Reliable meat birds

Sweethorizons

In the Brooder
Aug 10, 2020
15
39
33
South Carolina
Hi I've read a few posts about heritage crosses and I've been wondering about the possibility of a australorp cross being viable for meat (Australorp xcornish broiler crossed with a Cornish x australorp Cornish) or if I would be better off going with a meatier breed to cross (Delaware or Brahma or something) my goal is to get birds that dress out at 3-4 lbs or more by 14-16 weeks while they're still tender.
I was wondering if any of you guys have experience with crossing Australorps or if I should keep my flock as pure eggers.
Thanks.
 

Teneniel

Songster
Feb 21, 2020
318
1,304
133
NW WA State
Have you thought about breeding Bresse? I think that’ll be my go to when I have more space. But I’ll finish them on fruit rather than milk

EDIT: ah I see from another post that you don’t have pasture, ignore me!
 

Sweethorizons

In the Brooder
Aug 10, 2020
15
39
33
South Carolina
Have you thought about breeding Bresse? I think that’ll be my go to when I have more space. But I’ll finish them on fruit rather than milk

EDIT: ah I see from another post that you don’t have pasture, ignore me!
I have plenty of pasture space, perhaps you're confusing me with someone else? And if I remember right bresse are slow growers aren't they?
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
25,747
15,845
777
Southeast Louisiana
I think your question is not as simple as you may think. I'll try to approach it from different directions.

Many people tend to think that every chicken of a certain breed is identical. They are not. There is a world of difference in the Australorp you'll get from most hatcheries in the US (not sure where you are from) than an Australorp from a breeder that knows what they are doing and is breeding for what you want. The quality of the stock you start with will have a big effect on your results, especially at the start of your breeding program. The quality of the stock could be much more important than the breed, depending on your goals.

That's the second thing, your goals. What do you consider to be a good meat bird? We all have different personal preferences and goals. I butcher my dual purpose at 23 weeks. You don't care what mine are like at 23 weeks, you are looking for 14 to 16 weeks. Do you have a preference for light meat or dark meat? Some people say they can tell a difference in texture or flavor between breeds. It sounds like dressed weight is an important criteria for you, it's not that important for me. There are only two if us and I can get two meals out of a small pullet. Don't get me wrong, I like size but a nice cockerel instead of a pullet just means I get chicken for lunch. Are you raising them for your own consumption or are you selling them? If you butcher cockerels only, what will you do with your pullets? How you feed them and whether you pasture them can have an effect on how they work out for you. We are so unique in so many different ways there is no one clear answer.

Then there is the egg laying question. Cornish X are not great layers. They are meat specialists. They aren't always horrible but how much would even a small drop in egg production hurt you? It would not bother me, eggs aren't that important. I give away my excess. Some people sell them. I don't know the magnitude of your operations, do you plan to hatch a few for personal use or do you plant to hatch a lot to sell? I find when I'm selective breeding the more different things I'm selecting for the more challenging it is to make good selections. You may have to choose between size, body proportions, number of eggs laid, size of eggs laid, or other things. It gets further complicated if you include things like feather color, comb type, or behaviors.

If one of your criteria is egg laying you have to keep a lot of pullets long enough to actually evaluate their egg laying. That can get expensive in feed and facilities plus take up your time for record keeping. If you are just evaluating for meat at 14 to 16 weeks, butcher the ones you don't want to eat, and breed the ones you do. Much simpler. But that means you have to manage who breeds with whom. That can complicate it.

My main suggestion is to decide on your goals and try a method. See how you like it. I personally like Australorp, they are part of my barnyard mix. But my goals are different from yours. And it's you goals that count, not mine or anyone else's.
 

mandelyn

Crowing
11 Years
Aug 30, 2009
2,480
1,091
351
Mt Repose, OH
My Coop
Trying to keep the Cornish X alive long enough to do something with them breeding wise will be tedious and time consuming, some of the lines of them sound a little more resilient than others but they were all still bred to be a "terminal cross" to gain that growth rate and they're not bred to live past those first couple of months.

Using Red Rangers or something along those lines would have less losses as they're growing out. In crossing them with the Australorps, you'll see some good results and some cull results, it's been my experiences that hybrids are fairly consistent that first generation and after that there is a higher cull rate in the 2nd and 3rd generation and you have to get even more selective in the breeding choices to move forward.

We raise Bresse and Marans (a meaty line of Marans, not that lean layer body type) and we see a dress weight from 3lb-4.5lbs around 16 weeks. At 14 weeks some of the Marans cockerels are at 2.5lbs and some are bigger. The bigger ones with good feather color coming in are held back as possible breeding candidates.

After a lot of dabbling with crosses and purebreds in various bloodlines, I've finally wrapped my mind around sticking with purebreds and relying on the culls for dinner. That way I can hatch more, which then provides more breeding choices, which then improves the flock faster. With improvements come a better price when I have good ones to part with.

Besides making Olive Eggers for fun, I've finally gotten the hybridizing out of my system. :lau

Getting past that 2nd or 3rd generation of the higher cull rate in a project requires a lot of space, hatching a ton of them to find the better birds, the expense to feed, plus the time involved. In starting with good birds that meet your goals, you'll get somewhere faster.
 

Sweethorizons

In the Brooder
Aug 10, 2020
15
39
33
South Carolina
Thank you guys for your replies, I knew it was a big project going into this, but I've got a few acres to play with and would like to see if it's a possibility to do, I said 14-16 weeks as I've heard that if you let them grow past that they get too tough?

I planned on my hybrid attempt to be for consumption only, would much rather try to sell purebreds from a second flock than try to sell a barnyard mix, they seem to sell faster. How do your birds look at 23 weeks ridgerunner?

Edit: I've thought about it and you guys make a lot of sense, I feel like I was too engrossed to see how other people made their flocks for their own purpose, that I've neglected the fact this one would be for my own. I'll probably just keep this post as an experiment log or something?

Thanks again for your answers, they were quite frankly way more in depth than I expected
 
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
25,747
15,845
777
Southeast Louisiana
I said 14-16 weeks as I've heard that if you let them grow past that they get too tough?

Depends on how you cook them. One of the guys on here likes to grill his cockerels at 14 weeks, he's put a lot of effort into getting his birds in a real good place at 14 weeks. Any older and they might be getting a bit tough to grill. He sells his pullets as egg layers. If i remember right he based his flock on White Rock that he got from a certain breeder. He tried different breeds and strains of those breeds before he settled on White Rock.

I don't even think of frying or grilling mine at 23 weeks, I bake the cockerels at 250* F for about 3 hours in a tightly covered pan. I think my pullets out at about 8 months and also bake them. My old hens and old roosters go into the crock pot to make broth so they cook on low for typically 16 to 20 hours. I pick the meat and use it for tacos, salads, or soups. That meat makes a great sandwich for lunch too.

I don't have any photos of mine at 23 weeks and I don't weigh them. My goals are mainly to play with genetics but I also eat them. Size isn't my top criteria but it is an important one. For instance, I set out to make a red or black mottled bird that lays green or blue eggs and goes broody a lot. I also eat any that have behaviors I don't like, human aggression for sure but also how they treat other chickens. As I said earlier, the more things you are selecting for the harder it is. Sometimes i had to make trade-offs. But I did select for larger as much as I could. It really didn't take that long to see a difference. It wasn't so much that the largest cockerel got huge but more that the smaller cockerels (that I'm eating anyway) got larger. I was happy with that result.

Just for fun, this is what my green and blue egg laying hens that went broody a lot looked like. We often liked photos. You can get there.
Hens.JPG
 

Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
21,321
32,393
1,036
southern Michigan
Welcome!
I've been interested in white Chanteclers, a dual purpose breed, and keep the largest cockerels and pullets as breeding prospects, as long as they have no structural or behavioral problems. It's really difficult to select for multiple traits at once! This year the largest cockerels were 5.5 lbs and 5.3 lbs, live weight, at fifteen weeks of age.
I think your project would work out better starting with the largest Plymouth Rocks you can find, if you want white birds, rather than Cornishx hybrids, who won't breed true, even if any live long enough to reproduce.
The one Freedom Ranger hen we kept produced maybe two or three medium eggs per week, very funny, considering her huge size. She landed in the crock pot that second year, and we didn't try to raise any chicks from her eggs.
Try something and have fun!
Mary
 

Compost King

Free Ranging
Apr 19, 2018
3,128
10,607
667
Salisbury, North Carolina
It not that hard to get a CX female to live until breeding age, very little work to do it. When I do it I start with 3 and usually end with one because they have complications where they just get sick and die. They were meant to live very long so any genetic issues that cause early death are not bred out of them. Males are a different story, they end up being too top heavy to breed correctly.
IMG_5906.JPG


Not a great picture but just a week after being separated from those in the broiler pen at age 5 weeks (6 weeks in the picture) the CX are climbing on top of a 4 or 5 foot compost pile searching for food. I give them less food than I give my egg layers and make them go looking for feed all day. Since my composts are rich in bugs/worms I now have them ignoring the feeder and staying on the compost pile when I feed them an hour before sun set. This keeps them in good shape and it doesn't take long for them to get this way. Probably best to separate them at 4 weeks instead of 5 but I wanted to add a few things to my compost pile before I started this. At 4 weeks you can tell the males from the females although this year one of the females turned into a late maturing male. I figure I can try to breed him too but doubt I am successful from what I have read.
IMG_5818.JPG

From the breeding pen about the same time, maybe a few days earlier than the compost pile picture. They are already lazy and sitting by the feeder for when they have the energy to stand up and eat. I actually spend more time adding layers of straw to the meat pen and filling feeders. The Compost Pile foraging CX I just open and shut their coop and give them a little feed an hour before sunset to make sure they have the nutrients they need to survive. Getting the females to breeding age is easy but I Start out with 3 and usually end up with one.

As far as picking out a good sized Heritage Rooster (or even a mutt/hybrid) I use any ol rooster I have but if its important to you to have a good meaty Heritage rooster for the task I suggest Freedom Ranger Hatchery because they have New Hampshires and Delawares they sell as Meat Heritage.

I have one Barred Rock Cockerel who will likely be the first Rooster I use on this years Cornish X females, I also have 8 Straight Run Light Brahmas that will likely produce me a male for this. I am also considering getting a batch of Red Rangers and using a Red Ranger Male because Red Ranger x CX might make some seriously impressive meat birds.

I just want to prove to myself I can be self sustainable... which is impossible because I can't produce enough feed on my tiny lot however if I eliminate the step of needing to mail order meat birds which is a hassle for me being deaf and everyone wearing a mask at the post office.

If its about saving money and costs its just better to order a new batch of CX because they will get them to you cheaper than it costs to produce your own. However if you like Ranger birds (in a general sense not a specific brand sense) they get expensive to order and breeding them might be cheaper.
 

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