Dual Purpose for meat?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by debp, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. debp

    debp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am about to get my first chickens and am trying to decide on breeds to try. I would like to try 2 or 3 breeds with an initial flock of 25 chicks. My goal is a healthy flock that will forage, hopefully free-range, during the day (I have the space, will need to see about predators) and produce eggs as well as meat for us.

    I was leaning toward straight-run dual purpose breeds like New Hampshire, Barred Plymouth Rock and Delaware, so that I can butcher most of the males for meat in the fall. I am aware that these will not be meaty birds like a cornish cross would be, but I would like to have good foraging birds that act like chickens, and for now would rather not use the highly efficient meat birds. I also think that straight run seems a more sustainable approach. A neighbor told me that my male birds will be lanky with virtually no meat at 5-6 months, and thought it not worth the effort. Her experience is with sex-link crosses she uses for eggs. But, I'm reading that breeds like the Delaware and New Hampshire have lost many of their dual purpose qualities. I don't live near any small breeders, and this being my first batch of chicks, I was planning to get them from a major hatchery.

    Does anyone have experience with buying straight run dual purpose breeds and butchering the males for meat in the fall? What size birds do you get, and do you have to feed them separately from the pullets to get them to a reasonable butcher weight?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    For thousands of years small farmers have been managing their chickens for meat and eggs the way you are talking about, letting the hens hatch their own eggs which is as straight run as you can get. They forage for practically all their food in the better weather months if the quality of forage is sufficient. How cost efficient can you get, not buying feed most of the year? Predator pressure does often limit us as to how much we can let them forage, but some people are very successful with this approach.

    They don’t necessarily have pure breeds, normally a barnyard mix. The eggs are not double extra huge but they lay plenty of decent eggs. The chickens are not going to be the plump huge size of the broilers at a very young age, but many a farmer’s wife has fed her large family with a pullet or hen, not necessarily a huge rooster. You would not believe how many necks, backs, gizzards, and livers I ate growing up. You can cook any chicken at any age, but your cooking techniques need to be adjusted to the age and sex.

    Some people butcher the cockerels at 12 weeks so they can fry or grill them butt here is extremely little meat there. Some people still fry them at 15 weeks to get more meat, but if you are used to the broilers from the store, you may find those tough and chewy. We all have different experiences and expectations.

    I normally let mine go a minimum of 16 weeks and prefer a month or so older. They tend to slow down gaining weight about then. I don’t fry or grill mine but normally braise, roast, stew, or cook in a crock pot. I recently put part of a three year old rooster in a closed baking dish after rubbing it with herbs, added just a little water, and cooked it for 3-1/2 hours at 250 degrees. Absolutely delicious.

    How you feed them does make a big difference in how fast they grow. If you let them forage for their food so you don’t have to buy it they will grow slower and will be leaner. If you house them, don’t let them get exercise by foraging, and buy high protein feed for them, they will gain weight a lot faster and not be as lean. They are still not going to come close to the broilers though in weight gain or efficiency in converting feed to meat.

    There are different kinds of sex-linked crosses you can get from a hatchery. Some hatcheries sell crosses of dual purpose breeds. These are going to be like the dual purpose parents in egg laying ability and size. But a lot of hatcheries sex links that are based on the commercial egg laying breeds. These are small birds a lot like Leghorns that’s only purpose is to lay eggs. Their bodies are small with very little meat. That means they are very efficient at converting feed to eggs because they don’t have to maintain a large body. You are not going to get much meat off of those. I suspect that is what your friend had.
     
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  3. debp

    debp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you so much for the detailed reply, Ridgerunner. This motivates me to try the straight-run dual purpose breeds.
     
  4. popsicle

    popsicle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Excellent post Ridgerunner!

    I had been considering CX for sometime, but think I'll stick with ordering birds as straight run.

    I've been happy with all birds I've processed aging from 16-weeks to over a year including cockerels, pullets and older hens. I've also been happy with all breeds--New Hampshire, Houdan and even Leghorn. I've found most of the birds had plenty meat for my family of four. I usually process two at a time, quarter them, and cook the matching quarters from both birds for a meal (so 2 pairs of leg quarters one day, 2 pairs of breasts the next). Yes, they look scrawny, but I usually find that the bones are longer and thinner, so there is usually more meat on them than it seems. The breasts are obviously much smaller than CX, but I like leg quarters and dark meat so I don't really care.

    This year I've got some Buckeye on order--I think I read they were the ranked #1 for flavor of heritage breeds by a panel of chefs.

    For a good book about raising dual purpose birds for eggs and meat, I really like Harvey Ussary's The Small Scale Poultry Flock.
     
  5. craftiekids

    craftiekids Chillin' With My Peeps

    [​IMG] Excellent advice Ridegrunner!!! What your all talking about are Heritage Breed Poultry and that's all I raise. I've had these wonderful birds since I was small. Light Brahmas, White Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. My mother always kept these since the variety lay well in winter and summer. The young cockerels can be put into a pot or roasted over charcoal. I wait til the young ones were 16 to 20 weeks depending on how well they filled out and what breed they are. I also love the fact that we are carrying on an old tradition when my twins run up to our home so thrilled that they've found eggs out in the grass that didn't quite make it to the nest box! LOL...

    Light Brahmas or any Brahma would be a very large breed. They mature slow but become massive birds. They also lay well in winter because of that impressive size. Brahmas do get broody and set well on their eggs and are exceptional mothers. Rocks and RIR's are normal size large fowl that mature a bit younger but lay exceptionally as well. I let my Brahmas set on all the eggs if my others aren't broody.

    I keep a variety on purpose because they seem to be more sustainable. This means they forage well and stay in the right area's with a minimum of table scraps and return to their coop every evening. This costs much less money for feed and since they get broody they keep a good batch of young bitty's coming up so we can use older birds for the stew pot.

    Unfortunately, we do have a ton of coyotes and lost way too many birds this past summer. We finally got our coop wired up tight and put wire the bottom and a few feet out to keep diggers out and on top to keep out owls and climbers. We now let them out only during the day and lock them up tight. We've also had a neighbor's dog take 3 as well. Our neighbor did in fact say he was sorry and offered to replace them. But we didn't care as long as his dog stays home we said.

    I have purchased from Cackle, Meyer and McMurry Hatcheries and I've found all to be really great in helping select whatever is right for your climate and what you want from your birds. Meat or eggs. "Some folks just want a pretty bird in the yard and that's wonderful too." They all Vaccinate for Merricks too, a must for any poultry you purchase! They will also answer any chick or chicken related, crazy question you have. "I've asked many." ha, ha... Don't forget to ask about any health issues you may not be aware of. You can't be too careful when it comes to prevention of desease.

    Lastly WELCOME to you from all your new Best Friends! We can't wait to see how this wonderful adventure goes for you!!! Keep us all posted!!!! And feel free to ask any and all questions!!! Hope that all helps...!!!
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Susie Q & 9yr old twins Annie and Abby
     
  6. Natalijaasbj

    Natalijaasbj Chillin' With My Peeps

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    New hampshire or Chanteclers are very good breeds. I have a Chantecler hen. She got huge very quickly. I did not have a roo of this breed , but I can imagine it would be even bigger than my hen. .It took her for a while to start laying. But she is laying in the winter almost EVERY DAY NOW.Very calm but would not take any crap from anybody[​IMG]
    I also like how Black Copper Marans turned out to be huge and very delicious meat.
    It was my first try but next year I will go with more Chanteclers, Copper Marans and I heard REAL New Hampshire get huge too.
    Try to find breeder though, because the hatcheries get "smaller" individuals as a rule. Hatcheries are good for getting EGG chickens, although it is disputable, as the "hybrid" hens wear off pretty quickly.
    What about Craigslist? I think if you want to start with self-sustainable flock you should get quality birds at all cost.
     
  7. debp

    debp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you all for sharing your experience. I am gaining much from them.

    I don't think we have many, if any, small-scale chicken breeders nearby. Those I have found seem to be breeding for show birds. I will check Craigslist again, but not optimisitc. Also, I'm a little concerned about spending a lot on my first chicks, as I don't really know what I'm doing yet. I read about some of the mistakes people make early on, and I could see myself making any of them (especially the ones I haven't read about yet). So, I might not be ready for the $6 chicks yet. But, I am very attracted to the idea of someday having true heritage dual-purpose birds. If there were differences among hatcheries at this point, I'd like to know that, but from my searches of this forum, I saw no indication that some hatcheries have better dual-purpose breeding than others (except perhaps Sandhills Preserve in Iowa).

    As for vaccination, Ussery (The Small-scale Poultry Flock) doesn't seem to believe in vaccination or medicated feed. I am not typically anti-vaccine, but I don't like the idea of medicated feed. Is Ussery kind of fringe on this issue, or are there a lot of folks who forgo the vaccines and medicated feed?
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    For thousands of years people have raised chickens without vaccinations or medicated feed. I personally don’t use either one but it’s a personal choice. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with either one.

    If you do look at vaccinations, find out what they actually do. There are a lot of misconceptions passed on as common knowledge on this forum. If a certain disease is prevalent in your area a vaccination might be a real good idea. Your county extension agent should be able to help you research that. If you have a certain disease in your flock a vaccination probably is a good idea. If you show your birds or bring them in contact with other birds, the chance of them being exposed to something grows. We are all unique.

    Medicated feed is not an antibiotic. It targets Coccidiosis and nothing else. It does not cure or totally prevent Coccidiosis but it does greatly reduce the chances of your chicks getting Coccidiosis. Understanding the life cycle of Coccidiosis can help you make a decision. It thrives in warm wet regions like the Gulf Coast and the Deep South. We can still get it in other areas but warm wet areas are more at risk. Keeping a fairly dry brooder and introducing any Coccidiosis you have in your soil while they are very young can help them gain immunity while keeping it under control. Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding medicated feed, but for a lot of us it is not necessary.

    As I said, it is a personal choice. It won’t do any harm, in certain cases it may be a good idea, and it might make you feel better. There is some value in that for you if not your chickens.
     
  9. debp

    debp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good information on helping me make my decision on the medication/vaccination issue, Ridgerunner. Thanks so much.
     
  10. craftiekids

    craftiekids Chillin' With My Peeps

    I actually believe strongly that any birds coming from bigger hatcheries should be vaccinated. They can get a lot of illnesses that we as small potatoes don't and I raise my eggs to eat. I don't vaccinate mine but I keep any new birds from stores or auctions isolated for several weeks to keep bad stuff away from my little flock. I don't use medicated feeds but I would if coccidia was a regular thing here. Stuff like that is only to keep birds healthier just like our own flu shots. The healthier the bird, the healthier the eggs and bitties it can produce. Make sense?
    Susie Q[​IMG]
     

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