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How much space for meat birds?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by shortstaque, Oct 28, 2010.

  1. shortstaque

    shortstaque Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2010
    Bucks County, PA
    I tried asking this on the Meat Birds topic with no response. Maybe I'll have better luck here.

    My sister just asked me for advice about building her coop and run for meaties. I know for my hens the general space requirements are 4' sq inside with 9" roost space, and 10' sq outside per bird for a permanent structure. Those numbers seem awfully high for meat birds and I wondered if there are different recommendations for the meaties. Also, do you have roosts available to your meat birds? Why/Why not?

    She has 100+ dual purpose "Cackle frypan special" cockerels. Just listening to her descriptions of the birds I think the breeds they sent will take quite a while to reach slaughter weight. Sounds like Barred Rocks, Easter Eggers (she has quite a few with green legs), New Hampshire or Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and the like from her descriptions. At about what age would they reach fryer size? roaster size?

  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    It's a matter of personal situation and conscience. I mean, industrially they get, what, like 1.5 sq ft per chicken or thereabouts. It works, in the sense of you can raise them that way. OTOH if you give them more room they will be happier and healthier (and IME tastier), also sanitation is more, um, distributed.

    Personally I've mostly done my commercial meaties at around 4-6 sq ft per chicken indoors *plus* a run of about twice that size, and they kept themselves as well exercised as their increasingly-sumo-esque bodies allowed, and seemed to have a reasonable amount of chickenly fun. Also they were very tasty and had muscles in places that commercial CornishX carcasses NEVER do. Because the poo is spread out over a larger area, it is more to clean in the end BUT a less-intense problem during the actual raising which I found to be a desirable tradeoff.

    However it sounds from your post like you are not talking about commercial broilers, but just about miscellaneous "regular ol' chickens" being raised for meat. (Which is btw not very economical, unless you free range them or have a LARGE source of free food including lotsa protein). In that case, they are more active and belligerant and will also be around a LOT longer (probably at least 14-16 weeks, maybe more) so I would DEFINITELY err on the side of more rather than less space. Also providing an ample amount of roosting space, preferably in different parts of the pen and on different levels, will help let them ease their social tensions without too much bloodshed.

    FWIW this summer I was forced by poor planning to raise 10 speckled sussex cockerels up through to 20 weeks in a 7x10 pen (no run, alas), which is a TOTAL of 7 sq ft per bird, and it was really REALLY REALLY tight and they were getting really pretty grumpy with each other, despite lots of roosts and 'habitat complexity' in the pen. I would not personally EVER be tempted to try to do it with less (although a smaller indoor pen might be okay if you also had a good sized outdoor run). This is generally a pretty docile and quiet strain, too.

    (e.t.a. -- feed conversion goes down as they get older. For most people the best compromise between how much $feed you put into them versus what size carcass you get out of them is around 14-16 weeks, at which point typical birds of a full-sized breed like BR or whatever are likely to give you a carcass that is maybe 3-3.5 lbs (skin-on, all processed and ready to go in oven, weight of giblets not included). If you like small fryers you can do them earlier but of course you get less weight of meat per # birds you are killing. If you wait til 20 weeks or so, your total $feed expenses have gone SUBSTANTIALLY up and you only gain maybe another pound or so of weight. For whatever it's worth, the aforementioned sussexes (which are from a line with very good size for the breed in general) averaged about 4.25 lbs ready-to-go-in-oven weight. They are not as tender as storeboughten roasters but IMO in a *good* way (not squishy!) and FAR FAR tastier. There is really no point in letting them go past 20 weeks ish, even for big breeds like orps or JGs, because you end up spending SO much extra on food for so little extra weight gain. (Although flavor continues to intensify))

    JME, good luck, have fun,

    Last edited: Oct 28, 2010
  3. shortstaque

    shortstaque Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2010
    Bucks County, PA

    Thanks for the detailed answer.

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