Dual purpose questions

Jul 3, 2018
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Ohio
I have been interested in getting on board with meat birds or possibly ranger broilers...but i guess i am more curious how people use dual purpose birds.

How long do you grow them out before processing? What is the maximum amount of time before duals purpose birds would be too tough? Best time of year to get chicks for maximum outcomes of eggs and meat? Pros? Cons? Just curious about how managing a true dual purpose flock goes and if it will fit into what we have going on here.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
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western South Dakota
Well I started with dual purpose birds with just those ideas, meat and eggs. Truthfully I was not all that pleased with the meat. Good for soups and casserole, but nothing like KFC. A little too tough for me, too chewy for fried. Even a good size dual purpose bird does not have near the meat on it that a meat chicken does.

I gave the meat birds a try, and really if you have the room. It is my opinion, that I will gradually be working towards, is to have a layer flock of egg laying chickens, and once a year, raise up some meat birds for the table. I will probably have some dual purpose birds, cause I like several of their breeds, and I do love a broody hen. But if you want eggs, get at least some of the layer birds.

Yes I will process the extra roosters, and older hens.... but only for canned chicken.

To truly provide meat for frying or baking I like the cornish cross birds.

Really the best of worlds, have a few dual, and few egg layers, and do a few meat birds too. Covers all our needs.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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SW Michigan
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Any bird can be eaten.
'Dual purpose' is a bit misleading, those labeled such often do neither well.

I hatch replacement layers every year and slaughter all the cockerels by 16 weeks old.
Also slaughter a few older hens in the fall to get down to winter housing numbers.
Toughness of meat has more to do with resting the carcass before cooking or freezing...as well as how you cook them. The older they are the longer I rest them.
The young cockerels can be grilled, older birds I use the pressure cooker....tho I guess low, wet, and slow in the oven works too.
 

Egghead_Jr

Crowing
9 Years
Oct 16, 2010
7,046
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NEK, VT
If you are wanting to go dual purpose then get the birds from a breeder not hatchery. The carcass of breeder stock is night and day difference to hatchery birds.

Butcher cockerels by 14 or 15 weeks if you want to broil/grill. By 18-20 weeks for frying. 24 to 30 weeks is a good roasting age though you can roast a year old bird if you brine it first. Covered stone ware roasting pans work well and will brown the skin.
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,310
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Southeast Louisiana
How long do you grow them out before processing? What is the maximum amount of time before duals purpose birds would be too tough?

There are several variables. How do you plan on cooking them? How important is rate of meat gain compared to feed costs. How much freezer space do you have if you freeze them. Broilers need to be butchered when they are ready, dual purpose can wait a while. How important is size? There are only two of us so we can get two meals out of a smaller bird, some people are fixated on double extra huge or nothing. We are all different in goals, set-ups, management techniques, and so many other things. You need to find what works for you, not what works for me. That's not always easy.

Dual purpose birds never get too tough to eat, it's all in how you cook them. Chicken and Dumplings is a comfort food best made from old hens. Coq au Vin is how the French make a gourmet meal out of a really old rooster, the toughest chicken meat there is. Crock pots and pressure cookers can be very handy when cooking older birds. If they are not cooked properly for their age they can be inedible, but you can ruin a good steak too. How you plan to cook them can determine the best butchering age or the age you butcher can restrict your cooking methods. If you get a tough chicken, it means you did not handle and cook it properly.

If you buy practically all the food they eat you probably want one that efficiently converts feed to meat, which means Cornish X or to a lesser extend, Rangers. If they mostly forage for their food that's less important. Broilers need to be butchered at a certain age so you can raise a big batch in a couple of months and you are done. Dual purpose take longer so it is more of a time commitment.

Some people can't have cockerels crowing or don't like how cockerels behave with the other pullets and hens when they hit puberty. They may butcher dual purpose as young as 12 weeks. Those are really tender but there is very little meat there, would not be worth it to me. Some people like 16 weeks, there is a reasonable amount of meat then. My preference for cockerels is about 23 weeks, they sort of end a growth spurt then. They will continue to gain weight but the rate is much slower. I butcher my excess pullets, usually around 8 months after I've seen them lay and decided which to keep as replacements. And I butcher spent hens, older ones that are going to lay a reduced amount after a molt.

I don't know what is right for you, we all do it differently for our own reasons.

Best time of year to get chicks for maximum outcomes of eggs and meat? Pros? Cons?

It depends. Many people like to get pullets in the spring as days are warming and forage is growing. It's a traditional time of year. It's easier to raise them in warmer weather and food costs may be less. Often pullets that start to lay in the fall will lay through out the winter without molting their first year, though production may be decreased due to severe weather. Others like to get pullets in the fall so they start laying early the next year for that laying season. But brooding can be harder in winter and feed may be more expensive.

For dual purpose meat birds it will depend on your situation. For many people the warmer weather and improved forage is a huge incentive to start them in the spring. One of my limiting factors for meat birds is limited freezer space. I need a lot during the summer to help manage my fruits and veggies that I save for jelly, jam, and to can, let alone save to eat in winter. For example, I may have five gallon bags of tomatoes before I have enough to make a batch of spaghetti sauce. Or three gallons of blueberries and blackberries for jam or jelly, plus various veggies for canning soup. Plus when I butcher I save carcasses to make broth. I'm always canning broth just to free up freezer space. One way I manage this with chickens is to hatch throughout the year so i don't have to use all my freezer space for chickens at one time.

We all have our unique situations that we have to manage. That's why there is no one solution that fits everyone on the planet.

Just curious about how managing a true dual purpose flock goes and if it will fit into what we have going on here.

Exactly. That's the question I'e been trying to address. The more you can tell us about your goals, set-up, management techniques, and all that the more likely we can come up with something specifically for you. At least you told us you are in Ohio. That could be valuable information. But right now I don't know if Egghead's methods would suit you better than mine.

One of my typical suggestions is to try different things, use trial and error to find what suits you best. No matter how much we plan, things never turn out exactly as we plan.
 

RUNuts

Hatching Malted Milk Balls
Premium member
May 19, 2017
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Eastern Houston
Lots of variables. How much time do you want to dedicate to this project? A few raise Cornish cross and butcher in 8 weeks. Complete for the year. Some hatch all year long and eat fresh meat, never frozen.

Research what other people have said on this subject. Find one that feels right. Although, from the excellent responses above, the basics have been pretty well covered.

Remember, whatever you decide, have fun or you won't enjoy it. When it becomes a chore, find out what is bugging you and fix it. There are easier ways and different ways. I didn't like watering every day, so I got a 5 gallon chicken waterer. Another member can't stand stale water and changes it twice a day. It is all good. Cheers!
 

mandelyn

Crowing
10 Years
Aug 30, 2009
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Mt Repose, OH
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I run a dual purpose flock of about 50 adults and upwards of 150 chicks, depending on the time of year. We start processing extra boys at 16 weeks. I start my hatch season in November, which gives pullets who start laying in May/June (max value since everyone has day old chicks then) and cockerel meat starting in February, right about when the freezer goes empty from the summer batch. I split the hatches up, aiming for 80 cockerels a year for us, which is a minimum of 160 eggs that need to hatch. Break that down to quarterly and the hatch only needs to be 50-60 eggs set. Extra girls are sold to pay for the feed that the boys eat, giving us "free" table birds besides housing/space/processing/time.

Our first year at our new scale had 17 Easter Egger cockerels. They're not dual purpose. Terrible meat texture, not built right... hatchery/layer types can be eaten but they're certainly not bred for it.

We only have Bresse, Marans and my project birds. The Bresse have a thin/delicate skin, with age they develop this beautiful fat that melts like butter (I like to call them "self basting"), their dark meat is on the mild side and their breasts are bigger than typical dual purpose chickens (depending on the bloodline). The Marans, in contrast, have a thicker skin, richer dark meat meat, more thigh than breast. The Marans we use predominately for pulled chicken, to use in rice or BBQ sandwiches or something like that. We usually skin them. The Bresse we pluck and bake or fry whole.

The hybrids need at least another 3-4 generations to get to where the others are at, with more refinement and selective breeding.

Without selective breeding, table qualities can be lost or inconsistent. We had to try a couple of lines of Marans before we hit on one with good table qualities. The Bresse we got right in the first go.

Because we breed for our own replacements, that means we get a ton of boys with every hatch. So we split them up by gender at 8 weeks old. The boys go to rooster coop, which is a 9x16 building in a 1/3rd acre field. They range there until they're of size or being a problem. I keep the best temperament/leader from the first hatch and he stays for the season as the leader bird, it's his job to keep the peace. Last season it was Henry, a solid bird who ultimately ended up in a breeding pen. He would take in boys as young as 5 weeks old and show them around.

For the girls, I'm looking to keep about 10% from Nov-March hatches. That gives me the daughters from the hens laying in fall/winter. They'll all be laying in June, what I want to keep are from the better layers though. I had a 2 year old hen laying these amazing eggs, coming into winter after a brief molt, she bounced back and got right back to it. I've been hatching everything she's been laying, since she's a rockstar.

If I wasn't breeding, then the commercial type faster growing birds would offer up a decent dinner and much faster. CornishX don't live long enough to develop a good flavor, that flavor only comes with age. So you just use more spices. I find their texture to be soft though... I don't like it as much.

The downside to the Cornish cross is that you can't delay in processing, they need done when they need done, no "storing on the hoof" like you can do with the Heritage types. I can let a cockerel run for a year if I need to, until I make my final breeding picks.

If you're not going to be breeding then you don't need to worry about a cockerel management plan. You can get CornishX chicks in April/May, tractor them on grass, and depending on where you live you could do up to 3 batches of them every 8 weeks over a season.

Try a couple of different types and systems, figure out which you like the most.
 

aliciaplus3

Crowing
Oct 24, 2016
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Colorado
I love hatching and raising fowl! I fully enjoy the complete experience from selecting eggs to put in the incubator all the way to selecting the best birds for the next round of breeding.
With hatching our own we get 50%, or sometimes more, cockrels. It is gratifying to me to know that what we are eating was bred hatched fed and butchered at our home. For us this works
 
Jul 3, 2018
350
506
177
Ohio
I have been interested in getting on board with meat birds or possibly ranger broilers...but i guess i am more curious how people use dual purpose birds.

How long do you grow them out before processing? What is the maximum amount of time before duals purpose birds would be too tough? Best time of year to get chicks for maximum outcomes of eggs and meat? Pros? Cons? Just curious about how managing a true dual purpose flock goes and if it will fit into what we have going on here.
Thanks for all the input! Lots to think about. We have the room on our 3 acres. Currently have 16 layers, or should i say free loaders...i think my lack of eggs this winter has me thinking about other options. Last winter we had so many eggs. I had only 10 birds and gathered 5-7 daily all winter long. This year nothing!! More birds and no eggs. Makes it hard to feed them all winter long without any eggs to show. My husband is ready to butcher them all since no one is producing anything. Lol. I told him that laying should commence again. But the thought of hatching chicks early enough in the year to get a laying season and then butchering once they slow on the laying. But they all have names and are my girls pets so i think we are a ways off from that method.
 
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