Raising meaties on the cheep...anyone out there trying this?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Beekissed, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    I've raised them cheaply before but I am stepping it up a notch this time and am trying a few things to bring the total cost of raising meat down to where the common man...er...woman..can afford to do it at home.

    Anyone else tossing around ideas on how to do this cheaper?

    I'm also finding that one of the things I'm trying to do to make feeding the birds cheaper also has the pleasant side effect of making them cleaner as well...less stinky...and have better overall health.

    Give us your ideas and see if we can help each other make raising meat birds a more pleasant and less expensive adventure, shall we?

    The things I'm currently trying to keep feeding costs down:

    • Free ranging in electric poultry netting
    • Feeding whole grains bought in bulk instead of broiler rations
    • Fermenting the feed to increase total nutrients and to improve nutrient absorption via better intestinal health
    • Feeding twice a day until 3 wks. old and then going to once a day feeding schedule
  2. CARS

    CARS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Other than the fermented feed you're explaining what I do.
    Once they are out of the brooder they go to a grassy pasture, fed once a day, and fed bulk feed from my local mill. The only "things" that aren't locally grown in the mix is the protein. Everything else is cracked grains brought into the elevator by my neighbors.
    Bulk feed is about 1/3 of what it is in a bag from my local farm store. Plus they let me customize it!
  3. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Have you done that before and, if so, what were your total feed costs to raise X amount of meaties to finish weights? Do you find that you have a low percentage of mortality with your methods? How do you like the flavor of your chickens compared to store bought broilers?
  4. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    I am amazed at the amount of feed that I haven't gone through yet on these CX. Fifty plus birds went through a 50# bag of starter in two weeks and they will be 4 wks old tomorrow and have only consumed about 50# of whole grains since switching from the starter. They are free ranging beyond and out of my fence and over approx. 2 acres and they never stop! I have to drive them into the coop each night....many of them ignore the single feeding they get per day and continue to forage while the others eat.

    Watching these CX, I'd love to have a video camera and show everyone that thinks they are lazy, can't move well and aren't hardy just what these birds are capable of...when given the chance to act like real chickens, they do it in spades!
  5. trifecta

    trifecta Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 20, 2012
    Laidley, QLD, Australia
    Beekissed, what age are you harvesting the birds at and what kind of carcass weights are you getting? I think its most important to look at feed conversion over time relative to the finished product.

    I just finished part 2 of my first meat project yesterday, so all of my CX's are in freezer camp now! I am waiting on finishing my 4 DP roosters now for comparison. I am going through exponentially less feed with these remaining 4, and never felt like my CX's got the hang of grazing really well, but that may be because I started them on grass too late. For example, my 4 cornish game hens finished at about 2# dressed at 4 weeks of age (which is a little bigger than what I wanted) and the remaining 4 CXR finished at 5-6# dressed at 7 weeks.

    I didn't feel like I was intentionally "pushing" them but looking back now I probably could have restricted their feed more and made them figure out the grazing thing more. I will be more aggressive with that in my future runs. All together, I went through about 130 lbs of a 24% meat bird ration- but that includes feeding the 4 CXR to 4 wks of age, the CXR that we butchered yesterday, and the 4 DP's, so its hard to say exactly how much of that feed went where.

    I am also still trying to find ACV because I really want to try the fermented feed with these last 4. They would rather be out grazing than eating their commercial ration and I wonder if they will find it more appealing.
  6. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Quote: The last group I did on free range and one feeding a day reached their top weight at 8 wks but I held them over for 10 and processed at 11 because I just didn't get a chance to do them the weekend before. I held them over to see if they would gain weight by doing so, but they just seemed to plateau at 8 wks and then just maintained on their current feeding regimen. They averaged 10 lbs before dressing out and 5.5 to 6 lbs dressed weights. Now, those didn't receive fermented feeds~ate layer mash and whole grains and leaned more towards cracked corn with layer mash at the very end) but did have some ACV in the water when they were chicks and later on but not as consistent as I now do it.

    Think of it this way...I've seen posts of people who have used 500 lb -750 lbs by the 4th week and I have used 100 lbs. Even if I hold mine over 2 wks past most folks' birds, I still will not have even scratched the surface of the amounts they are feeding! The fact that I fed nonbroiler feeds, only fed once a day and didn't keep mine confined so as to not run off any weight, the last time I did this, and STILL had appropriate finishing weights tells me that it can be done on less feed than everyone is currently feeding their birds.

    If I am feeding say...250 lbs of feed in 10 wks and getting good finishing weights...and others are feeding 1000lbs to 1500 lbs of feed in 8 wks and getting the same weights, what does that say about time and feed conversion? If I am getting good weights at 8 wks, I'll start my processing then but will stretch it out over the next two weeks to be able to process the meats into freezer and jar without finding myself elbow deep in birds without a place to put them.
  7. trifecta

    trifecta Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 20, 2012
    Laidley, QLD, Australia
    I'm suprised at how much feed you say people are going through on those birds... I'm guessing that was for 100 or so?

    My point was just that if by feeding less, or something different, you stretch out the age to which you butcher, but go through the same amount (or more feed) over an extended period of time then you're not really doing yourself a favor. Labor comes into play here as well, but it sounds like most people on this forum are "self employed" chicken farmers- but I think its something to look at since I know I easily loose track of how much time I have spent doing "chicken stuff".

    I grouped my expenses into 3 main categories- my startup costs/equipment, my feed bill, and my processing. If you're only going through 250lbs of feed, I'm not sure that over the life time of the birds that you're going to get much better utilization and conversion than that. Do you think is the forage or the fermentation?

    Processing, I think, can get VERY expensive rather quickly depending on where you are. My fiance decided that I needed a degree in Ag Sci to safely process our chickens at home, so insisted that I drive 3h round trip to have 4 birds processed. SERIOUSLY. So, even in my prius, and with the place only charging $1.90/bird (but got hit with the $15 minimum), I spent a rather large portion on processing. I will NOT do that again in the future, if he doesn't want to eat my home processed chicken that's just more for me to enjoy.

    I see myself having to spend more on housing in the future. I would like to build a "real" meaty pen instead of hijacking my dog's run. I am going to look into electric fencing because I really want to be able to utilize more pasture next time around and I just dont have a safe way to contain them on grass unattended right now. Any thoughts on how predator-proof the electric systems are? We used to have a solar battery for my horse fence, that was really nice because it cut way down on the electricity bill, but you did have to pay attention to it and make sure it was getting charged.
  8. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    I do my own processing and have done since I was 10, so no expense there.

    Labor is something I never count when it comes to producing my own foods..I could very easily expend that same time sitting on the couch in my jammies watching movies but I wouldn't count that time as money either. Taking care of chickens occupies so little time that it doesn't really count as what I would call work~I would spend more time driving the half hour to the closest store and shopping for the meat, not to mention the gas used.

    I think the conversion relies solely on this bird's genetics, whereas most birds will turn their feed into just what you give them, these CX seem to turn anything you give them into meat, which is why I like to keep them. Time is no factor to me...meat in 8 wks or meat in 10 wks, who cares? The reason I feed the way I do is to promote slower growth and good health for the bird and consequently, for me. What have I gained if I spent enormous amounts of money on high pro feed to produce a bird that is much like those one can buy in the store?

    I'd rather go with lower proteins, healthier living conditions, exercise, sunshine, fresh air and fresh grass beneath their feet and an overall more pleasant experience for both the bird and myself than to try to prove I can raise a bird in my backyard as quickly as a commercial grower. Meanwhile, it's cheaper for me as well. To me, it's a win/win situation. [​IMG]

    I look upon the electric poultry netting as an investment...it can either keep birds in a place or keep them out of the garden, either way it is portable, lightweight, pleasing in appearance, very effective against larger preds like stray dogs and such and can be stored out of the way when not in use. You really won't find any other fencing as useful when it comes to poultry.
  9. SIMZ

    SIMZ Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 29, 2011
    Northwest Indiana
    My contribution here is going to be so beginner, but these things are really going to help my cost make more sense this time. You guys are probably way beyond this, but maybe someone new will stumble across this thread and find this helpful. I'm hoping to move to your more advanced level with my next batch. :)

    1) Chick price: Look for creative ways to find cheaper chick prices. Starting with chicks that are over $2 a piece gets you off to a poor start. I've lowered my price by splitting a large order with friends and even selling some extra chicks for a profit. My chick cost was 78 cents each this time.

    2) Learn to process your birds. We have a local lady that only charges $1 a bird - but that adds up quickly! Especially in transporting and gas costs.

    3) Local feed: this has been mentioned, but it's making a big difference with us this time. We used to spend about $15 for 50lbs of starter. Our local mill sells 50 lb bags of the same protein % for $11. THAT adds up even if they do go through a lot of feed.

    4) Raise more and sell some! I'm raising 50 this time and can do it cheaper per bird because the supplies (shavings, grit, etc.) are spread over a greater number. We're also selling a few to make up some costs. If all goes well, we'll be able to put 18 in the freezer for free and have some $$ left over to put towards our next batch. Check your local laws for selling broilers before you do this, of course.
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    We are ALL starters in this territory! [​IMG] I've been raising birds on the cheap for years but this is only my second batch of CX for the express purpose of meat. I didn't even get my chicks for $.78 a piece!!!! Great job!!! I'll have to pick your brain on that one the next time I order birds.

    You also got your starter cheaper than did I....see? We can all learn from each other. That is the only reason I start threads on this forum....not to teach so much as to learn from an exchange of good ideas. I am always in a state of learning and I'm not a bit ashamed to say it....I LOVE learning!

    Number 4 is something I am also trying but in a different way....I'm giving a workshop on processing. I am charging $35(from research it seems to be the going rate in states like mine) and will have 10 openings. For their money they will receive their bird they process, the knowledge of how to do it cheaply in their own backyards and they will also get to see where and how the birds were raised and will get to ask questions about how to do it cheaply and with a view towards optimal health for the bird. They will also be offered a sample of the meat in the form of bacon wrapped chicken(on toothpicks) , homemade bread and lemonade as refreshments.

    If all spots are taken in this workshop, I will have paid for my whole coop construction, the electric poultry netting fence and the price of chicks and feed. I call that free meat! I've also sold 10 to a family member and the rest are for our own consumption.

    Am I qualified to teach processing? I think so...been doing since I was 10. Still learning every day but have had many hundreds of chickens pass under the knife. My mother will be assisting me and she has even more experience in the area. She taught me how to do it, as my grandma taught her...we have a history of killing chickens, you might say. Every time I do it, there is room for improvement and that is also something I will teach. Always be looking for a better way....

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