First time with meat birds... A couple of questions

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by jettgirl24, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. jettgirl24

    jettgirl24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2010
    Duvall, WA
    I was just looking at a thread on self-sufficiency and it got me thinking about raising meat birds. I've been thinking about doing this when we move to our new place and have much more room for chickens. I'm interested in having a free range flock that we can cull when needed but I'm curious what they'll need in the way of a coop and food. I'll probably lock them in at night but during the day they'll just be out. What are the coop size requirements for free range meat birds? Is it still 4 - 5 sq ft per bird? Also, what feed requirements will free range birds need? I'd like to keep feed costs down as much as possible for this flock.

    To give you an idea of what our setup will be: We've got 5 acres, about 2.5 acres are cleared, 2.5 are wooded. I'm planning on having 20 to 30 free range birds at any given time and will likely just cull as needed.
  2. glassparman

    glassparman Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 23, 2008
    Mojave, CA
    Feed: if you are going to go with any sort of Cornish X, you need to watch them and restrict the feed; not letting them eat too much.

    Many of those breeds will eat themselves to death if you let them. Portion their food and they will still get to 4-5 lbs by 8-10 weeks old. Good eating though!
  3. SpringChickens

    SpringChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2009
    College Station, Tx
    If they're always going to be free range, 4 sq feet per bird is a good starting point. Free ranging them will cut down on your feed costs considerably, but it depends a lot on the time of year. In the summer months, mine eat MAYBE a 50lb bag every 6 weeks, if that. Right now, they're eating a bag every 2-3 weeks - MAJOR feed increase (I currently have .

    The make-up of your flock will also factor in heavily on how much they eat. I currently have 2 roosters, 16 laying hens and one 9-week-old chick. If you want to keep feed costs down, do NOT get cornish-X birds, they don't free range well; they just sit around the feeder all day and eat. Try something like the Freedom Rangers, or a more traditional dual-purpose bird like orpingtons - they'll make a more sustainable flock anyway.

    Good luck!
  4. ErinG

    ErinG Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 6, 2010
    I agree with getting Freedom Rangers, Cornish X do not free range well.
  5. barrybro

    barrybro Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 22, 2009
    SW Michigan
    CX's will not forage as well as other breeds, however I found the earlier you get them on pasture the better they do. They can also stand a lot more cold weather than you think. I had a batch last fall that I put out after 15 days, the weather got into the high 30's at night for about 3 days straight and I had one loss (of 225) that may have been from being crushed or from another cause. I don't regulate the feed and I have had very little flip loss. Going forward I will only regulate feed when the weather is hot. That has been my biggest challenge. When the weather is in the mid 90's they do not do well at all and I have had some big losses from heat stress. Otherwise I feed 22 to 24% (depending on weather) from day 1 until the end. I really enjoy raising the meat birds. They are different and require different managment techniques but I think they get a bad rap.

  6. jettgirl24

    jettgirl24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2010
    Duvall, WA
    Good to know... I haven't even thought about breed yet. Honestly I was thinking about going to Whole Foods or another "natural" supermarket that sells fertile eggs and throwing those in the bator. I figure I'll probably get a bunch of eggs out of the hens before processing. I don't know how they'd be for meat though, maybe not so good that way? Sounds like maybe I should keep a bigger flock over the summer, then do a larger cull before winter comes along so we've got a bit of a stockpile in the freezer. Then in winter I'll keep a smaller flock so they're not eating me out of house and home, then bump it back up come spring. Luckily we don't get much snow here and we have LOTS of slugs all winter so I'm hoping they won't need as much extra food as they would in colder climates.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2011
  7. dsqard

    dsqard Crazy "L" Farms

    Jun 11, 2010
    York PA
  8. jettgirl24

    jettgirl24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2010
    Duvall, WA
    Where do you usually get your meat birds? I check out the hartching egg and chick section on here but I've never seen freedom rangers... Can't remember if I've seen Cornish X either.
  9. PatS

    PatS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 28, 2009
    Northern Califonia
    I've heard of people hatching out chicks from Trader Joe's fertile eggs. But remember if you do that, you're going to be hatching out chicks of a laying breed, not a meat breed. Freedom Rangers sound like what you would like. If you google that name you'll see the hatchery that sells them. OR, if you are interested in being truly self sufficient, look at a dual purpose breed, like the Buff Orpington. Not as meaty as a meat bird, but tasty nonetheless. They take a wide range of temperatures and the females are inclined to go broody and sit on their own eggs. A very good bird for the homestead.

    Edited to add: You get Freedom Rangers from the hatchery, as they are a hybrid with grandparents of four different breeds. So they don't breed true. Cornish Cross are hybrids, as well.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2011
  10. DesertChickens

    DesertChickens Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 24, 2010
    Yuma, AZ
    Quote:Barry- well put. We raise CX's as well, and absolutely love the birds from the beginning until the plate. They do get a bad rap in certain circles, never mind that with good flock management, they are perfect for family meat production. We, too, have had VERY low loss rates and our girls have been perfectly healthy. I recommend the raising of Cornish Cross for everyone except those specifically wanting to stick with dual purpose or heritage breeds.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by