Free Ranging Meat Birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by cehasz, Dec 22, 2014.

  1. cehasz

    cehasz Out Of The Brooder

    41
    1
    36
    Jul 28, 2014
    I am a firm believer of free ranging. My chickens are overall happier, healthier, and the feed costs drop dramatically. I currently have Cornish X meat birds that were born 2 days before Thanksgiving and they are getting huge. I am thinking about allowing them to free range as well, understanding of course the meat will be tougher than if I didn't. Who here free ranges their meat birds and how well does it work out for you? How does it compare with the feed costs? Are they as good at dealing with predators? Will they grow out as nice as if they aren't free ranged? And any other opinions you can add! Thanks.
     
  2. cityfarmer12

    cityfarmer12 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,223
    83
    146
    Oct 18, 2014
    Missouri
    I free range cornish cross chickens, and they turn out great! They were massive (some reaching 8 pounds, which surprised me) and were super healthy. they had really nice carcasses, but i can't exactly compare because i always free range them. They meat was super tender, except for the leg meat was tough since they ran around all day. I lock them up at night, so i don't know how they would do against night predators. Being white, they would an easy target though. Being that your are already big, they may not be interested in finding their own food. I feed mine normal chick starter, and as soon as they are a couple weeks old, they go out on pasture. I think did save quite a bit on food, but i never compared or anything. :)
    [​IMG] This is one of the roosters that i grew last summer. he is around 6 months old and was almost 8 pounds. He is wet in this picture...they would wade in water that came up to their stomach, and always wanted to be outside. They got super mad if i didn't let them out on time :)
     
  3. rainbowrooster

    rainbowrooster Chillin' With My Peeps

    324
    16
    101
    Nov 26, 2011
    cityfarmer12, your broiler looks too skinny to be even a 2 month old broiler. I am looking at its feet and shanks not the wet feathers. Is it a different strain of broiler that grows slower and is intended to be free ranged? My kids raise broilers for 4-H and they can hardly walk at 6 weeks (8lbs+). Free ranging our type of broiler we get would get them killed quickly after 4 weeks. They can hardly move let alone defend themselves.
     
  4. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,384
    305
    148
    Jun 10, 2014
    They can hardly defend themselves or move because you're feeding them too much. 8lbs at 6 weeks is way ahead of where they're supposed to be (8lbs at 9 weeks or so is normal).


    That being said, an 8lb CornishX rooster at 6 months is just as undersized as your birds are oversized.


    This is a good example of it's important to know what you actually have - ideally what strain they are. The ideal growth rates are different.
     
  5. cityfarmer12

    cityfarmer12 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,223
    83
    146
    Oct 18, 2014
    Missouri
    he does look skinney in the picture it's the angle... I was standing above him looking down. he was huge, and his feet were much bigger than that, they just look small, though their feet were a little small compared to their bodies. standing next to my layers, they were easily twice their size at the same age. I don't have any good pictures because we lost them when the old computer crashed.

    They were the normal Cornish cross chickens...not a different strain (I got them at a hatchery). I did a restricted feeding thing and grew them slowly, they never ate the high protein meat grower that most eat. by doing that it took them a little longer to reach butcher weight, but they were healthier and i had no casualty's.

    like i said i lock them up at night, they could still most likely get eaten at night. They were actually very boisterous birds...always running and wrestling with the dogs. they were pretty fun to raise...can't wait to get more this spring.
     
  6. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,384
    305
    148
    Jun 10, 2014
    "normal cornish cross" doesn't mean anything - that's why I pointed out that people should try to figure out what they actually have. There are atleast 10 different birds being sold as 'Cornish Cross' - the broiler industry is a big complicated thing.

    Feeding lower protein food and restricing access to food for some of the slower growing cornish cross may be okay, and your results may be normal for that - but feeding low protein diets will cause all sorts of health problems for some of the faster growing strains.

    If you're going to restrict food so much that its taking 6 months for your roos to get to 8lbs, you're not really gaining anything growing Cornish Cross - any heritage meat bird should get you those sort of results (and you don't have to buy new chicks).
     
  7. cityfarmer12

    cityfarmer12 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,223
    83
    146
    Oct 18, 2014
    Missouri
    well maybe they were a slower growing stain. It just said cornish X. That's interesting.

    I never had any problems, and i didn't starve them...i was careful that they got enough food, just they were not free feed. They also did get protien becuase they were always chasing bugs and they got a normal amount from their food...just not the super high protien stuff in the meat bird grower.

    He was 8 pounds before 6 months...i never weighed them except on butcher day and i don't know EXACTLY when the pic was taken...the age and weight were when i think it was. I agree...i have other projects going where i am breeding meat birds. I originally got the CX's as and experiment to see if i could grow them with out them having problems like heart failure and broken legs. I like breeding most of my meat birds myself because i don't like to buy chicks every year. I actually liked the CX. They were really fun and loved to play and be messed with (though they also loved to jump on my head and peck people [​IMG]).
     
  8. rainbowrooster

    rainbowrooster Chillin' With My Peeps

    324
    16
    101
    Nov 26, 2011
    8 plus pounds is big and if the kids want any chance to compete at our fair they will need a perfectly matched pair at that weight to do so. All the kids in the county start out with the same chicks that are purchased by the poultry committee from one hatchery. Using this lottery system ensures that everyone starts the project with no advantage. It has its pros and cons but thats the program they have been using for at least 30 years. Its a six week project and all things being equal the best formed, best matched, and largest pair wins. They are fed Honor Show Chow free choice and receive vitamins in their water from day one until the show. They are treated like fragile glass bowling balls. Out of our 20 birds last year there were 7 that were over 8lbs. by six weeks. Thats been about average for last 6 years. They are slaughtered at seven weeks. We have never had one die from a heart attack but usually plan on at least one blowing out a leg each year. The leg blowouts just come with the territory and those birds are just process at that time.
     
  9. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,384
    305
    148
    Jun 10, 2014
    The leg blowouts are a direct result of the feeding program that gets them to 8lbs in 6 weeks. It only comes with the territory if the territory is an environment that leads to overfeeding and limited movement.

    Plenty of people raise these birds in larger areas on a lighter feeding program and don't have the leg issues.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. rainbowrooster

    rainbowrooster Chillin' With My Peeps

    324
    16
    101
    Nov 26, 2011
    Plenty of people do but as my previous post revealed there is a specific reason they are raised as such. All inputs are intended to achieve several specimens with maximum results. The program is not intended to result in a flock of only average birds. When the kids age out of 4-H then I will turn to a program that is more conventional ( and less expensive).
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by