Meat Birds- Moving Outside and Diet


7 Years
May 22, 2012
Hi, All,

I am expecting 25 meatbirds to come my way in the next few days. I have never raised them before, and have some questions. First, how long do they stay inside for? I built them a plywood brooder box, about 22 sq. feet. It has a chicken wire lid, but other than that, it is all plywood. How warm should they stay? Is it different from raising egg layers? When can they be moved to their tractor in our lawn?

Second, what should their diet be? I have heard conflicting things on this. Some people say 23% from start to finish, others switch to 20% after four weeks. Also, when do you stop giving them food 24 hours a day?

Thanks so much for the help!
Mine are in the brooder with a heat lamp for 3 weeks. This group 4 because I was waiting on my electric netting. I feed 24/7 the 1st 3 weeks, then twice per day after that. Actually I feed twice per day regardless, but in the brooder, enough that there is always feed. I use 2 heat lamps in March, but in this weather 1 is probably sufficient. Just watch them and see if they stay huddled (I doubt it).

My feed is starter for 3 weeks, then withdrawal from week 4-week 9-12.

I raise Freedom Rangers.
Was the brooder kept inside? Or in a garage? How do you feed them twice a day? Do you just leave the food out a few hours a day?

Thanks again a ton for the advice!
Ours are kept in an enclosed part of our barn - don't wish either the neighborhood feral cats or our noctural racoon friends to find these babies. Temps here are such that I've got our brooder heater (Brinsea Ecoglow50 - love it!) unplugged during the daytime and only on at night. The chicks are fine without (daytime temps of 80+ degrees). The earlier chicks had the Ecoglow 24/7, but the temps were only 50 degrees during daytime and 40's at night. The barn does provide some residual heat - as the room they are in is only about 10'x10'.

If your outdoor enclosure is secure enough, you can put a brooder inside it and potentially run extension cords out for the heat lamp - if the smell is too much for your garage. Some folks don't ever put theirs indoors; others do. Truly it depends on your situation, your climate, your predator loads and your available space.

There's no issue with keeping feed away from them...the bigger issue is that they eat it ALL as FAST as possible! So I feed a total of three times per day (am working from home - can do lunchtime break). Figure out what would be appropriate and divide by however many times a day you can feed. When the chicks were quite tiny (less than a week old), I fed 26 FR chicks 1c of feed/3xday. Or 3 cups per day. As they grow, the feed needs grow too. At this point, I'm feeding 25 FR chicks (lost 1) 8c of feed/3xday or 24c per day. I'm using a 50# bag a week at 7wks. They finish the feed in about 15min or less, get drinks and then lounge in the sunshine or explore their run nibbling grass and eating bugs. They are eating the same amounts now for the 2wks they've had a huge run to be I know they're eating more bugs and grass than I really can account for! But without the extra space, they were reliant on the feed, despite being in a fairly large tractor.

Just know that you cannot keep up with their growth. I had intended to 'build as I went' and wow, they've kept me hopping! Good thing it's light out longer now! I had their tractor ready to go, but hadn't built the run....they were in the tractor only for 2wks and that was too long! (Brooder from day 3 to 3wks; Tractor only 3wks to 5wks; Tractor and run; 5wks to today). They're so much happier with some space to play in!
I was in the same boat as you back in March with raising 25 meaties for the first time. It is now May and Im on my second batch of 75. My only regret is I didnt do more the first time.

I keep the birds in the garage brooder for 3-4 weeks then move them outside. For the first 4 weeks I fed them 24% protein and after that 19%. I fed them 24/7 for the first 2 weeks. After that I did 16 hours food 8 hours food would be taken away.

I plan to follow my same regimine this time. I lost 3 birds last time out of 25. I began to notice one of the 3 panting (basically you can tell when they are about to croak) and butchered him at 5 1/2 weeks before it went to waste. I butchered the rest at 7 1/2 weeks and was very pleased.

Im hoping this round goes about the same maybe better. Good Luck!
This is really good information as I am raising 25 cornish x right now. They are about 3.5 weeks old. I was thinking of letting them out in the chicken run this weekend - but wasn't sure if I needed to give cornish x grit before letting them graze on grass and bugs. Any help with this question?
This is really good information as I am raising 25 cornish x right now.  They are about 3.5 weeks old.  I was thinking of letting them out in the chicken run this weekend - but wasn't sure if I needed to give cornish x grit before letting them graze on grass and bugs.  Any help with this question?

If they aren't going to be where they can find their own grit then yes, you will need to give them grit.

I moved mine outside at 4 weeks and we are still getting into the mid to high 30's at night. Yesterday we had snow, rain and wind most of the day and today we have had rain and wind. They are awfully resilient little birds and I love the fact that they have food in front of them but they are picking at the grass and bugs that are beside the feeders. They are just foraging little fools and love to run around and fly. I've been feeding fermented feed and they are very happy and healthy!!

ETA: They are in a Salatin style tractor but I have a door in it and they have a very large area to roam. I use electric poultry net to keep them safe and the rooster is in the pen next to them so he can watch for hawks. :)
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