Hatched 15 “extra” laying hen mixed breed. Want to raise them for meat.

Docsflocks

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Mar 13, 2021
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Put some eggs in the incubator but also ask my daughter to order some more chicks but our Communication was lax and now we’re going to have too many chickens for our coop. So I am considering raising the 15 chicks I just hatched as meat chickens. What do I need to do differently with them feed wise or whatever and given if they’re not meat chickens, how long should I grow them before slaughter?
 
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Molpet

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How much meat do you end up getting from the birds?
The hatchery barred rock cockerels were about 3lbs whole dressed.
So I kept a CX pullet and bred her to a random mixed rooster I got off FB. He was heftier than the hatchery and had a better personality. Started breeding the cockerels from that breeding to br, bjg hatchery hens. Been breeding them back and now cockerels dress out 5 to 7 lbs at 16 weeks.
 

Ridgerunner

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What do I need to do differently with them feed wise or whatever and given if they’re not meat chickens, how long should I grow them before slaughter?
What are your goals for these "meat" chickens. How important is size to you? How do you plan on cooking them, that can have a huge impact on how old they can be before you slaughter them, especially the cockerels.

Size is not a huge important factor for me, but it is for many people. There are only two of us, I can get two meals out of a relatively small pullet. Thursday I'd bake it and the leftover meat would go into soup for Saturday. If it were a larger cockerel I'd have more meat for lunch. Mom could feed a family of five kids with one chicken. If she fried it some of the pieces on the platter were neck, back, gizzard, and liver, heavily breaded. For an old hen chicken and dumplings was a way to really stretch a chicken and was great comfort food.

You can fry or grill a younger bird but at some point you have to change your cooking methods. So how do you want to cook them?

I feed mine like the chicks that will be part of the laying/breeding flock, Starter for the first four weeks or so then Grower with oyster shell on the side with a fair amount of foraging and excess from the garden when I have it. If you isolate them you can feed them a higher protein content feed if you want. Some people feed the entire flock a relatively high protein feed like a 20% Flock Raiser or All-Flock anyway, layers as well as those that will be butchered.

I don't butcher a cockerel before 16 weeks, and that is the larger ones. I try to butcher all the cockerels by 23 weeks, that suites the way I cook them and they are hitting the end of relatively rapid weight gain. By then I know which I might keep as a replacement rooster. I don't butcher pullets until they are about 8 months old. I want to see how they lay before I decide which to keep for my laying flock and which to eat. I don't weigh mine, that's not important enough to me to make it worthwhile.

Since you say you don't have room I suspect your motivation as to when to butcher may be driven by behaviors, not optimum size or how to cook them. We all have different motivations. As Molpet said, many people sell their pullets instead of eating them. No matter how long you keep them they will never have a lot of meat and it is a quick way to get your numbers down. With my goals and the way I manage them I prefer to eat them.
 

RUNuts

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I've raised hens for slaughter several times. How big do you want them?

The cockerels will get to 12 weeks before the crowing must stop. This will yield 2-3 pounds from hatchery stock. Delicious, tender meat in a slow cooker. Many ways to dress this up for supper. The pin feathers are terrible, but you can pluck and cook these with the skin.

For pullets, you can wait until first lay for a larger bird. The cost to feed stabilizes, but the cost to raise gets high. Mine will free range in the backyard, so costs are moderate but not zero.

Best wishes.
 

U_Stormcrow

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As others have said, higher protein feed is the way to get them to bulk up fast, but dual purpose and hatchery breeds will never bulk up as much, or as efficiently, as a CX. Depending on breed, you could be seeing anything from a 3.# to 5.5# live weight bird at 12-14 weeks, with yields around 63-67% carcass. Of that, depending on breed, your meat quantity could be as low as 55% for some of the birds that put bone on first and then bulk out, or as high as 65%. The good news is that feathers don't weigh much, so if you get a "heavy feathered" breed, it hits you in a smaller top line number.

As with the others, I usually process around 12-18 weeks, and depending on the bird and its sex, I could see anywhere between one pound of very tender meat on a young pullet to three pounds of flavorful, not quite so tender meat on an older cockerel. Above 18 weeks, I braise, usually in some form of spice rub, then shred.

Also, I free range all my birds. During the summer months, on my pasture, that saves about 35% in feed costs (barely more than half that late winter), and results in a more flavorful bird, but at the expense of weight and tenderness - all that moving around looking for food is exercise.
 

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