Raising extra roos for meat

BlueShadow

Songster
5 Years
Jun 13, 2015
476
368
186
Nebraska
I have probably a dozen cockerels from my chicks this spring, currently between 7 and 11 weeks old. I would like to separate them from the pullets because in the past, they have seemed to gain better when they are separated. I have one RIR, seven bantam cochins (I know, two bites per bird!) and the rest are Buckeyes (I cannot identify all of the boys yet among the Buckeyes, not completely sure how many I've got). I plan to butcher in the 14-16 week range.

Questions: Do they actually gain better if they are separated from the pullets?

How many can I fit in an indoor space of 50 square feet? I would like to put as many as can comfortably fit in this space, but I don't need to crowd them. There is room for them with the pullets, I just want to tame down all the hormones and fighting in that pen and help them grow out a bit faster.
 

Maeschak

Songster
Mar 29, 2016
614
364
181
Maryland, USA
I do not know if the cockerels gain better after separating from the pullets but I always separate mine anyway. I usually get at least 12 cockerels into a 60sq foot hoop coop. (I could probably fit more but it gets testy once the hormones kick in and I often keep about 8/9 into the 20 week range when they get pretty big). After living in their hoop coop for a few days they do not try to roost with the pullets or the laying hens so I let them free-range all day until they start really giving the ladies trouble. Then they stay in the hoop coop until butcher time.
Since you are butchering at 14-16 weeks 50sq feet should be enough space.

Good luck!
 

BlueShadow

Songster
5 Years
Jun 13, 2015
476
368
186
Nebraska
I am curious about this from people that do this!! 14 to 16 week for these breeds seems like very little meat on them at that age????

Its new for us this year to butcher them quite that early. We usually butcher in the fall, 2 at a time, skip a week or two, until they are all gone (goal is to have them gone by the time waterers freeze). So that puts them in the 4-6 month age. Even those older birds weren't terribly meaty. My main thought is to reduce toughness of the meat.

I have read on BYC that their feed:gain ratio starts becoming quite unfavorable at about 14 weeks, so we will try it. Especially with a bunch of bantams in the mix, no matter what I do they aren't ever going to have lots of meat! And we still probably will only do 2 birds at a time, that just seems to work well in our setup, so pick the biggest birds each time.
 

Maeschak

Songster
Mar 29, 2016
614
364
181
Maryland, USA
Its new for us this year to butcher them quite that early. We usually butcher in the fall, 2 at a time, skip a week or two, until they are all gone (goal is to have them gone by the time waterers freeze). So that puts them in the 4-6 month age. Even those older birds weren't terribly meaty. My main thought is to reduce toughness of the meat.

I have read on BYC that their feed:gain ratio starts becoming quite unfavorable at about 14 weeks, so we will try it. Especially with a bunch of bantams in the mix, no matter what I do they aren't ever going to have lots of meat! And we still probably will only do 2 birds at a time, that just seems to work well in our setup, so pick the biggest birds each time.
Just an FYI that I have heard the same thing re feed:gain ratio after 14 weeks... and I always plan to take a few at 14 weeks, then a few at 15 and so on but I never seem to do it- not quite sure why.
 

BlueShadow

Songster
5 Years
Jun 13, 2015
476
368
186
Nebraska
Just an FYI that I have heard the same thing re feed:gain ratio after 14 weeks... and I always plan to take a few at 14 weeks, then a few at 15 and so on but I never seem to do it- not quite sure why.

Haha! Well I am pretty sure that we will take the first one at 14 weeks because he is 4 weeks older than the rest and really enjoys bullying the smaller birds. If that is still happening when he is 14 weeks old, I will be happy to say bye-bye to him. But you are right, it may not happen quite like I am planning. I do know though, that as long as they are separate, I have an extra set of chores, so that is motivation to send them on their way.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,503
20,780
907
Southeast Louisiana
You are certainly right to try butchering at 14 weeks or whenever and see what you think. We've all got our own goals, set-ups and desires. Find out what works for you.

Some differences could be the genetics of your chickens and some could be how you feed them. If you are buying all they eat that's one thing. If they forage for a reasonable portion of their feed that's another. I see the best meat gain up to about 23 weeks with mine, not 14 weeks, but try it and decide for yourself considering the way you raise them. As you mentioned, 14 week olds will have less texture (and less flavor) than older cockerels. They should be easier to butcher too. Mine start to get some pretty tough connective tissue that makes butchering a bit harder, especially since I skin mine.

I don't know that I see any benefit to weight gain by separating them just from separating them. Sometimes I separate them, sometimes I don't. If you keep them in a bachelor pad with no females to get them excited I could see them not using as much energy so maybe there are benefits from that. I'd think another benefit could be how you feed them. I don't know how you feed your flock in general, but if you feed them a higher protein diet than the rest of the flock you could see real benefits.
 

BlueShadow

Songster
5 Years
Jun 13, 2015
476
368
186
Nebraska
Some differences could be the genetics of your chickens and some could be how you feed them. If you are buying all they eat that's one thing. If they forage for a reasonable portion of their feed that's another. I see the best meat gain up to about 23 weeks with mine, not 14 weeks, but try it and decide for yourself considering the way you raise them. As you mentioned, 14 week olds will have less texture (and less flavor) than older cockerels. They should be easier to butcher too. Mine start to get some pretty tough connective tissue that makes butchering a bit harder, especially since I skin mine.

I don't know that I see any benefit to weight gain by separating them just from separating them. Sometimes I separate them, sometimes I don't. If you keep them in a bachelor pad with no females to get them excited I could see them not using as much energy so maybe there are benefits from that. I'd think another benefit could be how you feed them. I don't know how you feed your flock in general, but if you feed them a higher protein diet than the rest of the flock you could see real benefits.

My chicks get out in a run, but they don't forage for much of their diet. We get feed from a local mill, so prices change with each batch, but generally $11-$12 for 50 lbs of 20%. I guess I don't know what other people pay for feed, but when I see the prices at Tractor Supply or something I'm happy we have this option. I also like that their layer feed is 17.5% protein.

I have both skinned and plucked. The last roo I butchered was a year old and I skinned him, and swore "Never again!" "Tough" is a bit of an understatement for that connective tissue.
 

Egghead_Jr

Crowing
10 Years
Oct 16, 2010
7,482
3,547
436
NEK, VT
I'm a huge advocate of butchering dual purpose birds at broiler age. Since you've already butchered your own roasters I know you'll see a big difference in meat. Certainly not saying it will be as tender as 8 week old CornishX but that's the straight up of things- meat get's more texture/toughness with age of animal.

It doesn't make any sense to me at all to grow out a slow growing bird for six to ten weeks longer just to gain a pound to one and half pound of dress weight. They hit their stride of feed intake of 1/4 pound per day at 12 weeks age. Hmm, let's see here, two weeks of that intake for a bird tender enough to toss on the grill or ten more weeks for slow roasting and larger bones. Really makes you think. My culls range from 2.5 to 3lbs dress weight at age 14. It's not large but the proportions of that particular bird are almost exacting at 14 weeks to 24. Their breasts and legs are developed just proportionally smaller with smaller bones. That's what your looking for, developed breast at the youngest age you can which invariably is 14-15 weeks. I'd not grill a bird older than 15 and shoot for 14 max. The only problem is eviscerating a small cavity. Solution is to spit the birds in half. Down side of back bone, open bird and split the breast bone. Perfect grill size and opens up the cavity for final cleaning your large hands couldn't get to.

Couldn't tell you the floor space needed. Try and see is probably the best approach. Worst case is you'll have the older cockerels in that space, cull and move next age set in.

Your single oldest male you could try a side by side test once butchered. Let rest in fridge and on second day put one half in brine for a day. See which you like better after you grill both at same time. Think you'll get hooked on brine for grilling. Not just the flavor but salt will aid in retaining juices. These birds at the cusp of broiling age need a little help in my opinion. Good solution mix for 24 hour soak is 7 ounces salt (by weight and any kind of salt) to one gallon of water. Salt has to be by weight as rock salt, sea salt and table salt vary in grain size so vary in volume by any given weight. Give it a test and let me know what you think.
 
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BlueShadow

Songster
5 Years
Jun 13, 2015
476
368
186
Nebraska
I'm a huge advocate of butchering dual purpose birds at broiler age. Since you've already butchered your own roasters I know you'll see a big difference in meat.


Hah, yeah, I am pretty sure it was you who convinced me to try the bit younger age. :) Gonna try it and see how it works.

I just moved the roosters to the other pen this morning. If I am going to butcher them young, it seems to make sense to me to keep them a bit more confined (ended up being 9 birds in the 50 sq ft) and let them eat prepared feed, not waste as much energy fighting and chasing, and spend their energy growing.
 

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