Fastest growing breeds to raise for meat?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by leanne2015, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. leanne2015

    leanne2015 Out Of The Brooder

    11
    0
    22
    Jan 9, 2016
    Not for sale just for my family. I have tried reading online and everyone says cornish cross... but then that's where it gets confusing for me.

    I like the look of buff orpingtons but read they can take 5 months before ready? Any quicker breeds?
     
  2. PD-Riverman

    PD-Riverman Overrun With Chickens

    5,000
    1,202
    366
    Jan 14, 2012
    Conway SC
    Cornish X are ready in 7 to 8 weeks, Buff orpingtons are nothing like them, There are other breeds that can do better for you than a buff. Freedom rangers, even jersey giants, white rock to name a few.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,665
    4,193
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Before the Cornish X took over the meat industry, about the 1950’s, certain breeds were the prime commercial meat birds, New Hampshire, Delaware, and certain strains of White Rocks. I lost the link in a computer crash, but I saw an advertisement from the 1930’s where a certain strain of Delaware could reach 4 pounds in 10 weeks. Cornish X can easily beat that at 6 weeks, so you can see why the Cornish X took over.

    By strain I mean that a breeder has enhanced certain traits in the flock that make them different from other flocks. Say one breeder works on reaching a nice butcher size quickly versus someone working with the same breed enhancing egg production. They may be the same breed but productivity is very different.

    With chicken genetics, unless someone continues to breed for certain traits every generation, those traits can be quickly lost. Since the bottom fell out of the market for anything except Cornish X for meat in the mid 1900’s, people quit breeding those breeds and strains to be meat birds. Now they have become mostly dual purpose birds from any hatchery, good for egg production and decent for meat, but not that much better (if at all) for meat than some other dual purpose birds.

    Some of the traits good for a meat bird are color so you can get a pretty carcass when you pluck, good feed to meat conversion rate, early maturity so they put on meat at an early age and are not just bones, a suitable light to dark meat ratio, a certain temperament so they can grow up together in a flock, and whatever else. You generally want a decent egg production rate since you want the breeding flock to lay enough eggs to hatch, but egg size isn’t important as long as they hatch and there are enough of them.

    Breeds from hatcheries are not bred for most of these traits. Hatcheries are in the mass market business, not specialized to produce these birds on a large scale, and their prices reflect that. There are a few breeders, very few, that are breeding certain strains of these meat breeds to get back to the original meat bird characteristics. One of the forum members, Eggheadjr, has done quite a bit of work to try to identify them. Last I heard he was happiest with a certain strain of New Hampshire.

    Other than the Cornish X, there are certain types of birds that have been developed as meat birds. They don’t put on meat as quickly as the Cornish X so they are less prone to the medical problems the Cornish X can develop. They are generally better for raising at pasture instead of just standing around eating what you feed them. They go by a few different marketing names, many of those names including the word “Rangers”. They ae not true “breeds” but are “types”.

    Unless you find a strain of birds from a breeder that is working on breeds that reach butcher age early, there are no “breeds” that meet your goals as I understand them. I don’t know what you consider butcher size, but if meat production is your goal, you’d probably be happiest with Cornish X or Rangers.
     
  4. leanne2015

    leanne2015 Out Of The Brooder

    11
    0
    22
    Jan 9, 2016
    The whole cornish cross confuses me because from what I read the cross has taken generations to produce is isn't a breed I could buy?

    would it be a good idea to have a cornish rooster and delaware hens? Or Plymouth rock hens?
     
  5. PD-Riverman

    PD-Riverman Overrun With Chickens

    5,000
    1,202
    366
    Jan 14, 2012
    Conway SC
    OOOOOOOOOH You are wanting breeds you can raise chicks off-----that makes a difference. You can probably try, but the producers of Cornish X don't give out there "Mix" of producing them. I would choose a "heavy" breed and go with them,---like white rock, black jersey giants, etc. I never raised any Feedom Rangers so I won't comment on them. I think if you manage them correctly you can get some decent meat chickens for your table-----just takes a lot longer than the Cornish x.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,665
    4,193
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Some people have tried breeding Cornish X or the Rangers to develop their own “strain” of meat birds. It is pretty rough because of the genetics, they are hybrids and not pure breeds. Practically everyone that has posted about trying that on this forum has been disappointed. It has taken a long time for those types to be developed, they are not breeds but hybrids, and it takes continued breeding to maintain that kind of meat production. It’s challenging to keep them alive long enough to get them to breed. If you keep roosters to breed your dual purpose hens, the roosters may grow too big to breed. It’s not easy.

    The way I approached this problem was to get different dual purpose breeds from a hatchery and keep the best ones to breed. I did not worry that much about specific breeds, I just wanted dual purpose birds to start with. I ate the ones I didn’t want to eat (the smaller ones) and bred the ones I wanted to eat. As long as you keep your breeding decisions simple it doesn’t take long to see improvement. What I mean by simple is that if you are just breeding for meat production you can concentrate on that. If you start including extra criteria, say feather color or pattern or egg size, you make your breeding decisions harder. Progress is slower.

    My goal was not to get an occasional really large cockerel. My goal was to increase the average size of the cockerels. I did get some really nice cockerels, but I considered it a success when the average size of my smaller cockerels improved a fair amount.

    One reason I don’t get hung up on breeds is that there is so much difference between chickens of the same breed. Certain strains can be more consistent than others, but a few years back I wanted to introduce a Buff Rock as my flock master. I got 18 cockerels from Ideal Hatchery and started weeding them out. I ate the ones that did not meet my goals, generally the slow maturing and smaller ones. I eliminated a couple by behavior. Out of those 18, three met my criteria for possible flock master. If I had just gotten one of them for flock master, thinking that all cockerels of the same breed are the same, which of them would I have wound up with, one of the three that best met my goals or one of the other 15 rejects?

    PD-Riverman, you keep talking about Jersey Giants. I assume you have raised them for meat. I’ve never raised them. What age did you butcher them and how was the carcass? I know they get big but from what I read they are slow-maturing, both coming into lay and putting on meat. How meaty were those carcasses?
     
  7. leanne2015

    leanne2015 Out Of The Brooder

    11
    0
    22
    Jan 9, 2016
    I'm even more confused lol I do understand what your trying to say but seems very advanced for my inexperienced knowledge.. I was expecting to be like our ancestors and raise a few birds for the table.. I didn't think I had to weed some out?
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,665
    4,193
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    It depends on your goals. You can eat any chicken of any sex and any age but if you are raising them for meat you might want them a little bigger. If you are buying everything they eat, you might want some that reach butcher age without you having to feed them forever. You need to adjust your cooking methods some depending on how old they are. Some people are pretty stringent in what they want, some are more laid back. Some only eat cockerels, some eat males and females. We are all different and want different things. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to know what info you are really after. Frankly, a lot of times people just starting out don’t know what they want or what questions to ask. How can they if they don’t have a lot of experience to draw on? That’s why you ask questions.

    I hatch my own. Since half of what I hatch are female, half of what I eat are female. There are only two of us, so we can get two meals out of a hen or pullet, being large isn’t a huge for me. At the same time, I don’t purposely try to raise smaller birds. If I’m going to eat them I want a reasonable amount of meat. I try to use selective breeding to bring my flock around to better conform to my personal goals.

    I’m still not exactly sure where you are coming from but since your question was about breeds that mature faster I tried to answer that. The fastest are the Cornish X, after that the Rangers. Neither are really self-sustaining, you’ll have to buy chicks instead of hatch your own eggs with those. In my experience and opinion, breed is not all that relevant after you get past those. Strain might be important but breed is not. I also tried to use examples of why that is. The answer to your specific question is that once you get past the Rangers there are no breeds that mature any earlier than many other breeds.
     
  9. PD-Riverman

    PD-Riverman Overrun With Chickens

    5,000
    1,202
    366
    Jan 14, 2012
    Conway SC
    I do not raise any chicken for my table. Have not slaughtered one since I was a child to eat. That's been a long time---I am over 60. I raise a lot of jersey giants to sell----and they sell good. They get big quick---adding good weight does take some time. I do not know what the people do with them----I hear them say they eat them?? I just can not see myself processing a bird that I can sell for $15 to $20 so I sell them and take a little of that cash and buy one ready for the table and pocket the rest!! I know all about people saying home grown is so much better---I love the store bought and not having to clean them. Yes I process and eat rabbits all the time.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,665
    4,193
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Thanks for the answer I understand your logic.. We are all unique in our own ways.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by