how much should it cost to bring up meat chickens?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Apr 19, 2011
This is my first year with meat chickens (cornish cross). I have 26 of them and also 6 duel purpose birds in the coop. They are eating about 50 pounds of feed a week and I buy the feed from the local grain elevator for $80 per 300 pounds. That is the highest protein broiler mix they make. It seems like a lot compared to what I can buy chicken at the store for, I love haveing chickens but I am in it mostly for the cheap meat. Is there a better way? Do they need less protein mix when the get closer to butcher? Should I build a run so they can eat bugs before getting more meat bread chicks? My duel purpose and egg layers I free range but I am afraid if I let the cornish cross's out they won't go back in and predators will get them. Any tips and suggestions are apreciated.
You're not paying too much more for feed than I am now... For my last two batches I was paying like $11 per 50lbs, but I wasn't happy with the results so I just started feeding them Purina Sunfresh Start and Grow (non-medicated... I wish it wasn't Purina, but it's the only non-medicated anything I can get for them). Here's a big secret- Broiler food and chick starter are pretty much one and the same, except that some companies (some...) put more protein in their broiler food. But 18% is sufficient. Some argue that more protein than that leads to many of the problems broilers are prone to like flip and bad legs, and I tend to agree with them. So if you can find a chick starter that is less than what you're paying per 50lbs (you're paying like $14 now) then you'll save some money. Overall I figured my cost per bird last batch was about $6.50 per chicken. If you're looking for purely cheap chicken you can either feed them only cheap grains and free range, or buy chicken when it's .99 at the store. I raise mine so I can have cheapER humanely raised pastured meat, which otherwise costs more like $15+ per chicken.

Also, if you're looking to save a little more, check out this thread (or parts of it- it's long).

It's about fermenting the food to increase the nutrition available to the birds. I've been doing it and it really helped my chicks overcome some foot and leg problems. I don't know if it's decreased the amount of food they're eating, but since I'm using 1/2 scratch grains (which are only like $10 per 50lbs) that cuts the cost.

I've heard cornish cross free range fine. I never let mine with the last two batches of cornish cross, but I have some Rosambro now which are really similar and they free range fine (better, in fact, than the red rangers I have housed with them!). This is the first batch of meat chickens I have allowed to free range, and so far so good. My concern before was both their lack of chicken instincts and the fact that I seldom let any chickens who aren't full grown to free range because my dogs leave adult chickens alone but I don't trust them with smaller chickens... and meat chickens aren't really full grown until between 6 and 7 weeks, and by then what's the use of free ranging only the last one or two weeks? This batch I started free ranging at four weeks for at least part of the day every day, and I just keep the dogs inside or tied up when they're out. I figure it's only a short term arrangement, the dogs will live.

Hope that helps!
They are 4 weeks and the lady at the grain elevator recomended me the 23% protein mix they also offer a 20 and a 16 percent I assume one of those would be cheaper but I have already bought it, will they be ok having what I bought them? I plan to let them go the full 8 weeks because I have a week off work right at the end of the 8 week mark that I intended to butcher them so they have another month that they will be eating it should I maybe buy some plain ground corn and mix it or something. What kind of health problems should I watch out for if I give this to them? Thank you for the reply, it helped.
Also, I think they would free range fine I am just afraid they would not go back into the coop at night and also that the cats would get them. I think I will build a run or chicken tractor before buying meat chickens again.
One great way to save money in feeding chickens in feeding them able scraps. Just look up a food chart of what you can and cant feed chickens, Theres TONS of typical table scraps there can and love to eat, stale bread is one things we often give ours. We feed ours the table scraps first, then fill there feeder with bought food. In doing that, they fill themselves up on the table scraps which would otherwise be tossed out, and dont eat as much of the bought food. But you gota be careful that they are getting the right protien. So we do scraps every other day.
Table scraps are also a good suggestion.

What you have is fine, just remember you should limit their feed either 12 hours on 12 hours off or according to a chart (I think it's on, I'd link it but it always takes me like 45 minutes to find it...) that tells you how much to feed per day per chick by age (goes up every week). 12 on 12 off is easiest, so it's what most people do. But with higher protein feeds this practice is more important. If you don't have a light on them, though, they'll self regulate, since they don't eat when it's dark.

I assure you, they will go home at night. All chickens have that instinct. But at this age they're also really easy to "herd" back into their coop. Mine are the same age and I just use a big stick (an old rake handle) to gently herd them back if I want them to go back in before dark. But if left alone they'll go home. Also, MOST cats won't bother chickens the size of a 4 week old cornish cross, but they're your cats... only you can make that judgement call. I might worry about them with smaller breeds or younger chicks, but their predatory drive is usually triggered by things the size of a guinea pig and smaller.
I found that raise meat birds was not cheaper than the store (although I did organic and it was probably cheaper than organic chicken).

I think if you are strictly going for cheap chicken you'll probably be hard to beat the grocery store prices on sale though not impossible if you let them range and supplement with some home grown goodies.

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