I'm looking for flaws in our plan.

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by chanceosunshine, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. chanceosunshine

    chanceosunshine Chirping

    Jul 15, 2019
    NW Ohio
    My husband and I decided yesterday that we're going to start raising meat birds for ourselves and our kids. We've already begun to build the coop, which is an 8 foot hexagonal gazebo which will be fenced underneath. The coop will be in a large fenced in chicken yard about 40 feet wide and 120 feet long. Eventually we may add two Nigerian Dwarf does (for future milk) or a gonkey (the proper pronunciation of donkey according to our 2 year old grandson).
    So, the plan goes like this. For now we will get some meat chicks and raise them on pasture and supplemental food until they are finished. But, for future meat birds we'd like to raise our own. My dil is raising chicks for us and several of those are "dual purpose", so we decided we would use them as the meat breeders. I'd like to get a couple silkies for brooding purposes.
    What have I not thought about or considered that I need to? Does this sound like a doable approach to raising meat birds?
    Thanks for reading!
    Sequel likes this.
  2. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    Skip the Silkies... they aren't the best broody's, just the most broody! Go with something like a black copper Marans, super hardy, good foragers, amazing broody's at protecting form predators and can easily raise twice as many chicks as any Silkie plus so much smarter. Also good growth rate for the table and good flock disposition. My barred Rock also was a fantastic broody. But Marans have been my favorite roosters, this far.

    I had the hardest time keeping the goats out of my chicken feed. So you would need a plan for that of you're keeping them int he same pen.

    When you raise dual purpose birds... just about every single cockerel will trying to mate before processing age. When a bunch hit puberty at the same time they will work together to catch, hold down, and take turns mating the weakest pullet in the flock. I personally require a stag pen, where all my boys go together and learn some manners before access to ladies. They horse around as all boys do, but the fighting is generally not intense. I don't process large batches as it's just me doing it. So they get dispatched according to attitude first if need be, regardless of size. So I also have a second coop for the boys.

    One nice thing about meaties is you can go all in, all out and makes for easier parasite control and such compared to keeping birds year round. I have only done heritage so far, and think the meaties are far more tender with broader recipe applications. And as already mentioned, the hormones on meaties will not be kicking in before processing age the way it with dual purpose birds that are grown out far longer.

    Adding your general location to your profile might help others make the best suggestions at a glance. ;)

    It's a worthy adventure! Best wishes. :thumbsup
    FowlWitch, Sequel, Stiletto and 2 others like this.
  3. chanceosunshine

    chanceosunshine Chirping

    Jul 15, 2019
    NW Ohio
    Thanks for the reply, EggSighted. Forgive my ignorance, but is a Black Copper Maran a heritage meat bird? I could keep my dual purpose hens in the egg house but that still leaves my dual purpose (Welsumer) rooster without a job to do. What if I bred him with heritage meat birds? Or would that be "sacrilege"? Would the boys finish before puberty that way?
    I did add my location. Thanks for the suggestion!
    Sequel and EggSighted4Life like this.
  4. Mimi’s 13

    Mimi’s 13 fuhgettaboutit

    Jan 6, 2018
    Centre, AL
    Excellent, excellent advice!
    Sequel likes this.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I'm going to give some different opinions, some similar. I don't have the problems raising pullets and cockerels together that was described above. I raise over 40 chicks a year, pullets and cockerels as they hatch. Some are brooder-raised, some are broody-raised. I raise them with my laying/breeding flock in very large area. I have three different coops/shelters, a main run that is 12' x 32', and an area inside electric netting about 45' x 65'. I typically butcher my cockerels at 23 weeks of age. I generally butcher pullets at 8 months, after I evaluate laying.

    It does get rowdy when they go through puberty but usually not that bad. My expectations of what is normal may play a part in my perceptions. About once every 5 years it does get rowdy enough that I separate some of the boys out until butcher age but most years I don't. I think your facilities, flock make-up, tolerances, and management techniques all have an effect. I absolutely like a second "grow-out pen" so I have flexibility in managing this, but don't base your entire plan on having to butcher the boys before they hit puberty. Be flexible and let experience guide you.

    I'm glad you are trying the meaties first. It will give you a baseline. You'll find a lot of differences in buying the broiler chicks and raising them versus hatching, raising, and cooking dual purpose birds. I'm not going to try to list differences. Again, try it and see which you prefer.

    I would not expect that area to remain green with two goats, a donkey, and chickens. When you get them all together I think you can expect it to become a bare lot. Again try it but I think you will wind up buying all their food. You won't get much from pasture.

    I use a combination incubator and broody hens to hatch enough chickens to eat. You cannot control when a hen goes broody, if at all. To control when you hatch and how many if you want several you need an incubator. I love my broody hens but to keep meat in the freezer I need at least one large hatch early spring when my broody hens do not go broody. This depends on ho much you plan to depend on chicken meat.

    Don't get too hung up on breed. There are a lot of dual purpose breeds out there that might suit you. There are some differences in breeds but I find strain is quite important. Using Marans since they have been mentioned, depending on who selects which get to breed and what their criteria is for that selection you can get Marans of different sizes, different egg-laying traits, or even whether a lot of them go broody or not. The same thing is true of Sussex, Orpington, Rocks, Wyandottes, many other breeds. That's what I mean by strain, what has the person selecting the breeding birds developed. You can certainly try all of one breed if yo wish, many people do, but you might try getting a mix and seeing which of those best meet your goals. You can breed them. Unless you plan on showing them or selling hatching eggs or chicks there is no great advantage in keeping just one breed other than personal preference.

    How important to you is size? I can get two meals out of my pullets since there are only two of us. Some people feel that size is tremendously important. We all have different goals.

    You can try Cornish X or Ranger-type birds. The Cornish X are the ultimate meat bird, they grow fast an have a great feed to met conversion ratio. The rangers are a really good meat bird also but grow a bit slower than the Cornish X. Another possible comparison for you to try. These are both hard to keep and breed them, even for experienced chicken keepers, but some do it. You can find some threads on the forum where people try crossing dual purpose breeds to either Cornish X or Rangers. typically a dual purpose rooster with a meatie hen to try to develop a sustainable flock they can breed but still get good meat qualities.

    What I'm mainly trying to say is to not think that there is only one way to approach your goals. There are a tremendous number of different ways you could approach it. Until you raise chickens you probably won't know what you goals really are, at least in the specifics. Try your meaties first, I think that is a great idea. Spend some time reading through this forum to see what other people's experiences are. Be flexible, try some things, and see for yourself what works for you.

    Welcome to the forum, glad you joined. I'll be gone for a few days but will check back ion this thread when I get back.
  6. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    Ridgerunner always has fantastic input! :thumbsup

    Sorry, maybe I mixed my words a little.. The Marans are a dual purpose breed.

    The Wyandottes mentioned were super tasty, plenty broody, and seemed to grow fairly well, and kinda beautiful. But also as mentioned "strain" will have impact according what folks may or may not have selected for.

    Definitely, a good suggestion that you try many different breeds and see what YOU like! What I read was good on paper was NOT what I enjoyed in person. And my intent was more fun with a bonus of feeding the family... so I even raise bantams and put them int he freezer as needed. Selling off pullets I don't wish to keep has been more profitable than sending them to my freezer. But I agree 100% that there is no ONE right way for everybody, and exploring options during your adventure will reveal what may be preferred by you and your family. :wee

    I didn't realize you already had a DP rooster and hens you were working with. :pop
  7. Compost King

    Compost King Crowing

    Apr 19, 2018
    North Carolina
    The only flaw I can see is that you may be disappointed in the quantity of meat you produce. I like the idea of dual purpose but unless you get dual purpose bred specifically for meat qualities they tend to end up very skimpy. The solution for me (not necessarily for you) was to get a free ranging hybrid (red rangers) hen and cross her with my meatiest dual purpose roosters.
    As far as broodies go, get what you have available. only 10% of my marans went broody, only one stayed with her eggs all the way through and she only did it once in 3 attempts. So its not a guarantee that they become great mothers. She also buried 2 of her chicken while scratching. If you have silkies available use them and if they turn out to be crappy mothers get another breed highly likely to be broody. My best broody mom was a tiny Japanse Bantam.
  8. chanceosunshine

    chanceosunshine Chirping

    Jul 15, 2019
    NW Ohio
    I really appreciate these thoughtful replies.

    I will definitely need to supplement "our own" meat birds with bought birds just because I'm afraid that some in the family will be turned off by the taste and texture of what "normal" chickens taste like. The goal is to raise enough for us and our 3 children families, so small birds will work but bigger ones will be appreciated too.

    I have this romantic notion of raising meat birds like they did back in the day without artificial incubation, but in reality we do need to actually eat, so there's another reason for "supplementing".

    Experimenting sounds like the right path and I am gleaning a lot of information here!

    As far as broody hens go, I'll be honest... silkies are too stinking cute and I need a functional reason to justify having them in my mind. lol Many moons ago I had two silky mamas who roamed the farm with their little mixes and some guickens that they hatched themselves. They were such good mamas!

    Also, I should nix the goats and gonkey for now...

    Thank you all!
  9. Compost King

    Compost King Crowing

    Apr 19, 2018
    North Carolina
    Experimenting will be the most rewarding thing. You will learn so much and eventually find exactly what you want.
    henaynei, Sequel and Stiletto like this.
  10. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    Experiment until you find the methods that work the best for you. For us, we need a minimum of 72 a year, so I need to hatch 140 to get them (assuming it's 50/50 gender split). The girls move forward for the next generation or are sold to offset the feed bill. I aim for setting at least 50 eggs at a time and I'm not even trying to have enough broodies to do that. We upgraded to a cabinet incubator so that I can set by the tray or shelf for staggered hatches in the same unit, hatching in table tops separately.

    It will be at least 16 weeks before a Heritage cockerel can be processed (about 3lbs bone in), which essentially is half as much for twice as long when compared to a CornishX.

    We've been able to break even on the birds for the last 2 years. Our feed bill is about $300/month during grow out season. We eat like kings. I usually run a flock total of about 50 chickens and 10 Turkeys in the off season.

    I tried it with minimum hens and I wasn't getting enough eggs within a 1 week period to set a large enough batch to fill rooster coop in one set. Staggered ages can get problematic if they're too far apart. So I aim for a setting of 50, to get 25-ish boys to fill rooster coop in one hatch. I then get 5 girls to keep for next year and 20 to sell, which feeds the boys until processing age.

    We grow out about 12 Turkeys a year and sell the rest, that goes towards maintaining the adults and grow out expense.

    We have a rooster coop with pasture for 25, 3 brooders for those young enough to need heat (space for 50 <4wks), 2 juvenile stalls, 7 stalls/runs for 2 Turkey varieties and 5 chicken chicken flocks (space for up to 14 Turkeys and 60 chickens), 2 flex pens (157 sq ft) and 3 9x6 pasture tractors for overflow boys.

    It's become a cycle of hatch, grow, sort, process/sell and repeat.

    Our goal was to not buy chicken at the store at all... that's the scale we've found in order to do that and gain enough sales to offset the feed bill. I don't ship at all, totally local.

    We could do it the easy way and just drive 30 minutes to Mt Healthy Hatchery and pick up a box of 25 meat birds 3 times a year. I always complicate things though. Plus the flavor difference. Plus the fact that we wouldn't see any return on the feed expense.

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