Raising Chickens for Meat vs Eggs?

sophiaw00

Songster
Apr 27, 2015
548
45
108
Illinois
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?
 

keesmom

Free Ranging
12 Years
Jul 28, 2008
10,710
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You may want to check out the Meat Bird forum for more information,but I can answer a few questions.

The most common meat breed is the Cornish X. By far they have the fastest growth rate and best feed conversion rate of any breed. They would be ready for butchering anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks of age. The downside to them are the heart and leg problems that are associated with such rapid growth. They are suitable for meat only.

Another option is Freedom Rangers, Pioneers or Dixie Rainbows. They grow rapidly as well, but not as fast as the Cornish X. They reach butchering age around 12 to 14 weeks. Since they grow more slowly they are not prone to heart or leg issues. They could also live a normal chicken life if you decide to keep a few.
 
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Drewnkat

Songster
11 Years
Mar 27, 2008
176
41
191
Georgia
If you are not sure you will be able to follow through on processing your meat birds, why not consider a dual-purpose breed, one known for decent egg production, yet heavy enough to be worthwhile for meat as well? If you google dual-purpose chicken breeds, you should find a good list to go on.

You can get feed designed for meat birds at the feed store, and you'll get the best nutritional quality if they're able to have some time out on pasture/free range as well.

Meat birds will have the same space requirements as full-size layer hens. About 4 square feet per bird in the coop, and about ten square feet per bird of run space, though you can get away with a bit less if they are out free ranging most of the day.

How much it costs to raise each bird is going to depend on a lot of factors.
What type of feed will you buy? Organic and GMO-free feed costs more, but tends to be higher quality. Cheap feed is cheap, but the birds may eat more of it to get the same nutrient value. If the birds fill up on plants and bugs while free-ranging they will consume less feed.
Are you including the cost of putting up the coop in the cost analysis? Personally, I would consider the coop as an investment in the overall value of the property, not a per-bird cost, but some people choose to include that expense in their analysis of the expenses involved. Keep in mind if you do butcher this batch of chickens, the coop will still be available to raise more, so with each batch the coop cost will be a smaller fraction of your overall expenses.
 

sophiaw00

Songster
Apr 27, 2015
548
45
108
Illinois
Thank you for replying. I didn't know there was a meat forum, I'll move it over there. I think Cornish x would probably be best because I could butcher them earlier, but it wouldnt be good if I ended up getting attached to one of them.
 

keesmom

Free Ranging
12 Years
Jul 28, 2008
10,710
4,644
531
MA
Thank you for replying. I didn't know there was a meat forum, I'll move it over there. I think Cornish x would probably be best because I could butcher them earlier, but it wouldnt be good if I ended up getting attached to one of them.
If you get Cornish X you are committed to having to butcher them. If you go that route I would suggest starting small (which you are thinking as well). See if you can use some sort of tractor system to keep them on grass and rotate their pasture. They do get messy. I have had several batches that loved to free range which I think keeps them from developing the usual Cornish X issues.
 

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