Question about Meat Birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by FrogiesChicks, Oct 26, 2014.

  1. FrogiesChicks

    FrogiesChicks Out Of The Brooder

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    Good morning everyone!! I am in the planning phase of starting my Meat Bird business. I have 35 acres of land in Alamosa County, Colorado. I want to free range chickens and turkeys and provide them for the local community. No matter how many books I read on chickens, it is not the same as communicating with someone who is doing it right now. So here are my questions:

    1. I want to start of small, so how many chickens and turkeys do you suggest?

    2. I want to use 2 acres for my birds. It will be fenced in and have possibly 2 large coops big enough for me to walk into. I would like to have a garden planted inside the fenced area specifically for the chickens. What are your thoughts?

    3. Which type of chicken do you suggest are the best for meat?

    Thank you for your time and hope you all have a blessed day!
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

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    A place to start would be with 100 chickens and 25 turkeys. That won't overwhelm you till you know what type of water system and range feeder works for you. If it looks good you can always get another batch or 2 after the first are out of the brooder house.
    I recommend an automatic water system with nipples or drinker cups.
    Get the area well planted ahead of time, especially things with good root systems.
    You can also screen off part of a planted area with 1" welded wire so they can't scratch the plants up and still have greens coming through.

    For chicken breeds, Cornish/Rock cross are by far the best for feed conversion and easiest to pluck. Next best and almost as good are Freedom Rangers, plucking takes a bit longer because of the dark pin feathers.
    Then there are heritage breeds that take much longer to grow but are good flavored birds.
    This chart will give you ideas for those breeds, growth rate and meat quality.
    http://www.albc-usa.org/documents/chickenbreedcomparison.pdf
     
  3. Bossroo

    Bossroo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would heartily recommend the Cornish X as it is the most efficient converter of feed to meat in the shortest time of any chicken type out there. It is a terminal cross and the cross is a Industry secret that was selectively bred by scientists many years ago. Commercial meat chicken business is based on the Cornish x , so it would be prudent to emulate on this basis if one hopes to glean a profit. Before you start to order these chicks, be aware that they are not your regular back yard bird but require one to follow industry standard protocal for animal husbandry. ( This info can be found on this site in MANY posts ) Charts such as the one by the albc are in very general terms and often based on statistics from decades ago when the listed breeds were used in production.. Today, they are bred by the hatcheries more for egg production for the back yard owner. Thus they are mediocre in meat as well as egg production. So, relying on these type of charts / literature / recommended by back yard keepers one will soon find out fast how much money one is not making. As for turkeys, look at what the big boys raise ... the Broad Breasted White !!! Good luck with your enterprise. [​IMG]
     
  4. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hey FrogiesChicks,

    From one Coloradian to another may I recommend that before you run out and purchase 100 Cornish Cross (CX) chicks you look into the Freedom Rangers. I live at 8,000 feet West of Colorado Springs, and according to Google, you are at around 7,500 feet of elevation. Cornish Cross grow very quickly, but due to their rapid growh and body weight, they are prone to heart problems and many hatcheries mention that they don't do well at high altitude. I have tried two batches of CX from two different sources and have had really high mortality rates. I've also raised three batches of Freedom Rangers, a batch of Red Rangers and a batch of Dual Purpose Roosters and all have had way better purchase to butcher morality rates than the CX. I may lose one or two in the first week or so, but after that, they have been extremely healthy and hearty. Also, CX are not as likely to take advantage of the free rangeing opportunites you are providing them and may spend most of their time hanging out with their heads in the feeders.

    Perhaps a first year trial run with 25 CX and 50 Freedom Rangers might be a good experiment. Maybe you'll have better luck than I did, but I'd hate for you to purchase 100 CX and lose 30 - 50% like I did with mine.

    I don't know if the same problems can be experienced with BBW turkeys at high altitude. I'd suggest talking with the hatchery and discussing the issue frankly with them. I'm raising Bourbon Red turkeys this year and am quite pleased with them. They don't get a big as the BBRs but they are very healthy, good forragers and I know heritage, free ranging, organic turkeys can demand a heafty price to the right consumer. They also have the added benefit of being able to breed naturally, so you could keep some hens and a tom or two and breed your own the following year.

    Again, perhaps trying a mix of several heritage breeds and some of the commercial breeds your first year and figuring out what works best for your altitude.

    As for a garden in your fenced area, chickens will destroy it in minimal time. However, I've tried to improve my forrage this year by planting clover and alfalfa in my meadow where my birds free range (they only get a few hours a day out of their runs). I know there are some wild legumes that you can grow that add protien to your forrage as well.

    I do have a nice vegetable garden that is fenced seperately from the chickens and turkeys. All of my vegetable tops and peelings go back into the chicken run along with stuff that has bolted or gone to seed. I also planted pumpkins this year with chickens and turkeys in mind. They love not only the scrapings and seeds from the inside of the pumpkin but also the flesh as well. The chicken and turkey droppings go into a compost bin and eventually back into the garden enhancing the following season's growth.

    Good luck.
     
  5. FrogiesChicks

    FrogiesChicks Out Of The Brooder

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    Ok...thank you so much!
     
  6. FrogiesChicks

    FrogiesChicks Out Of The Brooder

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    Hummingbird Hollow thank you for that info. I was thinking about the high altitude and how it would hinder the birds. We should definitely keep in touch so we can swap knowledge since we are close or will be close.
     
  7. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'd be happy to stay in touch. I don't pretend to be a long-time expert and I know many people swear by the CX, but my experiences haven't been good and I think high altitude is a major factor. Regarding your garden idea. While 3 of my 4 raised garden beds are completely fenced off from my chickens, my fourth bed is out in the area where they free range. I've had some successful crops in that bed by making a cover with bent PVC pipe and covered it with plastic chicken netting. I can also toss a sheet of fabric or plastic over the garden to protect it from our late frosts, mid-summer hail storms and early frosts. When I harvested the garden I took the netting off and let the chickens scratch to their hearts content. Perhaps if you built such a set-up inside your large chicken run, you could protect the fragile seedlings from the digging and pecking of your flock until you were ready to give them access. You could also probably grow some crops for your own table like lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, turnips and after you've harvested, give your chickens access to clean up the leftovers, till and turn the soil and poop in it for your next summer's crop. I've thought of doing that where I live, but haven't done so yet.

    Oh, back to the earlier discussion. If you start your first crop of meat chickens inside in late March or early April, you can move them outside...perhaps with a heat lamp in 4 or 5 weeks and start straight into a second crop. Or, if you prefer, you could even wait until the first batch are almost ready to butcher before you order the second batch. That way you could experiment with a few different breeds the first time around, perfect your slaughter and butchering methods, make a list of things you'd do differently,make sure you have interested customers and still have time for a larger batch later in the summer.
     
  8. katbriar

    katbriar Chillin' With My Peeps

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    FrogiesC- for what it's worth, I'm just south of you in Northern New Mexico and have successfully raised "slow growing" Cornish cross. They take 2-4 weeks longer to grow out, but I raised them on fermented feed and had no losses.

    I purchased mine from Privett hatchery but have seen them also available at other hatcheries. Stromburg's may be one.

    Mine were not completely free range, but had a large pen and ran around, jumped, and roosted off the ground. They didn't resemble to hogs at the trough many have experienced.
     

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