Pioneer meat birds- the good, the bad and the very, very ugly

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by gardengirlID, May 11, 2014.

  1. gardengirlID

    gardengirlID New Egg

    Jan 17, 2011
    We've been raising meat birds for 8 years. We've been around the block a time or two and seen and dealt with just about everything a chicken can throw our way. We have now met our match. Since there isn't much info I can find on Pioneer birds I thought I would share a bit about what we've learned in the last 4 week.

    The good-

    Growth rate has been faster than McMurray said.
    Pretty and varied feather colors.
    Feather out fast.
    Friendly but fast.

    The bad-

    Love to fly and learn quickly. This is a good or bad thing depending on your set up
    They are strong and often knock waterers over as well as feeders.
    Feed conversion is worse than listed on the internet.
    They are very stupid. They often forget where the waterer is located and will wander until you show them again.
    They do not follow the flock very well and so it's crazy chicken with it's head cut off type chaos in the coop all the time.
    High maintenance. Must be checked on every couple of hours because of behaviors listed below.
    They are very messy (much like the cx) and drench everything with poo.

    The very, very ugly-

    These birds have proven to be insanely cannibalistic. So far NOTHING has worked and they have know killed 10 (an order of 20 started this mess). These are not pretty killings, no, these are waking up to internal organs everywhere.
    They are so strong/heavy that they can easily smash another bird in a few short minutes.
    They need about 5x the amount of space as regular chicks of the same age.

    In all I would not recommend these birds unless you have a very large free range system set up. They are not for the faint of heart or for kids to take care of. They are high maintenance in a way no other breed has been thus far. While their growth has been quick their feed conversion isn't good. If you want to raise meat birds I'd say choose another breed.

    All that said, if you've had good results with this breed, I'd love to hear what your experience was.
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I don't have any experience with these birds, but just want to say if you don't get much response here you might ask a mod to move your post to the section for meat birds. It may get more of your target audience there.
  3. nurseryman

    nurseryman New Egg

    Jul 29, 2014
    I have raised chickens for eggs for about 4 years. I ordered 8 Cx's, 8 Pioneers, and 8 turkens from McMurray on May 24. i lost 2 of the Cx's and butchered the rest of CX"s at 8 weeks. I have the birds in a 150 foot long electric fence with grass and clover. One of the pioneer is about 75% THE SIZE OF THE CX'S, He acted like the Cx's and would inhale the chicken crumbles and not free range like the other birds the next 3 largest pioneers where probably 50 % the size of the Cx's but they free ranged and probably ate 30-40% of the feed and where always free Ranging. the remaining Pioneers where probably 35% the size of the CX's and free ranged all the time. The turkens where tiny compared to the Pioneers and where great free Rangers. I need to butcher the Pioneer and the turkens. I would not raise turkens again for meat birds they are to small. The Cx's grew supper fast and did little free Ranging, After I butcher the pioneers and evalaute them I probably would consider raising them for meat birds. I have a 1/2 acre pile of compost and manure which my laying hens loved in years past. i am having a hard time getting the meat birds to pick thru the compost and I have a dozen 26 week old laying hens and they don't see to pick and get worms. In fact it rained a couple days ago and i dug up 50 worms and I couldn't get any of the chickens to eat them. I buried scratch grains below the worms in a low plastic container. the chickens dug threw the worms and compost to get the grains, but they just left the worms. ;Do you have any ideas to get them to eat worms? i am interested in the same thing as "NEW EGG" who says "But I think a breed that has good meat characteristics and can still be used as a laying breed would be great for a small flock."
    • Joined: 3/2010
    • Posts: 16
    • offline
    I too am intrigued by these. I first heard of them this year in the Murray McMurray newsletter. They call them Pioneers but say that they are the same as Dixie Rainbows. It's been my experience in the past that there was no such thing as an ideal chicken. You can't keep typical broilers, not even less "engineered" ones like Kosher Kings or Rangers, for eggs because they succumb to health problems as they get older because of their rapid growth rate, plus they are hybrids and won't breed true assuming they can mate anyway, which I understand some of them can't. I've found that even large breeds like Orpingtons, Brahmas, Rhode Island Reds, etc. are simply "chicken chested" and not worth butchering for fryers, as there's no breast meat compared to a broiler. I don't know what fried chicken was like in the olden days before the modern broiler industry, but you sure don't get any breasts worth frying from anything but a broiler, at least not in my opinion. Even older birds of these large breeds still have a very prominent keel bone and very little breast meat compared to broilers. The flavor is good when you use them for roasting or stewing birds but you can't use them for fryers, Someone gave me a few commercial broiler chicks once and they were the closest thing to a plant that an animal could be. They got up to eat and drink but other than that hardly moved around at all. I've also raised the less "engineered" broiler crosses before and like them better. I am sure Dixie Rainbows don't lay like a red star or a black star or some of the other egg laying breeds, but I imagine they would produce fine for a backyard flock. I'm curious to read what those of you who have them say.
  4. nurseryman

    nurseryman New Egg

    Jul 29, 2014
    I responded to you post below. I forgot to add that the pioneers I got where very dosill and I didn't have any problem like you had with them being canabalistic. i got my birds from McMurray and almost sounds like they have changed the genetics of the birds. They where great free rangers also
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    I have sent all of my Pioneers to the freezer except for one little pullet. She didn't put on size as quickly as the others. At 18 weeks, she's just a bit bigger than my production RIR (home hatched). She's at the bottom of the pecking order, and just gave me an egg today. I'm guessing that she's trying to stay in my good graces to stay out of the soup pot.

    Is anyone else keeping any Pioneers for layers?
  6. Michael OShay

    Michael OShay Chicken Obsessed

    May 14, 2014
    I thought about ordered a batch of Pioneers once, but I've heard such mixed reports that I decided to just stick with Cornish cross for meat birds, and Sex Links and Australorps for eggs. The Cornish cross grow so fast that I can butcher them at 8 weeks, and the Pioneers can't match the laying rate of the better layers. The posts here seem to just further confirm the other mixed reports that I've read.
  7. LindaB220

    LindaB220 Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 23, 2013
    Portland/Vancouver area
    [​IMG] This is a timely post. I was considering going with these instead of CX's but now I think I'll stick with them. I have 35 other layer type breeds and I need something to fill the freezer. Kudos
  8. KW Farms

    KW Farms Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 27, 2009
    Wapato, WA
    Gosh, i've had quite a good experience with them. I got a few Pioneers from MMM. Two roos and a hen. I love them. They're big and grew fairly fast, but didn't have leg or health issues like some of the CXs i've had in the past. Mine are docile and pretty friendly. They don't fly and aren't stupid, IMO. They're also free ranging well. They get along with the other chickens just fine and haven't shown any aggressive behavior. To top it off, they are pretty to look at and have unique color. I just ordered four more so we'll see how the next ones turn out, but so far, I am really liking these birds.

  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    I held back one of my Pioneer pullets from freezer camp. She's at the bottom of the pecking order in my flock of 12 pullets and 4 hens. She's tan colored, kind of like a BO, but has black feathers in her tail, a bit at her neck and wings. She is a bit ditzy... often continuing to forage far and wide, when the rest of the flock is gathering for treats or to go to bed. But, she's a harmless soul, and was one of the first pullets to start laying. Her eggs are now almost as big as my hen RIR and BSL eggs. Over all, I'm glad that she missed the axe.
  10. sarahandbray

    sarahandbray Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 12, 2014
    Oh no!! I think I got 3 or 4 of these in my assortment from MMM last week!! So far, these GIANTS are the sweetest, most friendly of all the breeds in the brooder box (and I think we have White Leghorns, Black Austrolorps, Barred Rocks, Amerecuana, Lavender Orpingtons, Welsummers, Black Copper Marans)

    The literally walk over to me while all the other birds run away and wait to be petted. I hope they stay sweet and docile! They are the most feathered out of all my birds in the box--wings, tail, and now on their shoulders today at 8 days old!!

    I know that about 1/2 of my birds are headed to the freezer, but I hope it's not all of my Dixie Rainbows/Pioneers. My husband says these guys love me because A) they must know they're meat birds and B) they're all boys!!
    Somehow hoping for a pardon ;)

    I would be crushed if they became cannibalistic and they wouldn't last a hot second around here. So far, they don't seem aggressive. THey have massive legs, which I'm hoping can hold up those big bodies!!

    Hoping I have a couple of good hens out of the bunch as some people have had good luck with them laying big brown eggs.

    Fingers crossed!!



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