Looking for advice on meat birds!

NHMountainMan

Free Ranging
Feb 25, 2019
935
3,732
502
New Hampshire
My Coop
My Coop
Hey chicken experts!
I'm looking to scale up my operation next spring to raise a significant # of meat birds- which I've not done before (only dual purpose / layers)
If you've done this and have some expertise you're willing to share, please let me know. I'd prefer a private conversation if possible.
Thx
 

Mosey2003

Crowing
5 Years
Apr 13, 2016
3,096
5,037
411
North-Central IL
One of the things you want to think about is how many you can reasonably process in a day. If you can knock 10 out easily, then you know if you get 25 or 30 chicks you can get them done in, say, three days. But if you know you crap out after 5 (and I typically do) you might want to think about how many you get at once. If you get busy and you have 50 birds that need to be butchered THIS WEEK it can be a bit stressful.

Agree with rationing feed at some point, although I didn't really. I left them on full feed while they were on heat (lamps) and then they ate during daylight hours once they were off heat and had a normal night time. I got mine when it was warm, so they were probably on heat until 3-4 weeks of age. If you get them where they're going to need heat longer, rationing isn't a bad idea.

Also, have a plan for the offal. Where are the guts you aren't going to use going to go? Are you going to save livers, hearts, gizzards? You'll want containers on ice for those most likely. Set up and tear down takes time and effort.
 

Compost King

Free Ranging
Apr 19, 2018
3,304
11,503
707
Salisbury, North Carolina
If you are doing Cornish X and have never processed a bird yet, I would recommend processing a few younger ones (Cornish Game Hen) because it's so much easier to learn on a smaller birds. What you lose in size from doing that you make up in feed costs so its not a waste to do a few young ones. If you make any mistakes on the younger ones you gain experience and lose very little and by the time you get them up to the size you want its nice to have that experience.
 

NHMountainMan

Free Ranging
Feb 25, 2019
935
3,732
502
New Hampshire
My Coop
My Coop
If you are doing Cornish X and have never processed a bird yet, I would recommend processing a few younger ones (Cornish Game Hen) because it's so much easier to learn on a smaller birds. What you lose in size from doing that you make up in feed costs so its not a waste to do a few young ones. If you make any mistakes on the younger ones you gain experience and lose very little and by the time you get them up to the size you want its nice to have that experience.
Thx - great advice. Butchering some dual purpose birds next week. I've butchered deer and wild turkey, but never anything as small as a chicken - and I'm not really great at finesse. So thank you.
 

Compost King

Free Ranging
Apr 19, 2018
3,304
11,503
707
Salisbury, North Carolina
Thx - great advice. Butchering some dual purpose birds next week. I've butchered deer and wild turkey, but never anything as small as a chicken - and I'm not really great at finesse. So thank you.
you should do great then, before I processed Chickens I had only done Fish and those are way too easy. You may find Chickens are much easier than Deer and likely similar to Turkeys. The only part about chickens now that I can not handle is Plucking. I skin them now.
 

Kris5902

Crossing the Road
Oct 12, 2018
4,943
34,748
942
British Columbia, Canada
If you have large hands eviscerating smaller birds can be a bit challenging. I had some issues with my layer cockerels, but not the DP birds. I haven’t actually done a meat breed myself yet. The guts do smell a bit worse than mammals, and I agree that scalding and plucking is probably the most unappealing part of the process, but the skin is so tasty and crispy! The other option is to find a local smaller plant to process them for you, that’s what we did with our first batch. And I think it is a great option for larger numbers of birds All the professional equipment, experience and a team of 5-7 people for 8 hours can make short work of a lot of birds; they may also be able to air chill them, which I think yields a nicer product.

I rationed feed to what they could eat in 15 minutes once a day in the evening and some sprinkled in the pasture to encourage foraging first thing in the morning and at each move. A lot depends on how you plan on raising them and breed IMO. I had mine in low chicken tractors and I moved them twice a day towards the end. You also will need to decide if you want to do multiple batches over a longer period so the work is spread over a longer period and is less intensive, or try to do them in a really large batch at once which will be a lot more work daily, but you can be done with everyone in the freezer in 2-3 months. A lot depends on your individual situation and time constraints!
 

Mosey2003

Crowing
5 Years
Apr 13, 2016
3,096
5,037
411
North-Central IL
Cornish X are actually easier to dress out than DP, in my experience. I remember having watched many YouTube videos and then doing it myself it seemed.....harder. The CX are both very big and very young, so there's lots of room for your hand plus the connective tissues aren't as strongly tethered yet. An old rooster is much more challenging, especially if you're skinning.
 

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