looking to try broilers in the spring

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by SAHMof2, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. SAHMof2

    SAHMof2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi all. I have 8 RSL and have been enjoying them for nearly a year. I have three acres in southern Alberta and am thinking I'd like to try my own broilers for the fall. Going price around here for natural birds is $3.50 lbs (yikes). So I figured I'd try to raise my own from chicks, something I've never done before as I purchased my RSL at 19 weeks.

    I've got some questions if you don't mind ...

    1. Is this going to be more difficult then I think? I figure I've already got the coop, run and extended outdoor living area so why not add more chickens and save some money all the while striving for self sustainability.

    2. Would a tractor work best for keeping the chicks safe from the mature RSL? Any ideas on how to best utilize my existing set up until the chicks are large enough to integrate?

    3. The coop is only 5x5 but in the spring, summer and fall they are hardly in there and I can always add roosts vertically to create more real estate.

    4. Am I correct in thinking that a broiler can be raised from spring and butchered in the fall (appx. 90 days)?

    5. Greedily thinking a turkey or two as well. High hopes???

    Thanks for your time and advice in advance.
     
  2. OkChickens

    OkChickens Orpingtons Are Us

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    I am expecting 50+ broilers and 100+ RSL on February 10. For my 50 broilers they will have a 10x15 space but will spend the first week in a 5x10 space with 2 heat lamps on 24/7 about 18 inches off the ground then raise them after a week. I will feed my birds gamebird starter and grower with 22-23% protein crumbles. If you get meat birds you need to restrict there feed consumption from 6pm to 7am to keep them from eating and growing to fast causing them to die. Make sure have plenty of water all the time!

    -Nate
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    So, this will just be a small number for personal use, not for sale? (Because if you want larger numbers or to sell them, you really need to check your provincial laws, I know in ON they are extremely restrictive grrrr).

    1. Is this going to be more difficult then I think? I figure I've already got the coop, run and extended outdoor living area so why not add more chickens and save some money all the while striving for self sustainability.

    That was exactly what I did, and although I am now doing turkeys rather than broilers (they reproduce on their own and I get a LOT more meat from each bird I kill/clean) it was a great success and I highly recommend it [​IMG]

    I'd suggest starting small, like 6-12 broiler chicks in an ample-sized area, especially since you have not raised chicks before. (Even after you've done a batch of CornishX chicks, you STILL will not have had the real chick-raising experience, since they are so weird compared to real chickens [​IMG])

    Your only problem here is that especially if you will be doing more than just three or four of them, you really don't wanna try to use your layer coop. First, because it is small and being used by the layers; second, because after the first couple weeks broilers are STINKY AND FILTHY and you do not want to expose your layers to that.

    There are people who free-range broilers, and you can try it if you want to (and have actual free range, not just a run), but be aware that there is a real good chance that your layers will start picking on your broilers, possibly horribly so. The broilers really do quite quickly turn into serious couch potatoes and are generally kindly and slow to react, and also tend to hog space at the feeder.

    Honestly, I would suggest that your best bet may be to make a lean-to 3-sided shed off the side of the coop and use that to raise your broilers in. If you can allow 4 sq ft per meat chicken they have "some reasonable" room to move around, which makes them healthier as well as happier; more than that is good too, especially if they can have a nice sunny run to waddle out to on nice days. The larger the area, the more bedding you will use during the entire process BUT the less you will have gigantic sanitation problems develop overnight. (Most people just spot-clean and add fresh bedding over top, every day or three, and then do a total cleanout once the birds are in the freezer). Note that meaties do not, and arguably should not be encouraged to, roost (it creates crooked keels and breast blisters)

    2. Would a tractor work best for keeping the chicks safe from the mature RSL? Any ideas on how to best utilize my existing set up until the chicks are large enough to integrate?

    See above re: integration. Whether to use a tractor depends on the weather during the time of year you'd be growing the birds (see below). If you can brood them indoors (maybe in a garage?) for the first week or ten days they will be a lot more robust outdoors; it is not impossible to start them in a well-protected brooder-style tractor in the right climate/weather but I would not recommend that for your first attempt at baby chicks. You could tractor them their whole life until processing, if you want to, especially if you don't have a lot of birds; but even with moving the tractor once or twice a day remember it will still make a filthy mess, and it is harder to predatorproof if you have a significant predator problem where you are.

    4. Am I correct in thinking that a broiler can be raised from spring and butchered in the fall (appx. 90 days)?

    No no, not that long. You would have very high death rates if you tried that. Think more like "six weeks". You can grow them out a few more weeks than that if your family demands a huge-carcass bird but remember that feed conversion efficiency goes down more and more the older they get, and to push them to 10 wks will require a VAST amount of extra food and sanitation in exchange for only a little more weight gain.

    5. Greedily thinking a turkey or two as well. High hopes???

    I love turkeys, they are a lot nicer than chickens IMHO (at least, when raised with plenty of room and no crowding or stress) and more interested in the world in general, and quite handsome in their weird pebbly-faced snood-y way, plus you get like 20+ lbs of meat from taking one life, as opposed to maybe 3-4 lbs of meat (max). By reputation the poults are harder to keep alive for the first coupla weeks, but thus far (knock wood) I have had zero losses, mind you that's raising a few same-age chicken chicks with them to provide educational role models on the subject of eating and drinking.

    My suggestion would be, try a couple small batches of meat chickens this year, see if you like the whole 'raise your own meat' thing and get some experience raising chicks, and then maybe think about turkeys for next year [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I agree with Pat. Start small with your first batch to see how it goes. Those broiler chicks are bred to be processed within 6 to 8 weeks, so you would easily have time to do two batches this year if it works out for you.

    This link may help.

    Feeding Broilers
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps035
     
  5. SAHMof2

    SAHMof2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you very very much both of you. I hadn't thought about how inactive and food consuming broilers would be. I have a new respect for my RSL girls! Such a wonderful ladies.

    I will do more reading on this and think of how I can accommodate a few broilers. It appears it won't be as simple as just throwing some broilers in with my current set up. I am very afraid of chicks. I feel very fortunate to find a gentleman around here that sells ... teenagers.

    I did let my hens free range all year last year but have to confine them this year in a larger outdoor extension to their run. They constantly made their way across our three acres and onto the local PAVED road.

    Thanks again for your time and wisdom.

    p.s. Oh and great link. I learned a lot of good tips. I didn't know however that all chicks are vaccinated against Marek's disease. At the risk of sounding odd would you know if its possible to not have them vaccinated? I've got a great friend who is a homeopath and I would like to explore a homeoprophylaxis route.
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Don't be! Chicks are DEAD EASY. I know they look tiny and fragile but they are not. They are incredibly resilient, and basically-easy as long as you do not have the poor luck to get a diseased bunch right from the git-go.

    Like you I originally started out with ready-to-lay pullets because I was at the time about to pop out a baby myself and just could not deal with the thought of having to constantly tend, and accidentally kill, sweet fluffy delicate little chicks. I did not try chicks til the next year. You know what? As long as you are set up sensibly and don't ignore them utterly, they are SO EASY TO RAISE. Really really. The best part is that they are self-adjusting for temperature -- as long as they have a too-warm part of the brooder and a too-cool part, they will plonk their fuzzy little butts down at just the right place, automatically. Really all you have to do is ensure that those two zones do *exist* in the brooder, and keep the food and water clean/full, and change the bedding as needed, and they grow themselves. They are like bean plants. It is hard NOT to grow them successfully [​IMG]

    I didn't know however that all chicks are vaccinated against Marek's disease.

    No they're not. Certainly not chicks that are not from mail-order hatcheries; and not even all mail-order chicks are.

    Good luck, have fun,


    Pat​
     
  7. SAHMof2

    SAHMof2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Pat, you have given me such great info and confidence with those chicks. I'm still afraid but I'm going to print your post and put it on the fridge. [​IMG]

    Can you clarify for me ... do the chicks from the hatcheries come already vaccinated? or not?

    Also any chance you'd want to suggest a breed of broiler for me to try. I think I might try a turkey or two as well. Go big or go home!

    Is it at all possible to get birds that are not super bred to be huge and meaty? The documentary Food Inc. stands out in my mind where the farmer said "why raise a bird in 90 days when I can do it in 42 with hormones". These birds were so heavy they couldn't stand on their own feet because they grew so fast their bones hadn't developed properly and were dying of heart attacks. My intention of doing this was to avoid franken food but you are saying regardless their life span is still only 6 weeks?

    Thank you for the time you are spending on me.
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:It depends. In the US most mail-order hatcheries offer you the option of vaccination so you get to decide. I do not know what Rochester hatchery (the only Canadian mail-order 'real hatchery' I know of, unless you consider Performance to be a real hatchery) does, if you are thinking of ordering from them then I would suggest looking at their website or calling them. If you buy chicks from the local feedstore, though, as most people would do for just a few CornishX, you will not likely get a choice about vaccination... you should ask at the feedstore, if it matters to you.

    (Personally I am really unconvinced that Mareks vaccination is a big deal one way OR the other, unless you know you've had problems with a serious strain of Mareks in your flock in the past in which case I think vaccinating is sensible)

    Also any chance you'd want to suggest a breed of broiler for me to try. Is it at all possible to get birds that are not super bred to be huge and meaty? The documentary Food Inc. stands out in my mind where the farmer said "why raise a bird in 90 days when I can do it in 42 with hormones". These birds were so heavy they couldn't stand on their own feet because they grew so fast their bones hadn't developed properly and were dying of heart attacks. My intention of doing this was to avoid franken food but you are saying regardless their life span is still only 6 weeks?

    Well, you are unlikely to have much of a choice. Basically your main choice for meaties is the CornishX (broiler chicks) your feedstore sells.

    My feedstore also carries what they call "red broilers", which are not quite as sumo-esque or quick-growing as the CornishX but as long as you are not looking for a super large carcass I have been quite satisfied with them (interestingly, they seem to give me almost exactly the same net feed conversion efficiency to time of slaughter, at least to a 4-5 lb slaughter weight, it just takes them longer to get there, but they do not eat as 'intensely' as the CornishX). However the ones my feedstore carries are an Ontario hatchery product and I have noooooo clue whatsoever what's available to you out in Alberta. Check the Rochester catalog (if you would mail-order) or ask around at local feedstores.

    Really, though, those are your only true meat-bird choices. (I do not believe Freedom Rangers or similar are available in Canada these days).

    My experience with CornishX and the red broilers has not been as grim as commercial broiler barn statistics would suggest... I have not lost a single one (yet), but I attribute this partly to luck and largely to THEY HAVE LOTS OF ROOM AND REASON TO EXERCISE. I have processed them between 5-9 weeks of age, depending on size and ambition and my schedule. The 9 wk CornishX were scary enough that I would not want to have tried to grow them out much if any more, but there also is not much POINT in it since by then you are shovelling vast quantities of food into them for very, very little extra weight gain.

    Your other option would be to raise a regular dual-purpose bird (preferably something fairly quick-growing and meaty-conformation, as dual purpose breeds go) that you would grow up to maybe 14 wks if you want a 3-ish lb cleaned carcass, or up to maybe 20 wks if you want a 4-4.5-ish lb cleaned carcass. This is MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than raising meat birds however, because the feed conversion efficiency is FAR lower, also the carcass weight has a substantially higher fraction of bone and other waste than in a CornishX. Basically it is a different type of product altogether -- tastier, firmer meat, needs to be cooked somewhat differently than you may be used to with supermarket chicken meat, and much less meat per carcass. I really LIKE 'real chicken' best, mind you, but you need to be aware that if you want economic efficiency (cost to produce 1 lb of meat) or a big meaty carcass, actual broiler strains would the way to go.

    I think I might try a turkey or two as well. Go big or go home!

    I would suggest several, they are very social and beyond the first few months you may find you need to separate them from the chickens as the size difference can become a problem even if they don't really *mean* to hurt anyone. Although some people do raise turkeys and chickens in the same pen without problems, and if they are free-ranging (and don't get et by predators) there is much less of an issue.

    Bear in mind that one turkey poos about as much as maybe 6-8 chickens, so they will stink to high heaven unless you give them a LARGE area [​IMG]

    If you want to try turkeys, I would suggest getting maybe 3 poults from the feedstore at the same time as you get your meat chicks. They can live together for the first weeks, so the chicks can teach the poults how to eat and drink. Feedstore turkeys will be the commercial (broadbreasted) strains, that are more or less the turkey equivalent of CornishX, so do not necessarily count on making htem pets or keeping them past 5-6 months or so as by that time they can be seriously outweighing their legs or cardiovascular systems. It would normally be something on the order of 4 months til you would process them, depending on what size carcass you want of course (as with broiler chickens, feed conversion efficiency deteriorates faster and faster the bigger and older they get, so it is a tradeoff).

    Alternatively you can get 'real' turkeys, heritage-breed, but you will pay at least twice as much for the poults, you will need at least 6 months before processing them, and not only will they finish at a much smaller weight than the broadbreasted commercial strains they will also have a lot less meat for whatever the carcass weighs (the more 'picturesque' heritage breeds especially... IME beltsville small whites and ridley bronzes have at least been *somewhat* selected for carcass qualities, whereas things like royal palms or these narragansetts I got last year and have pretty much given up on, they are mostly bone and tendon for what the carcass weighs)

    Or, perhaps just do meat chickens this year, see how you like them and get used to the chick thing, then next year try a few turkeys.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     

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