Free ranging meat birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by carolthom, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. carolthom

    carolthom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 3, 2014
    So, I've read through all the pages of the thread about fully raising your cornish crosses on pasture. The thread was encouraging and I want to do it with the meat birds I get next spring. But, talked to several people that raise their birds in chicken tractors about letting them range, and they all seem to think that it's not possible. It's been discouraging.

    What they say is that they will overwork the space beside the waterer, they are too nasty and will kill your grass, they won't forage enough to survive, and things along these lines. I'm sure some, if not most, of these people have never tried it and are going by what they were told. I've also been told that pigs can't be pastured and won't eat hay, but they do. So, I wanted to get some opinions from people who have actually done it or seen it done. I'm not decided yet on what kind of meat birds I'll get, so I'm open to opinions on that too.
  2. hollyk

    hollyk Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 21, 2008
    Canton, Texas
    I haven't ever raised meat birds full on pasture, but we did let them out to free range with the other chickens and they did fine. However, we did raised the standard cornish rock for a county fair project once. These birds ate so much that they would fall asleep in the feeder and wake up and eat. They wouldn't get up and move around unless we made them. These were not examples of responsible breeding. These birds were bred to go from chick to 5 lbs in 6 weeks. So, if you are committed to pastured meat then you need to get a bird like a barred rock that will put on meat but will still act like a chicken.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I was never able to really range my CX due to predators, etc. But I do raise them with my layers, and they get limited free range when I can be home and keep an eye on everyone.

    As littles, they're just as adventurous as the layer chicks. I aim for butcher at around 8 weeks, so I do let them pack on the weight. This does slow them down a bit as they get older, but they still move around. I've never had the birds that literally lay in front of the feeder and eat all day, and I've never had birds die of dehydration cause they're too lazy to go get water.

    I'd say....try it and see how it goes. Start with a smaller batch. Be prepared to move your feeder and waterer if you need to. Get them out as young as possible. I don't know if you're looking at an 8 week timeline, or if you're good taking them a bit longer with slower growth. I do think that will make a difference.

    I have to say, watching the round white little piggies out on green grass is just great to watch. They're so cute and friendly, it gets hard to butcher them sometimes........

    If you're not locked into the CX at 8 weeks, you might be happier with the Rainbows or Pioneers or other slow broilers. I haven't raised them myself, but from pics here they get pretty darn big pretty darn fast, but not the health issues of the CX.
  4. carolthom

    carolthom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 3, 2014
    I'm not locked into the CX at all. Matter of fact, I wasn't even considering them until I saw that post about free ranging them. I will probably go with a more active meat bird, and maybe throw a few CX in there to see how they tolerate free ranging. We are fortunate to not have much of a predator issue, which is odd since I see them around and we live in the country, so I'm able to free range mine with little worries. I don't like it when people lock a certain animal or breed down into a box and say it isn't possible for anything to else to happen, it makes me want to prove them wrong :)
  5. eviemethugh

    eviemethugh Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2015
    North Carolina
    It depends on a lot of factors. We fully free range our CX but put them in a tractor at NIGHT and open the door during the day. We move the tractor every day, so that is why we don't have one area that is worn out. We also limit feed to two (sometimes three) meals a day, what the can clean up in one sitting. They definitely walk around and don't really go back in the tractor unless they want some shade (but usually just enjoy the shady side of the tractor.)
    Poop is the biggest reason to move the tractor everyday for them to sleep in at night, they poop way more than any other chicken or turkey I have had (even in the same numbers.) And Cornish X, in my opinion, are the most docile and easiest to catch, put up at night, and otherwise handle when needed. We have raised pioneers, chefs, and rangers also, and will only do CX in the future. You can't beat the breast meat and the time frame and feed conversion.
    So why not just keep them in the tractor during the day? Because working out builds muscle, sleeping on the couch builds fat. We grow some amazing lean mean chicken machines in less than 8 weeks. They can chase bugs, find a good hole to make a dust bath, S-T-R-E-T-C-H and try to fly. I just don't feel like there is enough room in a tractor for that. Certainly those activities can happen a little bit, but as soon as I open their door every morning they RUN & flap, its what they wait for, and love. They have more space to get into fewer fights. They have more opportunities to entertain themselves and not be bored.
  6. carolthom

    carolthom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 3, 2014
    Thank you for writing this! I think we're going to try what you do, moving their coop around daily and feeding them 2 times a day. We'll probably order several of 3 or 4 breeds to see which ones fare best for us.
  7. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2015
    Do you range them with your laying birds?

    I'm planning on a few batches of meaties next year and don't want to confine them to the tractor. Like seeing how other folks manage things with their long-term birds...

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