Meat birds on pasture/whole grains....anyone doing it? Breeds?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by freemotion, Nov 25, 2010.

  1. freemotion

    freemotion Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 10, 2008
    Western MA
    So....I'm already planning for spring. My total meat bird experience is: two turkeys that were supposed to be hens and were not, and a few roosters from a couple of batches of broody-raised chicks. Now that cityboy dh is earning his farmboy boots, we have our first 10 official meat birds, some cornish-x's being raised on pasture. After the initial small bag of chick starter (25# for 29 chicks, 18 layer pullets and 11 cornish-x's) we switched to whole grains, grinding the corn at first and feeding whole, slightly sprouted oats at 10 days. Now at 8 weeks everyone is on the whole sprouted oats and whole corn and pasture. I feed the rest of my flock this way and they thrive on it. My last group of five roosters....delicious!

    The hawks ate all but nine of my layer pullets. They are now with the rest of the laying flock, and seem to be surviving better under their protection. The meaties are too big to interest the hawks, but their whiteness seemed to attract them, then they'd take the smaller layers. Sheesh.

    This is my first experience with the cornish-x's, and I'm finding them to be quite different than I expected. They are friendly, active, well-feathered (no bald spots) and will make an attempt to fly to my face on occasion and would make it except for the 5' fence. They run and scratch and are quite active. Of course, they are growing much more slowly on this diet, which is ok with me, it costs so little this way and they appear to be much healthier than I've read about.

    I am considering getting Freedom Rangers next year, in case we have another excessively hot spring/summer. My dad, retired and now living nearby, wants to get Black Jersey Giants and learn to caponize. (Unlike Cityboy DH, dad grew up on a farm and has some regrets for not taking it over we are having fun together with our shared farm projects at my place.)

    Any input? I am also wondering if I could keep a few FR pullets and a roo as breeding stock...anyone know if the FR's will go broody, or if they will breed true? Is it worth it?
  2. WhiteMountainsRanch

    WhiteMountainsRanch Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 19, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    I too am raising Cornish right now, and plan on getting Freedom Rangers in the Spring for a meat-bird project...

    There are MANY threads out about this, and it has been talked about literally to death, (you can do a search) and the general consensus is that both can be mixed with egg layers to "see what you get", and both are hybrids and will not breed true (the offspring will have very VARIED traits). However you CAN take and breed Freedom Rangers and over time with selection breed something that will be more standard and stable, and not so varied. Also, I think they rarely go broody, you would need an incubator so your "project" doesn't take you years. This is the project I will be working on come springtime.

    Here are some of the threads about them. Mine is the first one.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2010
  3. Tropical Chook

    Tropical Chook Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 5, 2010
    Quote:Or just get yourself one or two Thai game hens. Ask me I know........they just hear someone mention "egg" and they go broody.[​IMG] No electricity needed, no temperature fluctuations, etc, etc. Also, they can live happily without any feed from you, providing they can forage.
  4. freemotion

    freemotion Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 10, 2008
    Western MA
    OK, that was helpful, but I didn't see anyone using whole grains. Just pre-mixed feeds at $0.26-0.28 per pound....I feed my flock whole grains at $0.15-0.17 per lb. If no one else reading this has done this with meat birds, guess I'll have to experiment myself! But it sure would be good to hear what others have done....
  5. Wifezilla

    Wifezilla Positively Ducky

    Oct 2, 2008
    If you aren't in a hurry those whole grains should be fine...especially since you have them on pasture. I doubt the FR would breed true, but that doesn't mean they will breed BAD. I am guessing size and body type would be inconsistent in the next generation, but if you are wiling to cull, you could have a good strain in no time.

    Broodiness might not be common but there is usually one in every crowd. This is coming from a woman that somehow ended up with a broody Indian Runner duck and broody coturnix quail. That would be another trait I would select for. I think the more natural diet and more natural setting brings out that instinct. If not, you can always get a silkie at the local poultry auction.
  6. freemotion

    freemotion Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 10, 2008
    Western MA
    We have a redtail hawk problem and recently, a juvenile bald eagle no tiny broody hens for me, as they would just be hawk snacks. I haven't had the success I'd hoped with broodies...but my flock is fairly new, only a few years. I've only been seeking a broody for 2-3 years. I have only one hen left that has gone broody....a big White Rock who was an amazing mama. (Stinkin' juvenile bald eagle got my lovely little Dominique, the other White Rock died mysteriously a couple weeks into setting 22 eggs.) I hope she makes it and offers to work for me again in the spring. I'd love to have a half dozen just like her. She raised three pullets (I have high hopes for them) and 6 cockerels (5 were delicious.)

    I have no issue with culling....especially with meat birds, it really just means another dinner!

    I'm in no hurry.....the Cornish-x's are for a quick pile of meat in the freezer. I'll probably get a variety of breeds in the spring, starting early with some Cornish-x's for the quick meat, then follow them up with Freedom Rangers all summer. Save a few pullets and a rooster and see what happens.

    The Jersey Giants are for my dad. He had 50 two years ago and a fox got about 40 in one day when he was away for a few hours. Then they had to move, so the remaining ones went into the freezer a bit on the early side, so he never got to see how big they'd get. He's been bugging me to get some more. My hesitation has to do with all those mature roosters harassing the hens long before they are big enough for the freezer.
  7. Brunty_Farms

    Brunty_Farms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 29, 2007
    Quote:If you buy in bulk you can get a complete feed for around 12 cents per pound. Feed is currently extremely high but it will go down after a while, it seems to spike like this every few years.

    Personally a complete feed is not enough for either Freedom Rangers or Cornish X's it will work and they will live, but they will not thrive like a Dual Purpose breed. If this is something you want to do, I would look into a good foraging bird and go from there. Buckeyes, white rocks, dark cornish, and a few others are extremely aggressive foragers.

    Good luck,
  8. shaft0463

    shaft0463 Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 8, 2010
    I am raising mine on a mix of alfalfa pellets, scratch grains, rice bran, and some Costco cat food, all ground up in a blender. They started out slow, but since I have been keeping food in front of them 24/7, they are doing much better. I found that the whole grains don't work as well, as they don't seem to be able to digest them when they are young.

    Mine are in a large pen, but they don't free-range. We have hawks, and they just end up being eaten. We lost the first batch to hawks, as well as all of our other white chicken. This is the last time I will do white birds, so I guess next year I will do some FR's.

    The cornish x do free-range, even with feed in front of them all the time, as long as they have the room. Mine will leave their feeder to go scratch around in their pen, and they have eaten down all of the grass.

    They definitely won't grow as quickly as they do on a commercial ration, but the commercial feeds have a lot of soy in them. I don't like the idea of feeding soy to my animals, and since I have the option, I don't. They do get started out on a chick starter, but I switched them over at about 2 weeks old.
  9. freemotion

    freemotion Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 10, 2008
    Western MA

    My personal philosophy on feeding my animals is whole grains as soon as they can handle them, and NO SOY. Have you read that catfood label? Most commercial catfoods contain soy. I did use soy meal when I started with the whole grains, worried by all "the sky is falling!" info out there on feeding one's flock. I've been soy free for some time and the sky has not fallen. I do sprout some of the small grains to increase the protein and feed a lot of meat and fat scraps in the winter.
  10. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA
    Quote:Or just get yourself one or two Thai game hens. Ask me I know........they just hear someone mention "egg" and they go broody.[​IMG] No electricity needed, no temperature fluctuations, etc, etc. Also, they can live happily without any feed from you, providing they can forage.

    Except that true purebred Thai Gamehens are VERY rare and VERY expensive. . . But really, any Oriental Gamefowl is a great addition to a breeding program for meat. A standard chicken x oriental makes for a very nice, Cornish-looking meaty bird. Also, all Gamefowl are very broody and mothering. Your only thing to watch for is aggression towards other chickens, which can of course be bred out or controlled. They're VERY human-friendly though!

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