First experience + small backyard + middle of the summer

Fluffbuttnewbie

In the Brooder
Apr 19, 2020
15
12
36
Hi everyone!
I just wanted to share our first time experience with meaties especially for those who are still researching and may benefit from what we did and learned, as we apparently broke a few rules of when and how, lol

Our situation: We live on .3 acre lot with only about half of it fenced in. We live in the South where temperatures easily run over 90 in July/ August. Our goal was to try a few meat birds with the smallest amount of investment.

So here it goes: We ordered 18 cornish cross babies from a hatchery and received 19 on July 20th. We lost 1 during the first 12 hours.

Brooder: We picked up an extra large watermelon box from a local grocery store for free. The box already had rounded corners and we used free scrap linoleum flooring for the bottom. We used a combo of shavings and pellets for the flooring. We just kept the box in our garage until the chicks were ready to go outside at 3 weeks.

Heat: We just used the regular heat lamp but had issues regulating the temperature due to really high ambient temps. After 3 days, we stopped using the heat lamp during the day, but turned it on at night. After about a week, we turned it off altogether because chicks seemed to be happy just the way they were. Our outside temperatures were in the 90s.

Feed: We chose to go with game bird starter with 26% protein all the way through and fermented it from the very first day. I started it in mason jars, progressed to 3 gallon buckets and eventually 5 gallon bucket. I used ice trays for a feeder at first and later they graduated to the feeder made from the piece of gutter. Birds got fresh water with ACV every day. They were more or less on 12 on 12 off schedule starting at day 5. At 3 weeks they were fed only twice, around 6 am and then at 2 pm.

At day 3, they started getting clumps of our grass to get them ready for outside. After 2nd week, I hid mealworms in the grass for them to find.

18 birds went through 200 lbs of feed in 7 weeks.

Outside: The birds went outside at 3 weeks. Since we had no space for nor wanted to invest in a permanent tractor, we temporary retrofitted our kids 14 feet trampoline. We already had most of the hardware cloth and tarps, but we had to purchase the drainage pipe, zip ties and an assortment of cable ties to complete the transformation. Since the birds seemed to prefer only one side of their space, trampoline only had to be moved half way each time. We moved it every other day weeks 4-5 and every day weeks 6-7.

Outside temperatures: The birds were hot and panting most days. We put out a small fan for them but didn't do anything else.

Temperament: We didn't find them dumb or unpleasant. They were very friendly, curious, compliant and given an opportunity would follow me around the yard as much as their bodies allowed. I did call them puppy dog tails and got somewhat attached to a few of them.

Smell/mess/noise: They do smell but it wasn't overwhelming even in our small backyard. You could definitely not smell them outside of our fence. It is possible that fermented feed and ACV had effected that. They were pretty quiet until the last week when couple of the roosters started to find their voice, but they sounding more like honking ducks rather than all out crow. There is some damage to our lawn, but based on the trampoline move pattern, most grass is rebounding nicely within about 2 weeks. I'm expecting after couple of mows and few rain showers, we wouldn't be able to tell meaties were even there.

Ease of care: We found them pretty easy overall and very low maintenance. It could be because we only had 18, but we would be comfortable doing 25 next time.

Health: We probably were lucky with this batch, but we had absolutely no problems. All of them were more or less active and even could run, albeit waddly, till the very last day. We lost one baby early on, but he was our only loss.

Processing: We chose to process at 7 weeks for couple of reasons: this is our first batch and we were afraid that they may get too big and start having issues, especially in our heat and also, they were big enough for our family. The pullets were 4-4.5 lbs and roos 5.5-6 lbs processed weight.

Originally, we were going to have someone else process them for us, but unfortunately, that fell through so we had to go with plan B. Thankfully, a very sweet local gentlemen graciously allowed us to use his equipment and taught us to process the meat birds. All in all, the process was simpler and cleaner than we anticipated. We chose to bag only 9 of our birds and part out the rest of them. In the end of the day, from 18 birds, we have enough for 24 meals.

I know that 18 birds is probably nothing to a lot of people here, but I had trouble finding the answers I needed when researching doing this in our small backyard, so maybe the above information will be useful to someone.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,058
22,751
907
Southeast Louisiana
Great post!

I'm expecting after couple of mows and few rain showers, we wouldn't be able to tell meaties were even there.
Don't be surprised if you can. That area might be darker green and the grass might grow pretty fast, at least for a little while.

I know that 18 birds is probably nothing to a lot of people here,
To a lot of people it is plenty, especially at one time. If you want more meat do another batch later. Unless you have experience, equipment, and a crew processing a lot at one time can be a challenge. And you have to have freezer room for all that meat. You found a system that works for you, that's what it's all about.
 

Fluffbuttnewbie

In the Brooder
Apr 19, 2020
15
12
36
Great post!


Don't be surprised if you can. That area might be darker green and the grass might grow pretty fast, at least for a little while.


To a lot of people it is plenty, especially at one time. If you want more meat do another batch later. Unless you have experience, equipment, and a crew processing a lot at one time can be a challenge. And you have to have freezer room for all that meat. You found a system R
Thank you! I think we will be good doing 2 batches of 25 in a year, which will be more than enough chickens for our small family. It definitely was a much easier experience than we expected, even processing. I hope more people will try even if they have limited space, because it can definitely work. And I'm totally fine with greener grass, lol
 

cassie

Crowing
12 Years
Mar 19, 2009
7,150
4,369
491
I have nothing to compare to since it was our first time, but I was willing to try anything to help with smell everyone talks about. Good to know that we should stick with fermented feed next time as well.
I never had a problem with odor with my meaties. However, the way I raised them may not be suitable for everyone. I was fortunate to have a large box stall in the barn that was well ventilated but not drafty. I bedded it with shavings and added more shavings as necessary to keep the pen dry. I used a LOT of shavings but because there was plenty of ventilation, and the bedding was always dry, there was essentially no odor. You could stand right outside the pen and not smell anything.
 

Fluffbuttnewbie

In the Brooder
Apr 19, 2020
15
12
36
I never had a problem with odor with my meaties. However, the way I raised them may not be suitable for everyone. I was fortunate to have a large box stall in the barn that was well ventilated but not drafty. I bedded it with shavings and added more shavings as necessary to keep the pen dry. I used a LOT of shavings but because there was plenty of ventilation, and the bedding was always dry, there was essentially no odor. You could stand right outside the pen and not smell anything.
That sounds wonderful, maybe one day. We live on .3 acre lot in city limits, no barn option here, lol
 

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