Raising Chickens for Eggs vs Meat?


Apr 27, 2015
I currently have 8, 7 week old chicks that I'm raising for eggs. I love them and I can't imagine killing them for meat even when they are spent...could only kill them if they became a problem (aggressive, loud, etc). I got to watch my teacher kill and process a chicken in my agriculture class and I've been really thinking about raising chickens for meat as well. I don't know the differences in raising them. I wouldn't want to raise the meat chickens with my egg layers so I would have to build another coop for the meat chickens. I'd start out with a very small flock, maybe 5 just so that I'm not overwhelmed and if I can't handle killing them, I don't have an abundance of chickens to deal with.

Here's my questions:
1. What do they eat?
2. When do I butcher?
3. How much space does each bird need?
4. How much does it cost to raise a bird?
5. What breed is best?
I am considered no expert but here is what I know-

1. Depending on the age all chickens would need feed, below 2-3 months they need chick starter feed and after that layer feed (or I think there may be a meat eater feed type thing)
2. Most butcher around 6 months some sooner some older, I know most people who raise Cornish meat chickens butcher from 4-6 moths.
3. Each bird need around i'd say 1.5 feet squared for comfort, but I free range so I don't know much in that department.
4. depending on the size of the bird and what you feed it (by age) my larger chickens eat about 1/2 cup of feed and free range, but we buys bags of feed at our feedstore for 15-20$ for a 55-60Lb bag, and it lasts a few months for around 14 chickens (large, medium and bantam though)
5. Leghorns and sex links are the beset egg layers, and Cornish are the best meat I know of, but every bird differs and there are probably birds with better size and quality depending on what you are looking for.

I am a pet chicken owner but this is the information I know~
1. They eat meat bird feed 22% protein

2. 8 weeks is the standard butcher age for CX

3. Not that much space is needed per bird, I put 75-80 in a 10x12 tractor that is moved once a day

4. If not free ranging they will consume 10-12lbs of feed apiece. If you had to pay for processing the cost per bird goes up well over $10 a piece

5. Cornish X are the best option for meat production, they have the best feed conversion and take the least amount of time to finish.

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I am loving this thread!

Here is what I know from my experiences. Please note I am a newish chicken mom and these things are what we have encountered in our flock.

We had 42 Cornish cross chicks and fed them starter with the highest protein. After 5 days we did the 12hours on/12 hours off method with light and food. In the morning when I put the food tray back in, they swarm to it and pig out. At night I turn off the regular light (NOT the heat lamp) and take the food tray away. I'm on the 8am/8pm schedule but you do what works best for you.

Anyway, my son is raising these meaties as part of the animal science merit badge. He weighs them on average three times a week and measures their food.

Our growth rate right now is around 2:1. We went through 579lb of food for our 42 birds. We ended up with an average weight of 7.2lb each at processing time.

Here's some math for you.

579lb of food cost us $144 ($12/50#bag and we used just shy 12bags)
Chicks were $1.66/ea. chick cost was $66.40. We paid for 40 chicks and got 2 free.

Total so far of chicks and feed is $210.40 so about $5 a bird for their lifespan.

I didn't factor in the price of water because in our municipality, we have a tiered water system. Up to X gallons is $X. 5000G over that is $Y, etc. Even with our flock of 66 we never go over the minimum. Same goes for the electricity - I haven't seen an increase in our bill when we have the heat lamps on 24/7 for the babies.

I process my own birds and have my feed delivered for free so no gas costs to drive and get them.

All in all, I can't go to the store and buy a 7lb roaster chicken that is natural, free range, etc for $5 so I take the time and make the effort to do it myself.

Good luck!
As others have stated, theCX or Cornish Cross are the most popular meat birds because they grow very quickly, have excdellent feed conversion and also because their white feathers are easy to pluck. I however, prefer the Freedom Ranger. They take about 2 weeks more to reach a good butchering weight but they are active and lively and good for a pastured environment. I haven't had good luck with the CX I've tried to raise. I think it is because I live at high altitude. CX grow so fast that they are prone to heart problems as well as sometimes going lame because they grow too quickly for their bone structure to support. I'm guessing that the high altitude puts too great a strain on their already laboring hearts and lungs resulting in the higher mortality rate that I've experienced.

My suggestion for you would be that, unless you live at high altitude, you purchase a smallish number say 5 - 10 CX and see how it goes. Don't do too few or you might be tempted to name them and that will make your first butchering day more difficult. The good/bad thing about CX is that they will often die of heart failure if you let them get too big, so you won't have the option of backing out and making pets of them. Perhaps knowing that they may die soon anyway might make butchering easier.

Good luck.
My fiance and I are getting dual purpose birds and breeding them. The hens will be for eggs (obviously) and meat when their productivity drops. We're caponizing the unnecessary cockerels, so they can grow and be fantastic meat, rather than having to be culled early (oh, capon is tasty). But that's just our plan. We figure it's killing two birds with one stone.
My fiance and I are getting dual purpose birds and breeding them. The hens will be for eggs (obviously) and meat when their productivity drops. We're caponizing the unnecessary cockerels, so they can grow and be fantastic meat, rather than having to be culled early (oh, capon is tasty). But that's just our plan. We figure it's killing two birds with one stone.


It's really about perspective really, different ways to skin cats and what not.

After caponizing the males hand keeping them around you will get decent yield. Or you can raise 3 times as much meat in a 1/4 the amount of time with minimal effort.

It's not a bad plan, but unless your getting a lot of birds your going to run short on meat

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If you get Cornish cross, keep in mind that NOT harvesting them at 8 weeks requires a drastic diet change and monitoring to keep them alive. They will have a heart attack in a minute. If you "chicken" out you may want to consider a heritage breed bird which will take more feed (aka $) to reach slaughter weight, but also won't "explode" if you decide to keep it for eggs. We raise red Rangers and they are very delightful. We harvested the roosters today at 12 weeks, and decided to keep the girls until the freezer empties out and let them lay eggs. They aren't really dual purpose, but also should be okay.
The Cornish cross will take 2lbs of feed to make 1 lb of bird. So 5 birds at 7lbs each is 35lbs times two pounds of feed is 70lbs of feed you would need (possibly more, but basically 2 bags of broiler food.)
Other birds are 3-4 lbs of feed per 1 lbs of meat. Heritage breeds may be up to 6 lbs of feed to 1 of bird (6:1) depending on how long you keep them.

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