Considering trying my first meat birds -- Grow out pen and breed questions

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by ChickensRDinos, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,242
    208
    208
    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I am in a process of considering a slight remodel on my coop and am thinking of converting part of it into a grow out pen and trying my first meat birds. I am wondering if I am setting myself up for trouble and would love thoughts from the experienced.

    A little background: urban yard, very small. I had originally built the coop you see below for my 6 laying hens (4 LF layers, 2 silly bantams). They got shut in when it rained or on rare days I needed to leave my driveway gate open, but for the most part they got to free range. A very persistent hawk changed that and since that pic was taken I have added a fully enclosed 60 sqft run.

    So, that bottom part of the coop is now really just shade and I have part of the run shaded as well so it is really not needed. I would love to try meat birds as part of an overall effort to add more home grown food options to my hobby farm. The bottom part there is about 3ft by 7ft so about 21 sq ft. I was thinking about moving my ramp for the girls outside so they can get to their roosts and nests from the run and making this pen its own separate space. Could this be an ok grow out pen?

    I would close it off so they are not interacting with my laying hens however they would be able to see each other and visit through the wire. (bad? too close?) I have been reading through a lot of threads and 2.5 sqft per meatie in the grow out seems a common number so I was thinking 6-8 birds in this space? (reasonable? not so much?)

    I do not have the yard space for a tractor, which seems the prefered method. Is this going to be a horrible smelly mess if they are stationary in that small of a space? I was thinking of putting down a layer of pine shaving or sand for cleaning. I could on weekends and evening when I am home from work let the layers free range in the yard and allow the meaties access to the run if that seems like it improves the situation.

    These birds would be over my legal limit so shortest time until processing is better. CornishX seems the likely candidate but any other suggestions on a fast growing breeds that would do better in these conditions? How loud are your CornishX hens? My neighbors are patience and reasonable but I don't want to push it too far.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Should I just give up this thought until I have a bigger yard?



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. ChocolateMouse

    ChocolateMouse Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,167
    658
    221
    Jul 29, 2013
    Cleveland OH
    You will have a horrible smelly mess, yes. :p Your best bet is deep litter to avoid it if you can't move it.
     
  3. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,480
    119
    201
    Jul 1, 2011
    Colorado mountains
    I've raised several batches of meat birds ranging in number from 10 to 35 and including CX, Freedom Rangers and Red Rangers. The CX were definately the quickest to get to butchering weight, but I also had the highest mortality rate with them, so the lowest percentage that lived to butchering weight. My chicks always start in a brooder in my garage and often get moved to a larger brooder before they are large enough to go outside. One batch if CX I raised this spring spent almost their entire life in my garage because we had a nasty, cold and excessively snowy spring and I was afraid to put them outside for more than a few hours a day.

    The way I survived the excessive amounts of poop that a CX puts out was to build my brooder enclosure on top of a heavy duty tarp. The tarp wrapped up around the outside of the brooder and was secured with clothes pins and/or zip-ties. I could sweep/scrape of the worst of the poop and soiled shavings every few days with a broom and a snow shovel. As they got older and I could put them outside for awhile, I could pull out the entire tarp and dump it in the compost pile and hose it down.

    Oh, another thing I do is set up half of brooder/run as a sleeping area, separated from the other half with a 4"X4" piece of wood and then keep the food and water on the other side of the brooder. If I was in a big hurry, I could scoop up the sleeping area and throw in some fresh bedding so they weren't laying around in their own poop.

    I don't know if that would work for you but if you could find a way to line the bottom with a tarp. When you let the meaties out to range around for awhile, you could haul the tarp out, dump it and hose it down. You could probably make it work for a small number of meat birds...maybe 10 or so. If they started getting too crowded, you could butcher two or three of the larger ones a week or so early to make room for the rest.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. SIMZ

    SIMZ Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,091
    129
    231
    Apr 29, 2011
    Northwest Indiana
    I agree that you'll have a horribly gross, smelly mess UNLESS you can clean that area out every day. I'd suggest you start with 5 in that space and see how it goes. 8 will fill it up very quickly.

    Other ideas are to set up a bit of fence around that bottom coop to let them out a bit and give them more room. We raise meat chickens in our 2nd garage and that works well for us. There is a video to what we do in my tagline.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,242
    208
    208
    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Thank you all for the honest advice. I had a feeling that was the answer.

    Hummingbird - The tarp idea is great. That might be the only way I can make this work. At what age were you able to process your freedom rangers and red rangers? Did they roost your just sleep on the ground?
     
  6. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,242
    208
    208
    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Thank you. Great video. I really enjoyed seeing your set up. I had not thought about using the garage. That is another good possibility. Do you always do CornishX or have you tried other breeds?
     
  7. SIMZ

    SIMZ Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,091
    129
    231
    Apr 29, 2011
    Northwest Indiana
    I haven't tried the other broiler breeds (although, we do put our extra dual-purpose roosters in the freezer). I love that I can have a 4-7 pound chicken in about 6-8 weeks and be done. Ours have always done really well and been fairly active right until butcher. Personally, I really enjoy the cornish X and look forward to raising them. (Although, I'm almost always ready for butcher day, too!)
     
  8. DaveMorey

    DaveMorey Chillin' With My Peeps

    135
    10
    63
    Jul 30, 2013
    Westminster, Vermont
    I am in the process of raising a few (25) CX myself. I have a 4'x8' brooder set up in my garage . The bottom is plywood as well as the sides and this makes shoveling it out pretty easy. I put my chicks outside during nice days and let them range around the yard. I think the deep litter is key to keeping the odor down. Early this spring I raised two broods in my basement in the same brooder without any odor issue. I am currently feeding this batch fermented feed. It is the first time I have tried it but from the everything I have researched the benefits are great. So far they love it and are doing great.
     
  9. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,480
    119
    201
    Jul 1, 2011
    Colorado mountains
    I processed my first batch of Freedom Rangers at about 9 weeks, taking about 1/4 of the flock (choosing the largest) each week until the last ones were done at 12 weeks. I tried to do the same with the Red Rangers but never did more than one at a time during weeks 9, 10 and 11 because they were dissapointingly small. I did most of them at 12, 13 and 14 weeks of age and they still didn't average the size of the Freedom Rangers. Both varieties do like to roost.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by