Raising broilers on pasture...

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by daca0401, Feb 20, 2014.

  1. daca0401

    daca0401 New Egg

    Sep 27, 2012

    I am really sick of buying chicken in the store. I already have a coop and I'm on my third year of having laying chickens. I would like to venture into getting broilers, but I would like to pature raise them (in a seperate area from my layers). I have TONS of questions :)

    1. Do you think I will save money compared to buying from the store, raising my about 40 - 50 broilers a year? Obviously the more years that I do it the more money I would save seeing that my coop and fencing should last longer than a year.

    2. Would you do a moveable tractor or electric fencing, both? I'm a bit worried about predators with both so I'm not sure which option is better.

    3. Which breed is better? - I'm a little leary of the cornish crosses because of how huge they get with leg and heart problems.

    4. Just starting out should I try with just 20 chicks and then feed them out for 8 weeks and then get another 20 chicks or just get the 40 off the bat and be done?

    Any other advice or wish you woulda knowns before you started would be great! I really appreciate any help!


  2. Well if this helps this is my two cents.
    1 It will be more expensive raising them yourself
    2 I like tractors personally
    3 Cornish X are great in my book. But you have other choices.
    4 20 chicks started fdes not equal 20 birds processed. Factor in dome mortality rate like 10%

    Processing 20 at a time is apt of work. If you have a big family or eat lots of chicken you may want to go with 40. That's something you and your freezer space will figure out.

    Wish ya the best.

    1 person likes this.
  3. Coralietg

    Coralietg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2010
    Opelousas, LA
    Complete and utter meat chicken newbie here, just wanted to add something.

    It seems very difficult to match the price of store chickens. Regular grocery store broilers are $0.88 a lb (approx). Whole Foods has pastured broilers for $3.99 a lb. My goal is to beat Whole Foods and the farmers market. Pastured meat chickens is so much healthier, tastes better and are worth it, but I can't afford $25 for a Farmers Market bird. That is why I am in a similar position to you. 5th year of laying hens, and my first Cornish X delivery (15) is coming in 2 weeks.

    Personally, we're building a chicken tractor. I just like the idea of them.

    No experience on any meat breeds yet.

    My plan is two raise two lots of meat chickens a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. We don't have a second freezer, so there is freezer space to think of. I don't fancy investing hundreds in an extra freezer just yet. It's likely just me and my partner, and I don't want to completely overwhelm ourselves trying to raise, or process, too many at once. It's just us, and two (soon to be three) kids and we usually roast about 3 whole chickens a month.
  4. jaj121159

    jaj121159 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 27, 2010
    Northeast Nebraska
    Last summer it cost me $5.70 to raise a 4 lb CX on average. That includes the chick, feed and some bedding. I raised 600 of them.
  5. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

  6. phairphan

    phairphan New Egg

    Feb 27, 2014
    Also a complete newbie (to the site and pasturing meat chickens), so I am looking forward to learning from this post. My thought was to try 25-40 chickens. I have five "paddocks I was going to try of 1/4 acre each. Hoping to move the chickens to a new area every 10 days-2 weeks with a moveable coop. Didn't know if this system would be feasible or work.
  7. Arielle

    Arielle Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 19, 2011
    Massachusetts, USA
    I will preface my answers with I jumped into cornish crosses last year, so limited experience.

    1. Difficult to beat the store prices for non-organic. THey buy the grain in bulk-- think train cars. However you can improve the diet to include grasses which makes the meat healtheir and more natural to eat. ( Grain prices vary: $6/50 in mid west, $14/50 for me. I plan to improve my forages for grazing.

    2. Small livestock benefit from many layers of protection. Go with both if you can.

    3. THe cornish are very fast in growth and need a bit of thought before proceeding. Controlled growth is the key. Feeding a wet mash like fermented feed really helps slow down the growth when fed 2 x a day, for example. Don't let the death rates scare you off, in any operation their are a % that die. I have 2 cornishx pullets that are 10 months old; and a few did suddenly die . I am trying heritage breeds bred for meat this year; and a cross bred project bred for meat, and my cornish pullets have produced 2 chicks frooom my incubator.

    4. Go small. You can use your equipment for another batch. Spreads out your costs. Equipment is fewer and smaller. Reused in the same year. Cornish crosses are HUGE eaters and consume much more feed than other breedds, and have more poop in line with more feed. Fewer birds in a larger space is my recommendation. THey are not very mobile unless you make them move-- move the tractor every day.

    I raised two batches of 15 last summer and it felt like I was feeding 100. I could not free range them as they are too slow to avoid any predator.

    THe flavor of the meat and fat will reflect what they eat. COmmercial mixes are usually corn and soybeans and the resulting flavor is just like the grocery store. If you like that fine, if not you have the added forages from grazing.

    THe best deterent for predators is to build a strong line of defense and don't let them even try for your birds. Once they do they will be back and back and back again as a "maybe?" is worth trying for. Electric is very effective for ground predators; Arial predators need the tractor.

    Have you thought about processing??? If you have not processed, definitely go slow, 20 will fell like 100. I did take 35 birds in for processing and got a 50cent discount for bulk. Now, I save myself the entire processing cost and the drivie /gas money by doing my own birds now. I do 3 at a time as that is all my kettle of water will stay hot for.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2014
  8. naillikwj82

    naillikwj82 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 30, 2011
    Olympic Peninsula, WA
    First, Welcome to the world of chickens.
    They will cost you more than grocery store chicken, but then you are not truly comparing the same product. The mortality rate of the CX birds can be quite low with good husbandry of the flock. We use movable tractors (Salatin type) with good success. Types we have done are CX fast, CX slow, Dark Cornish/ Del's, and many, many capons.
    Other questions you need to answer are:
    What are your poultry needs? Per month? Per quarter?

    How do you like to cook (prepare) your chicken (this may narrow or broaden your selection)?

    How much freezer space do you have available for poultry? Consider your Freezer's shelf life.

    Who, and how will the birds be processed? Have you done it before? Will there be help? If not, find a free rooster on craiglist, bring it home and see if you are up to processing one bird completely. If so, then continue forward. As Arielle mentioned you can just process in small batches. The slower growing CX broilers work out well for gradual processing as you can start at week 10, and do four birds a week through week 14.

    Though people say the CX eat a whole lot of feed, keep in mind that 20 pounds of feed in eight weeks time, the red rangers eat 20 pounds of feed in fourteen weeks, and the heritage birds eat 20 pounds of feed in eighteen weeks, all in all it will still be 20 pounds of feed.

    Good luck with your adventure!
  9. Bossroo

    Bossroo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 15, 2008
    Keep in mind that the CornishX is the most efficient converter of feed to meat in the shortest time frame in all of chickendom, bar NONE. As such , you can harvest them ( if you want to stagger the processing...start with the roosters as they gain the fastest, then the hens a week later )at 35 days of age for a 1 1/2 - 2 lb.of meat for a game hen, at 6-8 weeks of age and put a 4-5 lbs. of meat on the table. Try doing that with any of the heritage breeds and it ain't gonna happen. Your labor as well as time of exposure to predators has a price too ( which most people fail to account for) , so compare 6- 8 weeks to fry or bbq for the CornishX to 14 or 24 weeks.for other types for a 4-5 lbs. of meat that will be tougher so may need a marinade and longer time plus lower temperature to bbq or require a longer time to cook as a roaster or in the crockpot . Also, since the CornishX are much younger at harvest, they will have a milder taste and be very tender ... compare veal to a much more mature cut of beef.
  10. daca0401

    daca0401 New Egg

    Sep 27, 2012
    I thought I would update my post.

    Last year I raised 33 cornish cross broilers. I fed them organic (or transitional feed) if I couldn't get my hands on organic feed. I brought them in to get processed. After adding up all my costs I figured that I'm not saving any money by raising my own, but they are amazing to eat and I wouldn't turn back.

    My husband built me a chicken tractor. We went with the Stress Free Chicken Tractor plan because the plans were fairly inexpensive online and I needed an outline on how to go about raising the birds. We moved the broilers from the brooder at about 4 weeks because our MN spring in 2014 was very wet and cold. We started with 37 birds, but lost 4 in the brooder. We didn't lose any after moving them outside. They stayed really clean and helped fertilize our lawn in the process.

    We really enjoyed the whole process, a lot of work and some money spent, but well worth it in my eyes. This year we have 75 - 3 week broilers that will be moving to their tractors this week. My husband built one more tractor so I could raise double what I did last year in 9 weeks. I would rather do that than double my time invested in raising two separate batches.

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