free ranging = slower growth?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by HillCountryMomma, Jun 26, 2008.

  1. HillCountryMomma

    HillCountryMomma Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 16, 2008
    I guess in some ways this may seem like a no-brainer. Seems that any bird that gets up, runs around and burns calories free ranging runs the risk of burning off energy instead of using it to pack on meat/fat.

    I let my Rangers out of their tractor this morning. Opened the door and they all flew out and scuttled across their little pasture leaving full food pans in their wake. Now, the pans weren't totally empty before I refilled them and released the beasts. Guess the promise of bugs and grass was more tempting than bagged feed. [​IMG]

    Part of me would like to see the birds lined up around the chow eating non-stop (gaining, growing, getting more freezer ready darn birds!!). The other part of me (obviously the winning part) really likes to see them out there doing their thing and being chickens. I have this happy ideal in my minds eye that despite being dinner on legs the birds are at least being given the opportunity to live a good life until it's time to off with their heads. It's pretty funny to see them waddling along trying to catch a bug.

    Is my happy idealism cutting into the bottom line though? If I kept the birds locked in their tractor with nothing to do but eat and poop would I have bigger birds?

    Do I trade off birdy health and happiness for peak growth? And if so, how much of a loss is it? Any ideas? Would they be a small percentage heavier, or a lot?

    Liz ~ who REALLY needs butcher weight birds so I'll stop pondering all these inane possibilities!
     
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    I find that when I free range my cornish x's, which some batches take more to the whole running around deal than others who prefer to sit, they do grow slower. For me, they are about 2 weeks slower to grow and so increase the feed cost because they are burning more energy running their large bodies than can be made up for in the bugs and seeds they do find.

    It also leads to a stringier and tougher bird that some people may not like, and this is AFTER aging for 5 days vs 2.
     
  3. UncleHoot

    UncleHoot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    St. Johns, Michigan
    HillCountryMomma, that might be your answer: grow regular Cornish X's, but free range them. Process at 10 weeks. I'd still suggest the Cornish Roasters from McMurray, just for the hope that they get up and move a tad more.
     
  4. mommy9994

    mommy9994 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 10, 2008
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    I free range cornish x to 10 weeks. Mine are about 4 1/2 lbs dressed, I've not done a live weight on them though (I figure it doesn't so much matter how much they weigh with feathers and guts:lol:)

    I processed some of them at 8 weeks, and they dressed at just over 3 lbs.
     
  5. blue90292

    blue90292 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 30, 2007
    Rosharon, TX
    WOW! you free ranged cornish X and they only dressed at 4 and a half pounds??? WOW!

    like i said in the other thread, the kids here do broilers for 4H, feed them turkey show chow and barely let them range and they come out to live weight of 10 pounds in 6 weeks. what a different free ranging makes.
     
  6. HillCountryMomma

    HillCountryMomma Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 16, 2008
    Thanks very much y'all! I think the free ranging may indeed be slowing the birds down. Darn. Can't seem to win for loosing. Quality of life, or efficiency. So much for free range meat birds! I'm going to keep the birds penned up more for the next week and hope it helps speed up the finishing out process.

    UncleHoot, you just about have me sold on those slow cornish! [​IMG] I like the suggestion on the McMurray website to butcher the pullets younger for fryers (3-4 lbs at 8-9 weeks) and the roosters later for roasters. Dressed weight of 8-9 lbs at 12 weeks! Wow! I have a friend here locally that has ordered all her layers from McMurray and has been really, really happy with her birds.

    Liz
     
  7. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Is my happy idealism cutting into the bottom line though? If I kept the birds locked in their tractor with nothing to do but eat and poop would I have bigger birds?

    Undoubtedly, on both counts.
    This was an old admonition. If you wanted peak performance from your livestock, then you kept them in line to do what they were bred for. In our modern, "enlightened" age, we seem to have a problem with that.

    I came up in Wisconsin dairy country. Milk cows didn't pull a plow. They could, of course, but it wasn't advised. They took it easy and in return they gave milk. Disturb their routine for even a day or two, and milk output dropped off. Money was lost and someone, something, suffered. Everything was in balance.

    Meat chickens are the same. They're bred for 8 weeks of living, during whch they do three things: eat, defecate and grow. Tie them to that and you get good results. Let them out to party in the pasture and run as "free-spirits" across the grass, well, you get a different result.

    Here's the deal, Liz. 'Quality of Life' is a people thing, not a chicken thing. They don't know about that stuff. They are bred for a purpose, a very defined purpose. Take them from that and somethings gotta give.

    Read the story of The Grasshopper and The Ant.
    Happy idealism seems a great thing, but it has it's trade offs.​
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 26, 2008
  8. LazyGirl

    LazyGirl Out Of The Brooder

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    People around here put the meat birds in Chicken tractors. They get all the grain they want and get to pick and scratch all day, too. They cage gets moved every day or 2x a day. This seems to solve both probs. They are eating greens and bugs, and not spending extra energy to do it. I am glad I found this post. My hubby wants the meat birds to free range. I like my chicken tractor idea. I will let you know how it affects their weights, but my friends say it cuts down on grain costs, they can still be butchered in 8 weeks, and they are more natural for customers buying them!
    But this is my first batch, so who knows! Everything else chicken i try seems to not work as well as it does for most people![​IMG]
     
  9. willheveland

    willheveland Chillin' With My Peeps

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    southern tier,NY
    Quote:Undoubtedly, on both counts.
    This was an old admonition. If you wanted peak performance from your livestock, then you kept them in line to do what they were bred for. In our modern, "enlightened" age, we seem to have a problem with that.

    I came up in Wisconsin dairy country. Milk cows didn't pull a plow. They could, of course, but it wasn't advised. They took it easy and in return they gave milk. Disturb their routine for even a day or two, and milk output dropped off. Money was lost and someone, something, suffered. Everything was in balance.

    Meat chickens are the same. They're bred for 8 weeks of living, during whch they do three things: eat, defecate and grow. Tie them to that and you get good results. Let them out to party in the pasture and run as "free-spirits" across the grass, well, you get a different result.

    Here's the deal, Liz. 'Quality of Life' is a people thing, not a chicken thing. They don't know about that stuff. They are bred for a purpose, a very defined purpose. Take them from that and somethings gotta give.

    Read the story of The Grasshopper and The Ant.
    Happy idealism seems a great thing, but it has it's trade offs.

    Well said,I agree with you 100%
     
  10. Nan5634

    Nan5634 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We keep our bad, bad roosters locked up and they seemed to have lost weight! They are usually free-range chickens so I think it depresses them to be locked up and they lose weight. (We have had other chickens locked up and it is the same thing)[​IMG]
     

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