Should I pay to have birds processed? (& other questions)

Iluveggers

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This year, we only have chicks for laying. We are buying free-range, naturally grown (outside) chickens from a local farmer for $4/lb (best price we could find). I refuse to eat chicken purchased at the grocery store (former vegan but I’ve been eating ethically grown meats since switching back).

I am thinking next year I’d like to grow a small flock of meat birds. What breeds are easiest to grow for meat? I’ve heard things about birds getting too big too fast, is there a slightly slower-growing breed that still reaches adequate size? How long does it take to get to processing size?

And my big question, we found a Menanite farm who will process & bag any chicken for personal consumption for $2.50 a bird. Do you think that’s worth it? It would save us from buying other equipment. Either way it gives me an option if we get a mean rooster of my layers...

Anything else I should think about? I’m assuming if I got birds in the spring I could process by fall, so they would not need winter housing.
 

Molpet

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Ridgerunner

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What breeds are easiest to grow for meat? I’ve heard things about birds getting too big too fast, is there a slightly slower-growing breed that still reaches adequate size?
For you, probably one of the Rangers. The Cornish Cross (CX) are the birds grown by the commercial meat industry. There is nothing GMO or hormones about them, they have been developed by selective breeding to put on meat very rapidly. They can be butchered at 6 to 8 weeks but they require more management so they are not the easiest. Dual purpose breeds grow a lot slower and probably will not reach the size you want. Rangers sort of fall in between but are closer tot he CX. To me it sounds like what you want.

How long does it take to get to processing size?
There is some personal preference in this but probably around 12 weeks. Some of that depends on how you manage them.

And my big question, we found a Menanite farm who will process & bag any chicken for personal consumption for $2.50 a bird. Do you think that’s worth it?
Absolutely. While I think you need to learn how to do it yourself so you can better appreciate what's going on and handle emergencies that is a good price. If you try one yourself you may better appreciate the price.

Anything else I should think about? I’m assuming if I got birds in the spring I could process by fall, so they would not need winter housing.
In New York it's probably best to get them in spring. You want it to warm up enough so you can get them off a heat source pretty early but hopefully butcher before it gets unbearably hot. Heat can be unhealthy for them.

The Rangers are not as bad about this as CX but they are pooping machines. To gain weight that fast they eat a lot so a lot comes out their rear end. Poop management can be more of an issue than you expect. Rangers usually do OK on pasture so if you can raise them like that you might be able to spread the poop out. Just be prepared for poop.
 

3KillerBs

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I *personally* wouldn't -- but that's because I'm exceedingly frugal and willing to substitute labor for $$$ in many areas of life and because I'm VERY experienced at turning whole, dressed chickens into chicken parts so turning a live chicken into a whole, dressed chicken is just a small added step for me.

For someone less experienced with the after-slaughter butchering process and, especially, for someone doubtful of their ability to deal with the slaughter process, that sounds like an excellent option at a price lower than I've often seen quoted on these forums.
 

Acre4Me

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We grow Cornish x bc short time to get useable bird with great carcass, best feed to muscle conversion. Yes, they will get large fast, so feed 24/7 for first 3 weeks, then ration feed to 2x per day -all they can eat over a 15-30 min period. They poop ALOT. They drink a lot of water too, more than regular birds in my experience.

We have also butchered other meaty birds. BJG and Dorkings worked well. Nice meaty carcasses by 4-5 months. BJG are slower to grow, but they are the largest breed, so a big carcass, but also bigger bones at that younger age. The Dorkings are known for their meat, and have higher amount of dark meat than others birds.


Plymouth Rocks are considered meaty and pretty easy to find. of course, some strains will be meatier than others, so results may vary.

some grow Rangers bc they do well free-ranging for food and a decent carcass by 4-5 months. Search BYC bc many posts on rangers, including size at butcher.

Processing. Sure, convenient to have another process your birds, and the price is fair. But, it takes little investment to butcher your birds. Our first few times we didn’t even scald, just dry plucked-not too bad if only doing a few birds, but scalding makes the task quicker. A plucker is convenient and really only necessary if you are doing many birds (say, you wanted to process 30+ in a day). However, if you have no need for the skin, just remove skin, no plucking. Your first time butchering is a learning curve, and you will be slow. If you choose to butcher yourself, then only plan for 10 or fewer birds that first day. You will get faster, guaranteed.

we have 2 large coolers -we use these to cool down the birds quickly. Add layer of ice, layer of birds, more ice, more birds, more ice. We then put several into bags, on trays in the fridge to age a few days before freezing or using. Others will cool the bird, package and freeze right away.

good luck, whatever you decide! Homegrown meat is tasty!
 

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