Raising heritage meat birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Redhead Rae, Jan 17, 2017.

  1. Redhead Rae

    Redhead Rae Turning into a Crazy Chicken Lady and loving it! Premium Member

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    I've been considering ways to go about raising meat birds. We are planning on breeding Buff Orpingtons. We are chicken novices, and are having trouble managing our more athletic leghorn crosses and our rammy Dom/Rhode Island Red cross rooster. So we picked the BO based on the average personality and usefulness as a dual purpose breed.I was thinking about breeding enough to have a chicken a week for dinner and have laying/breeding stock that we keep year round. I am considering two different methods of raising them. I was considering raising all the birds we'll need for the year in one/two hatchings in the spring/summer and slaughtering any that don't make the laying/breeding flock cut when they reach 6 months old. Or, I could raise the chicks in 4-5 batches starting the hatchings in Jan/Feb and raise them a month a part and take turns slaughtering when they reach 6 months in turn.

    I'm thinking for a small operation (I'm really the only person who even remotely wants to do the slaughter/evisceration, though I can get help with the plucking) hatching the birds in batches of 1 dozen at a time has the advantage of being able to better assess individuals for suitability for the laying/breeding flock (getting the birds used to being handled) and spread out the load as far as slaughtering for the birds we aren't keeping. But doing it this way means we would have to spend more money on feed since we will have to be raising them before summer and after summer is over.

    How do you go about raising your birds for meat? We want to have a sustainable dual purpose flock so we are not dependent on cornish cross chicks from a hatchery for our meat birds every year.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2017
  2. Molpet

    Molpet Chillin' With My Peeps

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  3. Redhead Rae

    Redhead Rae Turning into a Crazy Chicken Lady and loving it! Premium Member

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    I have 4 leghorn cross cockerels that are 6 months old that I am set up to slaughter. Their 4 brethren were tasty. I've come to the conclusion this evening that our Dom/RIR rooster is becoming too vicious to be allowed to live. He is going in the stew pot next week. The birds that we currently have are barnyard mutts that neighbors gave us. They keep us in eggs, but are too flighty and difficult to manage. We are hoping our BOs are easier to deal with. Any that aren't are definitely going in the stew pot.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I go with four or five hatches a year. The first one or two, depending on size, are incubator hatches, the others are broody hatches. I’ve bred my flock to go broody a lot but they still don’t go broody early in the spring or winter. I have a bunch in the incubator due to hatch in a week and a half. Mine are a barnyard mix but I’ve been breeding mine for several years to get the kind of chickens I want.

    One big difference between the broilers and dual purpose is that you do not have to butcher them at the same time. They are not going to fall over and die at a certain age if you don’t butcher them. Mine forage for some of their food, but if you are buying all they eat, it can cost more to keep them. I normally butcher between five and seven at a time, but I’m OK with a hatch of 20 or more chicks. I just spread out butchering. I also eat both cockerels and pullets as well as older birds. If you don’t eat pullets you have to hatch more birds.

    You are right about having to feed them more in some seasons than others if they forage for much of their food.

    When you hatch, don’t expect an even split between male and females in any hatch. Last year I had one hatch that produced 5 males and 14 females. The previous year I had one hatch of 7 cockerels and 14 pullets. Yet if I average all the chicks I hatched those two years I’m real close to 50-50. That means some hatches were really heavy in cockerels. I do get 50-50 hatches but they are kind of rare.

    With visiting grandkids and having other commitments, I only need to hatch somewhere in the low 40’s a year to meet my one-chicken-a-week goal. Another issue is freezer space. The way I use my freezer with the garden I’m often storing stuff to can, make soup, or make jelly or jam. I just don’t have a lot of spare space in the freezer during most of summer.

    Because of the differences in maturity, it can be challenging to compare chickens from different hatches. Just a month difference in age can mean a lot of differences in behaviors of cockerels. If you are trying to use egg size as a criteria, you need to take age into account. Last year I kept pullets from three different hatches so you can do it. When I keep a cockerel to replace my rooster, it’s almost always one from the first hatch. The way maturity affects how they behave when you have different aged cockerels together it can be really difficult to evaluate their behaviors.

    Whether in an incubator or under a broody, I want to be here during incubation, hatch, and the first few weeks after they hatch. With visits to relatives and such, that does not leave me a lot of windows to hatch. Normally my first hatch is in February, but because of a scheduled trip this year, I had to hatch in January or run out of chicken in the freezer this summer. I could not wait for March.

    Since you are integrating different chickens all the time, you have to adjust how you feed them. I never feed Layer, I use a Starter or grower and offer oyster shells on the side. I find it helps to have extra facilities to brood or separate them. In addition to my main coop I have a Grow-out coop with an associated run that can be isolated from my main run and another small coop I can isolate a chicken if I need to. I have a brooder built into my main coop. They also have a large area in electric netting.

    Once the chicks are old enough I let my brooder-raised chicks run with the flock. My broody hens raise their chicks with the flock. Usually the cockerels stay with the flock until I butcher them, anywhere from 18 to 23 weeks, usually without a problem. But sometimes I isolate the cockerels after about 15 weeks because of behavior. When my main coop is getting too crowded I may force some to sleep in that grow-out coop just to free up room in the main coop. With the size of flock you are talking about additional facilities will probably come in very handy, whether incubator or broody hatched and whether you have two hatches or six. Since you will be integrating a lot, you will find that a lot of room makes your life a lot easier, as well as additional coops.

    If you are going to hatch a lot of your eggs at one time, you may need enough hens to lay enough eggs to put in the incubator. Since my hatches are smaller I don’t need to keep as many laying hens.

    That’s all I can think of right now that I believe you might consider when making your plans. There are lots of different ways to do this. Make your plans and try it. If it doesn’t work be flexible and do something else. But try something. Good luck!
     
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  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    Slaughter at different ages. If you want to grill a dual purpose bird it's got to be butchered before 15 weeks and my cap is 14 weeks age. So right there you've a large group of cockerel culls (smallest of the lot you don't want breeding) to eat and make space for rest of birds. The rest grow out to roasting age and cull more. Not sure why you'd only incubate a dozen at a time. You can collect and store eggs for hatching for 2 weeks easy and up to 3 weeks with negligable decrease in hatch rate.
     
  6. Redhead Rae

    Redhead Rae Turning into a Crazy Chicken Lady and loving it! Premium Member

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    That is mainly so I can handle and asses the chickens on a more individual basis while they are growing up. We also almost always boil our chickens, we hardly ever grill, fry or roast them, so allowing them to get older before slaughter is not a problem, the only constraint I can think of is the feed bill.
     
  7. Spazzoni

    Spazzoni New Egg

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    One big rule My dad taught me, is you never asses a chicken on it's own. Always look at them in a group. 40 chicks at a time is the same as 5. It just takes a bit more time.
     
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  8. Spazzoni

    Spazzoni New Egg

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    I am interested in this thread. As I am looking for a multil purpose fowl that is sustainable.
     
  9. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    Broiling is high heat, same as grilling. You'd not broil a bird older than 15 weeks of age.

    To asses birds you want a lot of them at a time. By sheer numbers then weighing each to cull out 1/2 or 3/4 of the numbers (all the low weight birds) at a young age will lessen your feed bill considerably and leave you the faster maturing birds to grow out for roasting and later evaluation of breeding. You'd be carrying the feed bill for another three months of only the birds that will gain more weight and be your fastest maturing to pass on that trait as breeders. What birds eat grows exponentially as they age, by 12 weeks they are starting to hit the top of the curve. They'll consume more as they age but the bulk of that daily amount is reached rapidly in first three months. It's at this tender age you'll be most economical to process, feed to meat conversion, and have the most tender bird for high heat cooking. Add three more months to this age at the high rate of daily intake and you've gained less than 2 lbs of meat for a high price. It's hard for me to chew raising all the birds to a tough meat age of six months where roasting and stew is the only methods recommended to cook.
     
  10. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    With the work and resulting research done during recovery efforts of Buckeye it was found that the fastest maturing birds could be found as early as 6 weeks of age. It was also noted that the largest birds under 6 months of age typically were not the largest at full size. To move a flock forward in the direction of meat you benefit not only by evaluation of body structure for carrying the meat but weight of birds at young age. The same traits of two different breed will happen to lesser degree in a single breed flock. Take the slow growing larger Jersey Giant or Brahma apposed to the faster maturing New Hampshire or what have you. The faster maturing New Hampshire will provide a meatier carcass at a young age. Sure you can grow a Giant to 12 lbs or more but it's a roaster by then and took 8+ months to do it. Very slow to mature. Same is going on in a single flock of same breed, your culling the slow to grow to breed the faster better carcass birds that will yield a fair size at a broiler age.

    http://www.livestockconservancy.org/images/uploads/docs/ALBCchicken_assessment-1.pdf

    Good article with pointers for hands on evaluation of body structure.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017

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