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Confessions of a newbie...advice needed

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by TerraMT, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. TerraMT

    TerraMT Hatching

    Dec 26, 2008
    Well, I suppose this will be a long post as it will have to include a bit of an intro, some upsetting lessons that I am currently learning, and some questions. I have to say that BYC is an incredible forum and I hope to spend some time getting to know all of you! [​IMG]

    I raised my first ever flock of RIRs this past spring and have had so much fun with them! I've never knew I could love chickens, especially when everyone told me it was crazy (even though we live on a farm in MT)! I started with 28 pullets...one turned out to be a roo [​IMG] but I then sold 15, so currently have my 12 layers and "Austin Powers". They are doing fabulous and I am getting between 9 and 11 eggs a day, despite the weather -25* these past couple weeks. Anyway.....

    We were enjoying the adventure of the layers so much we thought we would be smart (I use the term lightly) and get 50 cornish X for meat birds. We got the chicks on the 3rd of November...and I've regretted it ever since. Not only has it been hard work keeping fresh bedding, warm water, heat and everything else for them, they are dying like crazy. [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    They did great untill I had to kick them out to the barn because we couldn't tolerate the smell in the house anymore. We put them in a box stall, completely enclosed it (but left areas for ventilation), heat lamps, milkhouse heaters, and lined with straw bales. At first they were piling despite how warm we were trying to keep it. Now, completely feathered (not quite to butcher weight, but close) they are just dying randomly. We only have about 25 left. I'm at my wits end! Not only do I feel HORRIBLE that they are dying, I feel like such an idiot for thinking we could do this in WINTER!

    They do not appear sick, are drinking atleast 5 gallons of water a day, have food 24 hrs, and I am throwing down fresh straw every other day. Why are they dying? What should I look for if its coccidiosis? I started them on the medicated feed, then were giving them 50 med starter and 50 meatbird feed, now they are just on meatbird finisher.

    I want to butcher them this week. Just to get them in the freezer before I waste any more money. How do I know that the meat will be safe if I don't know why they are dying? What about heart attacks?

    So, any advice please!? please be nice...I know this was really dumb to try to do in winter. [​IMG]
    Thank you!

  2. Mesa

    Mesa Songster

    Nov 21, 2008
    New Mexico
    I'm not sure.. but I read somewhere that you cant offer food to meat birds 24 hours a day or they will get sick and die. Try running a search on "feeding meat birds" or something like that. If i remember right your only supposed to offer them food 8 hours a day, then take it away.
  3. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    Do a search... too much food and they just keep eating and die of heart attacks.
  4. coondog74017

    coondog74017 In the Brooder

    Jun 14, 2008
    I alway thought the winter time would be the best time to raise them do to the smell if you had to keep them pen up inside I order 15 out of texas in oct and I kept them on medicated feed for the first month 24 hrs a day I only had one break down in his legs I kept them on full feed for 6 or 7 weeks them I turned the lights off at night, last week I butchered 7 and the roosters dressed ot 10 lbs and the pullets between 7 and 8 lbs the rest are a week older and will be bigger. I used wood shaving in my horse stall where I raised them and it not bad the smell I put them in it when they were around 4 weeks old. Your problem might be where you got them from don't give up on them the next batch put them on medicated feed unitl they get to growing good and put vitiams in ther drinking water dailly this is a must to build up their bones to carry this wieght they gain. Check on here and see how other people meat chickens turned out from where they order them from.
  5. unionwirewoman

    unionwirewoman Songster

    Sep 14, 2007
    Kalispell , MT
    Sounds like a combo ......More likely you bought some chicks that weren't great to start with , over feeding them , and you should have them vent free as much as possible for meat chicks IMHO . It's hard work just in the summer time to keep the coop clean with meat birds , trust me , I still have some after 3 years . If they're white cornish cross...just butcher them . The longer you wait , the more hassle , and more expensive they will be . The ones I kept are a red cornish cross who lay big eggs , and eat alot still . At over $16.00 a bag for food (that's what it is here ) you might want to just take your losses on pounds . It's not just the feed , it's the bedding also . [​IMG]
  6. jaku

    jaku Songster

    I've done a few batches of Cornish X's, since about a year ago when I got into chickens, so I'm no expert, but it seems like you have a combination of problems. First, these birds do better when they can be outside, on fresh pasture daily. It's just plain impossible to keep an enclosed pen clean with these poop machines.

    How big is the area they're in? I keep 25 (I might go to 50 in the spring,) in a 10x6 tractor that gets moved 1-2 times per day, and even then, the ground gets caked in poo.

    It also sounds like you're in a no win situation with ventilation, as well. You need to keep the heat in and drafts out, but with all that poo and stink building up, they need fresh air and ventilation badly!

    I've never kept them in -25 temps, but I can tell you that they do pretty well in the cold. I'd rather raise them in the cold than the heat- I'll never try keeping them in the summer again. They stink, and the heat kills them quickly.

    I would take their food away for 12 hours/day, and that may help, but I'd bet your bigger problem is the housing situation. Everyone has their own opinion on feeding. Personally, I save feed by cutting off their food at night, and I think it keeps them healthier, but there are plenty of people who disagree.

    I'd say your best bet would be to butcher them as soon as possible, then do them in the spring/fall next time. They should be fine to eat. Just pay attention for any of the warning signs of sickness when butchering. The upside to the Cornish X's fondness for dying is that they don't usually get prolonged illnesses- if they're sick, they die quickly.

    Don't give up on meat birds though- it really is great once you get it figured out!
  7. TerraMT

    TerraMT Hatching

    Dec 26, 2008
    Thank you all for your advice. Reading some other posts, I'm glad that some have had success with late fall/winter. I just don't think its for us. I do have some great plans drawn up for a tractor for the spring. Pasture and warmer weather would definatly make this a better adventure. (and less traumatic on the pocketbook!)

  8. dancingbear

    dancingbear Songster

    Aug 2, 2008
    South Central KY
    You might also do a forum search for threads on the color rangers as an alternative meat breed. They seem to be a much healthier bird, though they take slightly longer to grow out.
  9. Wildsky

    Wildsky Wild Egg!

    Oct 13, 2007
    Process those meaties. they are what 7 weeks?
  10. thechickenchick

    thechickenchick Born city, Living country

    Mar 8, 2008
    Eaton, Colorado
    TerraMT- [​IMG] I do not know a thing about meat birds. However there are only a handful of members from MT so I wanted to say hi!

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