of meat you get from the commercially grown chickens, or these meat crosses. But for my purposes they were adequate.

I just checked Dorkings at MMH, they're $46 for 25! I'll keep them in mind & get them if I can get a better deal. The assortment I got was about $15 for 25.

I've been checking into those Freedom Rangers too. How did you get only 13? I thought they must be ordered in batches of 50 or 100. And do they need to be butchered early & all within a short time span?

The Red & Black Star hens I've gotten from MMH have been wonderful layers, and so far I've only gotten the Black roos for meat. Has anyone had the Red Star roos? Are they as meaty as the Blacks or they more like a White Leghorn?

Thanks for your imput, please continue to share!
The red star/black stars are hybirds and yes the cockrels are heavier by 2-3 lbs than a purebreed of the same age. I have somewhere around 15 cockrels running around this place (I don't bother to count anymore) and the Black Sex Links are the dominant males, even over larger roosters once full grown. Every step of the way teh BSL's are larger. It's heterosis in action and very overt.

With that said, they're still not broilers. There is just something special about a homegrown meat chicken. The flavor and satisfaction is irreplacable.

I personally grown Freedom Rangers and am playing with my own homegrown meat chicken (Dark Cornish X *). You may be very surprised how quickly a batch of 50 meat birds gets eaten, especially after your friends and coworkers taste them. You may find that others will be paying you to eat your own chicken, which is a good thing. But, if that is still too many, I have heard good things about red and black broilers (I think from Ideal is it?). I would just steer very clear of jumbo Cornish Cross broilers.

p.s. If you can get yourself a Dark Cornish rootser. A good, meaty, broad breasted one (look for the one with the legs set furthest apart), you can dabble in your own genetics. A Cornish X Dorking is a very tasty bird.
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Typically I'm such a tightwad that you'd think I would have given more attention to the amount of feed I had to give these birds in exchange for the number of pounds of meat I harvested. Next time I'll try to keep better track.

But perhaps I really didn't want to know, just like I don't try to figure out my costs to produce each egg. There are more intangible rewards included that go beyond dollars & cents & meat & eggs.

Or at least that's how I justify it to myself...

I ordered this assortment because it seemed like a great deal to start with, about 55 cents per chick, not counting shipping & feed & all those other expenses added later. I wanted to learn how to butcher my own chickens, wanted the satisfaction of mastering this basic survival skill, to have this knowledge that so many others have lost in our modern times.

I knew I had to keep it on a small & manageable scale for myself. I liked it that these breeds required little extra care and that they could be butchered over an extended period of time. I think the meat cooks up as tender & tasty as any other chicken I've eaten.

I think the next time I order chicks (again, not feasible to breed/hatch my own at this time) it will be a batch of pullets to raise for sale at our county fair. But I hope to add a dozen meat birds to that order if I can, perhaps it will be those Dark Cornish cockerels.

I just wanted to report on my satisfaction with this assortment, and see what others could recommend for the next time. Thank you for your imput, I'm interested in hearing more.
I think it's awesome that you took it upon yourself to do all that.
I guess I was coming across critical on technicalities. Anyone producing their own food is a good thing and I was focusing on how it could be better.

For most people here, myself included, the biggest satisfaction (beyond the dinner plate) is rearing animals which were treated humanely, enjoyed the pleasures of being a chicken and actually saw the sun (putting them in 2% of all chickens in the US). I'm very glad we all do what we do; and the general public has no idea the horrors of industrial chicken farming that they support and condone by buying whole chickens at $0.99 per lb.
That 2% of all chickens reminded me of several national studies that came to the conclusion that only 2% of the population will regularly take responsibility for their actions and circumstances they find themselves in. You think there is a correlation here?

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