Harvesting Chickens Year Round

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by foamspoon, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. foamspoon

    foamspoon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 17, 2007
    I understand that harvesting a chicken by a certain age is idea, but what if I wanted to keep a flock of chickens year round and harvest them a few at a time during the year that might be 6 months to a year old, would the taste/quality be that much different for the worse than if I harvested them at an ideal younger age. I am not talking about meat chickens but more of a Heritage Breed.

  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Heritage birds are usually grown much longer so they can get some size. That would lend itself to protracted harvesting throughout the year.
    Hatching periodically through the year would help.
    Don't expect an older heritage breed to work with the same cooking methods for Cornish Cross though.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    You might want to talk to username Ridgerunner--I believe that's what he does.
  4. mudvstheory

    mudvstheory Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 27, 2012
    northern virginia
    I thought about this, and read about it a little bit, because food sufficiency is kind of antithetical to large electrical freezers. Here are my thoughts.

    You get some decline in meat quality as the birds hit puberty. Plus the boys start fighting. Whether you can tolerate that depends on your priorities/facilities. If you learn to caponize (neuter), then the boys can be held much longer, remain tender and behave better. Other than that, you can start a batch, butcher at twelve weeks (this is underweight and less profitable, but not everybody is running a store), and more at say sixteen weeks, and then a few that would be tougher at twenty weeks. Then if you are skillful/lucky, your younger chickens reach twelve weeks the next month, and so on. You would have to heat the scalding water, cool the chill water, and clean your equipment for each butchering, so it saves time/energy to do more at once, say every four weeks, and freeze, than to do one a week for example. This alone makes the energy usage of the freezer more palatable.

    So if a litter or brood (I don't even know the word! lol!) averages fifteen chicks (??) and you butcher at 12/16/20 weeks, you would butcher about five chickens each time, and have meat for three months. So you likely could repeat this twice a year and have meat for six months. The next issue is that whole lack of light means December is a bad month for eggs. So if you could get them broody in Oct, and growing Nov Dec Jan, then butcher that bunch in Jan, Feb and March; then the next batch would be broody in Feb, growing March April May, and butchered May June July. I don't know how hard it is to get a hatch going early/late season like that. You would likely have some gap in the spring, but your mileage may vary.

    Most people seem to find it easier/more fun to raise chickens in the summer and freeze the meat, rather than trying to manage winter poo for larger batches of chickens semi-indoors. A spring break just makes sense all around. A partial solution is to butcher lamb in the spring, at 10-11 months old. Or barter. I suppose our forefathers shot deer. Maybe turkeys work better to butcher in spring. Palm turkeys could be 30 weeks to butcher, says the Internet. That might work out better than keeping baby chicks going all winter. So my conclusion there was that if we want fresh meat every week, some seasons do not favor chicken.

    Then again I don't even have chickens yet, so don't listen to me. just dreaming about someday.
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j True BYC Addict

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Another option for your meat preservation is pressure canning. Canned chicken is fantastic to have on hand for quick, easy meals. You can use it for chicken soup, chicken stew, chicken salad and chicken sandwiches. Pretty much anything you'd use shredded, diced or cut up chicken for. I like your idea of processing throughout the year.
  6. Life is Good!

    Life is Good! Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2011
    suburbia Chicagoland
    We do this, unintentionally. Our heritage flock doesn't mature until nearly a year, so 'extra' cockerals are kept until their characteristics are clearly visible. That's anywhere from 15wks to a year. No, I try not to keep more cockerals than I can handle - but I have a separate coop for the boys to live in and grow out in. Once decisions are made, dinner is available in 3 days (after resting the meat in the fridge!).

    However, I also grow out meat birds as I've found their meat quality is so much more to our modern tastes. We grow out a batch of 25, and freeze them. I've found I need about 60 chickens a year - which means 2 batches of meaties and whatever 'extra' cockerals are hatched out by the layers.

    I created a pictoral post which shows the carcasses of the various breeds. I'm a visual person, so this was the best way to describe it. The heritage meat is incredible for chicken pot pies and for chicken and dumplings and for chicken soup. The Rangers are wonderful all-round kind of meat (roaster, baking). The CX is excellent for high heat fast cooking (grill or stovetop).

    Here's the link to the post:

    Good luck! It's not hard to do, but keeping the extra cockerals separate has been key to our success in this endeavor!
  7. Klutch

    Klutch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 30, 2014
    West Sacramento
    Are going to hatch out your cockerels, or you plan to order them from a hatchery. If you can space out your hatches and get your last chicks of the year around late August, you will have enough fresh meat through winter. I don't know if you sell birds, but chinese new year is held on or around the 3rd week of January. Very big demand for roosters!! I like the bachelor pen idea, just leave a couple free range so they could get all the goodies living in the home range. Like bugs and fresh grass shoots, for some reason that new winter rye really fattens them up.
  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    I keep roosters in a separate pen


    1 person likes this.
  9. kuntrygirl

    kuntrygirl Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

    Feb 20, 2008
    Opelousas, Louisiana
    Beautiful group of birds.
  10. LindaB220

    LindaB220 Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 23, 2013
    Portland/Vancouver area
    This is a perfect answer. Exactly what I'll be doing. Especially caponizing. I have the tools and will begin this summer. The only thing I would offer also would be to buy 20 CX spring or fall to do a once a year grow out of 7-8 weeks and butcher for the freezer. Also, look into Fermented feed threads, there's several, for ways to extend the dollar you spend on grains. Another way to keep odor down is the deep litter method. Search for it at top. Good luck to you both [​IMG]

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