Processing meat birds


11 Years
Apr 27, 2008
Durant, Iowa
What is the usual age to slaughter meat birds?

At the local auction I was at last Wednesday, people were talking about how none of the processing plants want to do chickens any longer--is it going to be a problem finding one to do ours? (Can you see that I'm trying really hard to get out of doing this myself??) Why did most of the meat processers stop doing fowl?

What is the normal cost for a processer to do a chicken, if I can find one who will?


The age depend on the breed of the Chicken;

Most Cornish cross are 6 weeks unless you use a reduced feeding program.
to slow there growth then it's around 8 to 10 weeks.

Generally speaking the larger processing plants only do fowl by contract in the mid-west. You need to find some local meat locker or butcher. It's a matter of cost for them when doing small quantities.

We do our own so I am not sure of the cost, I would guess any where from 2.00 to 4.00 each.

I pay 2.25/chicken bagged. Most people on this board pay between $2 and $3. Some more, some less (Amish).

"Call your local extension office", is the common response here. They will tell you what options you have.

We used to have a couple of options close to me, but one of them stopped doing chickens. I really don't know why, but my guess is that there just isn't as much money in it.

Cornish Cross is the standard "meat chicken". They grow at around 1 pound per week (live weight). So, an 8 week chicken would be around 8 lbs (live weight) on average. To figure out dressed weights, multiply 2/3. So an 8 pound chicken dresses at about 5.3 lbs. That's right where I like mine to be. At 6 weeks, they would probably dress at 3.5 to 4 lbs on average.

But also keep in mind that environmental factors play a role. If they free-range, they're likely to be quite a bit lighter. If it's cold, they may need to eat more just to stay warm, which could also affect their size. Likewise, if it's hot, they may eat a lot less.

And finally, hatcheries are a little different. I really don't think there is a huge difference, but minor differences may exist, which could mean a slightly larger or smaller bird at 8 weeks. Overall, just expect your chickens to average around 5 lbs dressed at 8 weeks. That makes a good roaster.
Well, I had my batch of cornish cross processed by a local farmer chickens processor at $3 per each.... but I did get 9 lb chickens.

My next batch is 100 of the same cornish crosses. You will LOVE the taste!....!

(be sure to marinade after resting poultry in salt water or fridge for 2 days, we used buttemilk and mmmm was good. I bough about 10 more bottles of assorted marinades and dressings all flavors!)

I did call a local college and asked for the "poultry science dept" there are lots of students that are studying poultry to earn their degree. Also call 4H in your area and see if there are any older people there that my let you "rent" them for the weekend and pay in chickens to have them slaughter the birds.

I have a college kid on standby and I will pay him $14 per hour to process our chickens. this willl be cheaper than the other place.

Good luck!

6-8 weeks depending on how much you feed and how fast they grow

You can always do them yourself
with a little experience you can get pretty quick
my dad brother and I can get 50 birds form live to freezer in about 5 hours now a days but 3 guys that have been doing this for 60+years combined
but if you can t do it yourself the local processors help but they add up quick the one around here charges 2.50 each for less then 200birds and then it get cheaper with more birds
i guess it depends of what your willing to spend

Are you planing on selling the birds once they are done?
6-8 weeks depending on how much you feed and how fast they grow
I picked 5.5-6 pounds as a target weight and the first group of 20 to reach that took 8 weeks.

I expect the rest to take 10-12 weeks for the last to reach weight, then I am going to slaughter them as a group.
It seems that paying someone by the hour to process your chickens would motivate them to do a nice slooooow careful job. Sure, the birds would be wonderfully clean with every pinfeather picked out individually by tweezers, but you might find that you're paying $14 per chicken to get the job done. I'm not trying to cast aspersions on your particular standby college kid, but I just wonder if paying a processor by the hour is the best way to go.
Thanks, all, for the great advice. It certainly gives me a lot to think about before spring when I put my order in. I don't want to mess with 25-50 baby meat birds in my house because it's too cold here in Iowa for them to be in the barn.


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