Housing Meat Birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by cjhubbs, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. cjhubbs

    cjhubbs In the Brooder

    Sep 6, 2012
    We have been raising chickens, for eggs for the past 5 years or so and like many people have caught chicken fever again and want to raise our own chickens for meat. Lately, I have been lurking around BYC to find more information on raising meat birds and am glad to report that you all have been really helpful. I have decided that I am going to start with a batch of Cournish X and than would like to switch over to a self sustaining flock, in the future. I am thinking I will do a few batches of birds, starting next spring, with 20-25 birds in a batch . If all goes well, we may raise the birds into the winter, but it probably would not be that many. The biggest question I am pondering at the moment is how I will house the meat birds. I currently live on 2 1/2 acres of hilly woodland in New Hampshire, so a tractor is out of the question. I was thinking about an open air coop design but I am not sold on that because the night time temps. have been anywhere from 40 deg. to 20 deg, for the past month. I was wondering what you all use for housing and if you have any suggestions? Thank you so much for your help!
  2. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Songster

    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I am also interested in people's set up for meat birds. I am assuming their diets are more limited so is free ranging a bad idea? They also get processed very young. How much space is generally provided? I am just starting my research on this.
  3. kellypepperk

    kellypepperk Songster

    May 30, 2012
    Delaware County, NY
    Hubbs and I were just discussing this... I'll be back later to (after dinner and with a glass of wine). It will help me, too, to make sure Hubby and I are still on the same page.
  4. WalkingWolf1

    WalkingWolf1 Songster

    Feb 15, 2012
    This is a thread on my Freedom Ranger experience. Updates will continue as we progress.

    Here is a cattle panel hoop coop. It doesn't need to be as "elaborate" as this one if your only going to use it to "feed-out". Do a search for other examples.
  5. Life is Good!

    Life is Good! Songster

    Apr 14, 2011
    suburbia Chicagoland
    We are on a field in northern Illinois. We raised FR from May to end of June; and CX from end of August to Halloween. What I found was that meat birds handle cooler temps much, much better than heat. I lost only 2 chicks - both were from heat-related dehydration.

    The chicks took cooler temps (low of 20 for CX and low of 37 for FR) just fine. Yes, they did bunch up to keep warm, but none were crushed.

    Our set-up is a large Rubbermaid storage unit as a coop inside a moveable tractor inside a large run for predator control. (I think the storage unit is 5'widex3'deepx3'tall) This size unit, with a roost bar installed, held the FR's just great until their end. The CX never did use the roost bar and didn't all fit inside the coop after 6wks or thereabouts. There were simply too big! The FR's did fit inside at 12wks, but they were crammed in like sardines! And it needs to be cleaned out every other day after about 7wks for either breed because they get so big that it gets pretty stinky pretty quickly.
    1 person likes this.
  6. cjhubbs

    cjhubbs In the Brooder

    Sep 6, 2012
    Thank you all for your help. I have decided that I will build a hoop coop for the meat birds because it seems to be the cheapest and easiest solution. I was wondering how large I should make the coop though? I am planning on doing bathes with 20-25 birds in a batch. like I said I will be starting with CXs. I am hoping to free range the birds some of the time but i will not be able to, for the most part, every day of the week. I was thinking maybe an 8 by 10 hoop coop but I don't know if that is large enough? It will not be moved around, like I said, so maybe bigger would be better? Thanks for the help!
  7. WalkingWolf1

    WalkingWolf1 Songster

    Feb 15, 2012
    With the livestock panels it will be 8X8 or 8X12 (you don't want to waste 1/2 a panel). I agree with your assessment of "a lil bigger is a lil better". It will make it a bit harder to move though. The 8X8 would be large enough but it will get pretty messy by the end of the grow out period.
  8. debir1966

    debir1966 Songster

    May 27, 2012
    Central Idaho
    We are doing the same thing, raising our own meat chickens. We raised two batches this year, one we got at the end of June and they did great, even with temps soaring to over a 100 this summer (however, we had them in a shady spot and always kept plenty of fresh water supplied).

    Our second batch we are still raising, we got them the end of September and they just turned 9 weeks old yesterday. They are doing so poorly! We have been trying to figure out why they are not doing as well as the first batch and have come to the conclusion it is two things - cold temps (down in the 20's at night - we do have a red-light heat lamp on them, but they are still using valuable growing energy to stay warm) and less sunlight so they are not getting as much feed as the first batch.

    Because we use a Brinsea EcoGlow heater instead of a heat lamp when they are young, we never even considered adding supplemental light as that was one of the many reasons we decided to go with the EcoGlow. When it got colder and they outgrew the EcoGlow and we added the heat lamp, we decided on the red-light to prevent any pecking problems.

    Now we are considering adding a light to increase their eating hours because they are not even close to the size of our first batch and we wanted to process them about the same age (10 1/2 weeks)... now we are looking at atleast 12-14 to get them just to process size of at least 4ish pounds! (our first batch carcass weight was about 8 pounds each!)

    We want to raise at least 50 meat chickens a year, and wanted to be able to do that in 2 batches of 25 (so as not to have too many to process each time). I had planned on doing a spring and a fall batch, but after this experience, I am going to do early and late summer batches. I am hoping a batch in April to be ready by July and a batch in July to be ready by October.

    Our plan for this coming year is to build a hoop coop. Part of it will be covered either with a tarp or with something more permanent/solid and part left open for the run area. We are going to make it 3 panels (so I think that would mean 8 x 12). I am planning on letting them free range some of the time - we free range all of our birds. We may or may not move the hoop coop around, we will see how that goes (we do have a pasture space that we can move it on). I want the chickens to process at 6-8 pounds carcass weight, so I am planning on them being 10-12 weeks old.

    Next year we will raise Cornish cross meat chickens while I experiment with breeding our own dual-purpose meat chicks. I want to be able to let a few hens raise several batches of chicks each year and see how long it takes them to get to a 4-6 pound carcass weight. I have mostly dual purpose hens and will be putting a White Plymouth Rock, possibly a White Giant and maybe a White Laced Red Cornish roos over them.

    I have even had the idea of waiting until one of my hens goes broody to order the Cornish Cross and stuffing them under her when they arrive :) I have read success stories of people doing that - and have had my own success story putting a turkey poult under a broody chicken. If I am able to do that, I would get only 10 or 15 cornish chicks at a time and once they are big enough they would be free ranged with the rest of the chickens, penned in the coop at night.
  9. trifecta

    trifecta Songster

    Mar 20, 2012
    Laidley, QLD, Australia
    I believe a general rule of thumb for meaties is at least 2 Sq ft/ bird at maturity. I have a 5x15 dog run that I have put groups of up to 25 in. When they reach butchering age, its not that they're cramped as much as that they are making a mess.

    I am going to use electric poultry fencing for my next batch so I can just move it around on the grass.

    Inside of the run, I use 2 dog vari kennel crates to give them shelter and so that I can lock them in if needed. I did a batch of 12 this spring (butchered in April, I think)- they did awesome. I had 6lb dressed birds in 7 weeks. The second group arrived mid July- 1/2 CX's and 1/2 "black broilers". They DO NOT tolerate heat well and I had trouble getting them to eat with the extreme temps we had in Kansas (it was well over 100 for the first 6 weeks of their lives) so I would wait and do them later in the year next time for my area.
  10. goldfinches

    goldfinches Songster

    May 6, 2011
    I built a box with 4x4's for the bottom frame. It's 8' square. 4x4 corner posts, 4' is covered with a sheet of plywood on top and sides, the other half is hardwire cloth. It's heavy - very heavy, but I can still move it around. I keep them on the grass in my yard, they love scratching and I think it's healthy for them, plus they fertilize so good! I have only grown them in the fall, I think their fresh litter might burn spring grass?

    I grow about 30 at a time, and by the end, they're crowded but not too bad.

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