Dual purpose birds for meat

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by kesrchicky16, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. kesrchicky16

    kesrchicky16 Songster

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    Next spring I plan on not fighting broody hens. So I will have some little chicks running around being extra bodies that I won't want overwintering.

    I have read that meat birds are often slaughtered at 8 weeks. I have "why not" chick that hatched this year about 7 weeks now. It just seems really tiny. Is that because being dual purpose or just the specific genetics or at they really tiny and that is just the balance of feed cost vs bird size?

    This particular bird is destined to grow up. If She my aunt will add her to her flock. If He I'm not certain yet. Maybe locked up in a breeding pen. Parentage is Mama = EE Papa = Silver Laced Wyandotte cross.

    Also feeding questions about Table birds. My flock of 24 mature birds ate 1/4 of the food they do now during the summer. I cut back feed and bought higher protein % as they left more and more in the dishes because of free range foraging. And increased until they have few leftovers again. If I want good size meat birds can I let feed they that way too?
     
  2. chickendreams24

    chickendreams24 Crowing

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    It all depends on what you plan to have for "meat" birds.

    We grow out all of our spare heritage breed cockerals (and heritage cross cockerals) for the table they take longer than Cornish cross meat birds.

    Cornish cross meat birds are the typical bird you would buy as chicken in the store. They grow in 6-8 weeks but their feed has to be closely monitored or they can very easily eat themselves to death. They also can develop leg and heart problems due to their fast weight gain. They can become sedentary but develop much more breast meat. They have the best feed conversion ratio but develop less flavor. Once you try well cooked home grown chicken especially heritage birds store chicken will seem rather bland. Not bad but I do notice a difference.

    There are also red broilers that grow in about 10-14 weeks. They grow slower than Cornish cross so they have longer lives, tend to have fewer problems, develop more flavor but also maintain some good feed conversion numbers.

    Heritage breeds take longer. Often 14-16 weeks or more. A lot of it depends on the stock you have. Someone who has heritage bred lines versus someone who bought hatchery stock... Often in my opinion not always but often they are like two different breeds. If you can raise chicks and free range them in the spring/summer is best for raising cockerals. They can forage for some of their own feed save you some money and they will produce healthier meat than purely grain fed animals.

    Some people think heritage meat is tough especially free range. It's all in how you cook it. Low and slow. Yum.

    With crossing two heritage breeds, hatchery stock or not you can sometimes get some hybrid vigor which can increase the bird size or breed for color sexable chicks at hatch etc. However raising threatened breeds can be wonderful too and you can continually breed for size among other things.

    Red broilers and Cornish cross do not breed true. Some people have managed to keep one or two alive to try and breed their own meat birds but it isn't easy.

    Breeds that are autosexing are wonderful dual purpose animals to keep as well.

    Message me if you want to talk more about this topic. :) It was really hard for us(me especially) at first but we won't go back. Knowing what the bird ate and how it was treated and lived and even how it died is such a blessing. We do care about all of our cockerals they get love and attention if they get an injury they get care and treatment just like any of our other birds would.
     
  3. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Enabler

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    You have to understand the difference between egg layers, dual purpose, and meat birds. Three distinct categories and differences.
    Egg layers ..... are just that. They will lay lots of eggs, like 300 per year in their first 2 years of laying. Not much meat to them, and as a economical benefit, Egg ratio to Feed is FAVORABLE.
    Dual purpose is just that. They will lay a fair amount of eggs and do develop good size bodies. They mature in about same amount of time as layers. 5 to 6 months and even longer. After they decline in egg production , they are processed.
    Meat birds, also called broilers are EATING MACHINES.. They mature at 8 weeks or longer if rationed feed. Will not live beyond 1 year old. (yes, I know there are exceptions and exercise programs peeps tried to extend that) At 1 year old, they develop heart conditions and start breaking bones. These birds are the most ideal feed to meat ratio available.
    If you start to raise more chickens in spring, let all grow out. Start to eat the 50% rosters that hatch first. Start when they become troublesome. Then figure out how you want to rotate your stock of hens. This option of raising chickens is not as cost efficient as compared to raising broilers. You need to feed a chicken for 6 months instead of 2.
    WISHING YOU BEST.... :thumbsup
     
  4. kesrchicky16

    kesrchicky16 Songster

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    I understand what you mean about the meat. I got chickens for eggs and now i can't stand resturaunt eggs.
    We got the larger duel propose breeds because I wanted to keep them year round. My cockerels were advertised as "free alarm clocks" that were hatched out this spring and the one is huge and thick. The smaller is tall but thin. I have never picked them up but I would guess the dominant one would easily dress out to 5+ maybe even 7 lbs. I got them for protection and have learned to not speak of "preditor, coons, foxes ..." around the run and coop because he understands English and goes quickly into defense mode.

    I figure why fight broody chickens now that the eggs can be babies. I just have to figure out what to do with them. The only options are meat and selling so I'm just trying to figure out the feed vs time vs size ratio.

    My flock is currently: buff Orpington, RIR, Brahma, various Rock, speckled Sussex, Wyandotte, EE. I have a game plan to rotate the flock in the future but now it's a mess.
     
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  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    At 7 weeks we may be able to help you with sexing that chick if you post photos. A shot of the head showing comb and wattles and another shot of the body showing legs, posture, and conformation both help. Some are harder than others but seven weeks could be old enough.

    I don't know what you are comparing the size of that chick to when you say it's tiny. How you feed them has some effect on size, males are typically larger than females, and of course genetics. Both mother and father contribute to those genetics but there are a lot of different genes that affect size and growth rate. How those genes go together in that individual can vary a lot for even full siblings. I want to emphasize that, full siblings can vary a lot on size and growth rate, even for purebred birds.

    There can be a lot of difference in the average size of different flocks of the same breed too. If the person selecting which chickens get to breed selects the breeders for larger size you will soon wind up with a flock that average more in size than a flock where they may emphasize egg production more, for example. Different hatcheries have different people selecting which chickens go in the breeding pen but in general hatcheries do not emphasize size.

    The others have already covered this but I'll go through it. Different people butcher dual purpose chickens at different ages. I eat pullets as well as cockerels but since you are talking about cockerels lets stay there.

    Different things influence when you may want to butcher. Some live where a cockerel crowing could be a big problem so they butcher quite young. How you want to cook the bird can have a big influence. The older the bird the more flavor and texture it has and the slower and moister you need to cook it. Different people have different tolerances so I won't give you specific ages but in general you need to butcher pretty young if you want to fry or grill it. Some people need that to be by 12 weeks, others are quite happy at 16 weeks. If you are used to the store chickens it will probably be younger rather than older. If you want to roast it you can go longer. There are techniques to cook really old birds and still make a great meal. There may be some trial and error involved for you to find your sweet spot.

    A 12 week old dual purpose cockerel will have almost no meat on it, pretty much all bones. They will continue to grow pretty fast for a couple of months but somewhere around 5 months of age they hit a plateau and the rate of growth really slows down. But by then you cannot fry or grill them.

    If your birds forage for a lot of their food their growth rate will be slower than if you feed them a fairly high protein feed and that feed is all they eat. Since yours can forage for a lot of what they eat it is more cost effective for you to grow them to a larger size than for others. But that means you need to hatch them in a certain window to take advantage of that. I love my broody hens and have them hatch chicks every year but I also use an incubator pretty early to get some chicks started to take advantage of that. We are all unique in our goals and conditions. You might need some trial and error to find your sweet spot in this. I raise mine for meat even more than the eggs while you seem to be just wanting to take advantage of broody hens. Different goals.

    On here a lot of people really get hung up on the size of the cockerel, bigger becoming an obsession. How much meat do you really need from one bird? There are only two of us and I can get two meals from a pullet by making the second meal chicken soup with leftovers from the first meal. A large cockerel just means I get chicken for lunch a day or two. I do try to breed for larger cockerels but it's not as important to me as other things. I normally like to butcher cockerels around five months so I'm not that interested in early maturing as some people that like to butcher earlier. Any chicken can be eaten at any size but there are a lot of variables that go into it for each of us.

    One last thing, how long are you planning on keeping your hens? Their egg production normally drops off after three or four years but they can live for several more. Are you willing to house and feed them and get very few if any eggs? While the sex ratio of each hatch can be widely varied, I often get 2/3 or more of the same sex in an individual hatch, over a span of time you will average around 50-50 male-female. Your number of females can grow pretty fast, you need a plan for all of them, not just the cockerels.

    Good luck with it.
     
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  6. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Crowing

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    The younger the bird the more tender it will be. This also equates to flavor- the older the bird the more flavor it has. A cockerel grown out to six months for roasting has excellent flavor. If you like duck you'll enjoy older roasted cockerels. It's a good idea to limit the number you grow out to roasting age as it's a lot more feed to get them there. The younger the bird the higher heat you can use to cook it. 14-15 weeks is your cut off for grilling or broiling. The 12 to 14 week mark is also your best feed conversion for dual purpose birds. They're going to be small at that age, a good bird will dress out to 3 lbs at 14 weeks but most will be less and at 12 weeks some will be closer to 2 lbs dressed. The only difference is you'd grill halves instead of quarters. There is no advantage to grow out a small bird, it's better to butcher the runty ones early. The smaller and lankier birds are not potential breeders and throwing feed at them for more months will not gain much more meat. If you read many threads on dual purpose birds for meat you'll see 6-7 month dress weights at 3.5 lbs. It begs the question why that bird wasn't butchered three months earlier for 2.5 lbs carcass.

    To recap; the age of bird is the highest heat it can be cooked at. Broilers to 15 weeks, fryers to 20 weeks and roasters to 9 months- year of age. You can roast a broiler but will regret trying to broil a roaster. It doesn't take much feed to grow out chicks but come 8-10 weeks of age dual purpose will be taking in .2-.25 lbs of feed per day each. Depending on available forage that's .25-.33 lbs per day as teenagers. A lot of variables but say it's about $7 more in feed per bird to grow out from broiler to roasting age. Combine that with infighting of older cockerels and harassment of pullets when sexually mature it makes sense to cull most of your K's at broiler age. Besides, who doesn't like a BBQ for 4th of July?
     
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  7. kesrchicky16

    kesrchicky16 Songster

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    This is why I love this site. Such great info from "I do this" now figure yourself out.

    I hope to sell a few pullets and maybe cockerels when I have 1st gen mixes with Aracuna mamas. Everyone else is slaughter except a handful of pullets that get to provide eggs through the molt of my mature hens. I'm mildly paranoid about inbreeding so I will buy new chicks each year so my breeding stock are unrelated to the roos. Also I'll have a 3 year egg color rotation so I know who is how old. Buy breeds for blue eggs 1 year, light eggs (ie Orpington, Wyandotte ...) the next, dark eggs (RIR, I need to research this more) and repeat. So no more then 3.5 year old chickens here. And only a few past 2.5.

    We have a family tradition of chicken soup with home made noodles for Thanksgiving. That should be a good use of the 2.5 and 3.5 year olds. It takes Grandma 2 days to cook that soup from quartered birds.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2017
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  8. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Crowing

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    With all your birds unrelated to start there is little fear of any inbreeding for quite some time. You'd probably never witness it in a mixed breed backyard flock. A lot of stigma on the word inbreeding. It doesn't deserve all the bad rap it gets. There are methods of mating for generations in a closed flock, line breeding or spiral breeding. You don't need to purchase pullets every year unless it's the egg color you're going for.
     
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  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    Even then you might be better off going for feather color rather than egg color. It's a lot easier to tell which bird is which when they are walking around if you can tell by feather color or pattern. Lots of different ways to do everything.

    With my mixed breed flock, from which I save replacement roosters and hens, I use colored zip ties. The ones I'm going to start butchering as soon as I finish my coffee have orange zip ties on the left leg, the next generation have both red and purple, and this year's hatch wear green.
     
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  10. ocap

    ocap Crowing

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