Just curious about meat birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by kardar2, Feb 21, 2016.

  1. kardar2

    kardar2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It is just my wife and I. When planning how many birds to start for butchering it takes 8 months to get
    Full size to store 12 month supply of chickens in freezer in alot of chicken. LoL. So do you all start hatching your own every few months or do you do mostly canning ? How does one start? starting in March I am going to start a tab on when we eat chicken so can get an idea. We eat a lot of chicken. We also have chickens going onto two years old so say if I ordered some chicks in the fall they would be all feathered out when it got real cold.then.I started out buying my chicks in spring from tractor supply. How old of birds. Would not be good for butchering? I heard canning meat would be best forstews and things like enchiladas and so on . So thank you for the advise
     
  2. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Any covkerels that I butcher go to freezer camp when they start ctowing. Regardless of size. Once they reach sexual maturity, the flavor changes a lot.
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    You don't want to take dual purpose birds to 8 months. After about 5 months, they're basically as big as they're going to get. After that, you're just pouring feed into them to maintain weight, without seeing a lot of gain for your money.

    Or, you can buy Cornish cross or broilers and have birds in either 8 or 12 weeks. You do have to either raise several smaller batches or have a lot of freezer space. I do can chicken, it's great to have on hand for casseroles, soup, things like that.

    I do a combination of birds for meat. I buy small batches of the Cornish Cross, only like 10-12 at a time cause that's all I can house. We have lots of freezer space so that's not much of an issue. Then, since I seem determined to hatch out a ton of cockerels from my own laying flock and breeding projects, I butcher those boys around 18-22 weeks (that's my target, anyway). Those birds usually get eaten that week, they never make it to the freezer. i rest them 2ish days, then brine and cook. I only butcher two at a time (my endurance is limited) so it's easy for us to eat them soon (3 teenage boys and two adults, mostly all on low carb diets).
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    There are so many different ways to go about this. I’ll make a few general comments then explain how I do it. There are only two of us also.

    You can eat any chicken regardless of age, size, or sex but you have to adjust your cooking methods to account for age and sex. A young chicken can be cooked hot and dry, like frying or grilling. But as they get older you need to change your methods to slower and with more moisture, otherwise the meat gets so tough you can’t eat it. Cog au Vin is a traditional French way to cook an old rooster. Baking, crock pots, pressure cookers, stews, or maybe chicken and dumplings are other ways to use old chicken. Pressure canning also cooks it while it cans so you have meat ready to use and it is really tender. Older males have more texture and flavor than females.

    The chicken you get from the store are the Cornish X type broilers that reach butcher size at 6 to 8 weeks on the feed regimen the professionals use. You can cook it any way you wish, but it really shines as fried or grilled. The problem with our chickens is that if you butcher them that young there just isn’t any meat on them. We all butcher at different ages for a variety of reasons, too many to go into but one important one is how you wish to cook them.

    If you are basically buying all the feed they eat you just cannot beat the efficiency of the Cornish X type broilers. They are bred to eat, poop, and gain weight. That’s about all they do. Some people restrict feed and/or mostly pasture them to slow their growth, but if they are fed well they have to be butchered sometime around 6 to 8 weeks, otherwise they grow so big they start to die. Their hearts can’t keep up or their skeleton breaks down under all that weight. With these you basically have to buy all the chicks since they are so difficult to keep and breed, and you have to butcher them within a pretty tight time frame.

    There is another type of broiler, often called Rangers, that are bed to be a little slower in growth and be able to forage better than the Cornish X, but they are also bred to be butchered at a reasonably young age. If you are buying all their feed they are not as efficient as the Cornish X but if yours forage a lot they are not a bad choice.

    Then you have the dual purpose birds, the type your great-grandparents had on the farm. These lay a fair amount of eggs and provide a reasonable meal, but are not as efficient at either as their specialist cousins, the commercial layers or the commercial broilers. Some of the advantages of these are that they can reproduce if you want to hatch your own chicks, they do not need to be butchered by a certain age, and they can maybe provide a lot of their own feed by foraging if you have high quality forage. Most of us don’t. Since they don’t outgrow their bodies at a young age you can butcher on your schedule, not theirs. But the older they get the more restricted you are in how you cook them.

    These are the basic meat birds but there are a lot of variations in how we do any of this. Some people only look at cockerels, but since half the chicks I hatch are female, half of what I eat are female. One forum member is working really hard to get a strain of dual purpose birds that can reproduce but at the same time put on enough weight by 14 weeks to be worth butchering. In China, Silkies are considered a delicacy. With their dark meat many people here would not want to eat them. There are just so many approaches.

    I raise dual purpose chickens, mainly for meat. The eggs are just a nice side product, I give most of mine away or sell them and donate the money to a special church fund. I hatch my own, not a special breed but a barnyard mix of different breeds. If I have a broody hen I use her but I cannot hatch enough chicks just with broodies so I also use an incubator and raise many myself. We basically eat one chicken a week but with visits to see my grandkids and other events with other people I only need to raise and butcher around 45 chickens a year. Half of what we eat are male, half are female.

    I roast a chicken on Thursday and that’s supper. This is the breast, wishbone, thighs and drumsticks. But there are always left-overs. We have that Saturday night in soup that I can from stuff from my garden, just shred the chicken and heat it up. If the chicken was a female, that’s it. If it were a larger male, I have chicken for lunch a time or two.

    I also save the rest of the carcass and use that to make broth. The back, neck, wings, gizzard, heart, and feet go into broth. Yes, I know what those feet have been walking in, but I scald them and peel off the skin and toenails which gets it clean enough for me. I can that broth and pick the meat off the bones and freeze that. That cooked meat is great on tacos, in soup, in casseroles, sometimes I just eat it for lunch on a sandwich.

    I normally butcher my cockerels around 5 months. I put five 23 week olds in the freezer last week. To me that is a good age, they have hit the end of their rapid growth phase. They will pack on some more meat for up to a year old or maybe even a bit more but it is really slow and not at all efficient. Besides too many roosters in the flock can lead to behavioral problems. Also I want to control which rooster is the father of the chicks. Five months works out pretty well for my cockerels. But with my limited freezer space, sometimes I go longer.

    I generally wait a while on the pullets. I want to evaluate how they lay and what their eggs are like before I butcher. I raise my own replacements so only want the best. Normally these get butchered around 7 to 8 months of age. Mine forage for some of their food so it’s not like I’m buying everything they eat.

    Every year or two I butcher and eat my old rooster, that’s enough meat for two weeks plus about the best broth you can get. They do keep packing on meat as they age, it’s just really slow. And I eat my old hens when I bring in pullets to replace them. That amounts to about a third of my laying/breeding flock every year. I only have 7 to 8 hens total so it’s not many.

    That’s about it for me. I know I’m not that efficient in raising them for meat, but with the forage I have it’s not that bad. I could do a better job of evaluating the pullets if I waited an extra year to process them but that doesn’t fit how I do it. There are a lot of things I could do more efficiently but this is how I do it. Hopefully you can get something useful out of it. Good luck!
     
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  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Ridgerunner, you were just the person I was hoping would respond to this post [​IMG]
     
  6. kardar2

    kardar2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ridgerunner thank you, you gave me a starting point. Thanks
     
  7. birds4kids

    birds4kids Chillin' With My Peeps

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    On the 8 months thing I at first thought the idea was 8 months to grow but once I read it maybe the idea was 8 months of good weather to fill the freezer for 12 months.

    As covered by others Cornish X are 6-10 weeks max 6-8 weeks being more common, true breed heritage/dual purpose breeds more like 20-22weeks, believe there are some other hybrids that come in at 12-14weeks to butcher.

    How many batches you want to do depends on how many you can process at once, a friend does two batches of 40-45, a third batch gets into colder weather here but he has done it. It takes a knowledgeable crew of 4 at a leisurely pace a whole day by the time they are bagged and that is with a plucker. That is a lot of BSing stopping for meals, kids around asking 40 questions, may will say it can be done faster but always plan for slow and enjoy the leftover time if available.

    If starting in March you could butcher maybe every 6 weeks from there on because you can have a batch in the brooder for a week or two while the others are outside.
     
  8. kardar2

    kardar2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you all for your help
     
  9. 10AcreChick

    10AcreChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Awesome, I was also hoping someone like you would reply to this post! What you are doing sounds exactly like what I want to do! We are a family of four but also only eat about one chicken a week. I make broth, soup and all that jazz.

    I wanted to use a dual purpose, too, because eating a bird like Cornish X that has been so messed with that it can't walk after 8 weeks gives me the heebie-jeebies! And eggs are important to us.

    I know you use a variety of them, but what breeds are in your backyard? I am planning on breeding Buff Orpingtons with Barred Rock Rooster and incubating those offspring for meatbirds. My current 15 RIRs, some 9 months and some 2 years old, will probably be butchered by the end of this summer (especially the scraggely looking ones) to make room for more chicks. And also because I won't be able to tell their eggs from the Buff Orpingtons' egg! My other layers will be Easter Eggers.

    Anybody who has input on which are the best dual purpose breeds, please reply!
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    The Cornish X was developed the same way all breeds were developed, selective breeding. No GMO’s or anything like that, just people that really understand genetics doing a great job. I have nothing against them but they just don’t fit my needs.

    I’ve gotten different dual purpose breeds from different hatcheries. I’ve got the same breed from two different hatcheries a couple of times. I could tell some differences in those, color and body shape were a bit different. But I really could not tell a whole lot of difference in the different dual purpose hatchery breeds as far as meat production. There was more difference in the smaller and larger of the same breed than there was across the different breeds. I’m just not a huge believer that breed makes that much difference in this from hatchery chicks.

    Mine have just a trace of hatchery Buff Orpington and Delaware from many generations back but the majority part is hatchery Speckled Sussex and Black Australorp. They also have a lot of designer “Ameraucana” in them. I wanted the blue egg gene so I got some hatching eggs from a lady that is working with a consortium to develop a new color/pattern of Ameraucana. I paid a bit in size, they were kind of small, but I’m gradually building that back up. They did go broody and I liked that.

    Last year I got a Buff Rock rooster to take over this year, hoping to help get the size back up some more, plus just add some lighter feathers to the flock. I got 18 male chicks, ate 17 of them, and kept the one I wanted for my breeder.

    Right now my hens are either black mottled or red mottled and all lay green eggs. I have eggs in the incubator due to hatch next Monday so I’ll see what chicks I get with my Buff Rock rooster. Here are a few of them.


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