I thought some might find what we're doing informative. I work on a certified organic farm that mostly sells vegetables and occasionally has grass fed beef for sale out of our small Hereford herd. However, we're mostly known for our veggies. This year we decided to try pastured poultry and after looking at the different bird options, bought our first batch of 100 cornish cross. I entered into something akin to a sharecropping agreement with the farm owners: 50/50 split on risk, profits, losses, labor - no capital costs reimbursed. We have access to a growing market of "locavores." There is a much higher demand for local poultry than there is product. The farm already has a customer base. Here are the economic assumptions I made before buying the first batch. Anticipated Costs: 100 Birds - $110 1 ton of 18% Feed - $860 Brooder Bedding - $24 Renting Processing Equipment - $50 Bags - $15 10% mortality Labor - no paid labor Total Anticipated Costs - $1,059 Anticipated Profits: 90 chickens @$20 per chicken - $1,800 March 24th our first 100 Ross 308 broilers arrived from Central Hatchery. We had one DOA. I downloaded the Ross 308 performance objectives found here and started weighing our chicks at day 7. I had made the decision to feed an 18% protein from start to finish, but as I started comparing our weights to the objectives as well as to what I saw in the "meatie weigh along" thread, I began to think I made mistake. We ran about 30% under the objectives until we couldn't weigh anymore due to our scale not being able to go that high. At day 10 we started seeing curled toes in some of the chicks with one of them bad enough that it was walking on its haunches. We removed the affected chicks and fed them raw beef liver and brewers yeast believing it to be a riboflavin deficiency. We started supplementing the rest of the chicks with brewers yeast. The chicks we removed got better after about a week and we put them back in the brooder. No other chicks were affected. Our brooder experience was a nightmare. Their brooder was 3.5'x7.5' and located in an awful spot. It was almost impossible to clean and quickly became overcrowded. We moved them into the chicken tractor at 3 weeks with some supplemental heat. We took the heat away at week 4. During week 5 we had our first mortality and had five more during week 6. I processed the biggest bird I could get my hands on in week six to see what the carcass weight would be. The cockerel weighed 5.28lbs live and 3.5lbs dressed. I was a bit disappointed since he was about the biggest. We decided to do two processing days, one at 7 weeks 4 days, and then a week later at 8 weeks 4 days. We lost 6 more before the first processing. At 7 weeks 4 days we processed 40 birds. The smallest dressed weight being 4.17lbs and the largest at 6.30lbs. The average being a little over 5lbs. Of the 40 we processed we sold 30. We lost 2 more over the next week and processed 43 birds at 8 weeks 4 days. I left three in the tractor because I was running out of time and they didn't want to get caught. The average weight of these was 6.25lbs. During processing I overscalded 6. Of the 37 we had up for sale, we sold 23. We did virtually no marketing other than a sign in front of the farm and email out to our email list. The sign brought us 6 new customers. We are not on a busy road. 53 birds sold at $5 per pound. 14 birds lost through mortality 6 birds unsellable due to processing errors - in freezer 3 birds still alive in the pasture 24 unsold birds - in freezer Actual Costs 100 birds - $110.00 1 ton of 18% feed - $855 Brooder Bedding - $24 Renting Processing Equipment 2x - $100 14% mortality bags - $15 Labor - no paid labor Total Actual Costs - $1,104 Actual Profits 53 chickens @ $5lb - $1,380 minus costs - $1,104 $ 276 I'm not dissatisfied with the results. We didn't lose money and we had a 1/4 ton of feed left for our second batch which is now 3 weeks old. Things I will do different, things I learned, and how we're moving forward. Brooding. They stink... a lot. We will be moving to pasture brooding like these pictures from Jericho Settler's Farm. We're doing something similar to it now... taking our brooder out of the barn (it's on a cart) when it's not raining and letting them run on the grass during the day. We need to build different brooders. We will separate each batch of 100 into two batches of 50 when they head into their chicken tractors. I felt the 10'x12' Salatin style tractor was overcrowded with 100 chickens. I'm wondering if that didn't have something to do with the mortality rate we had. The darn chicken tractor needs darn wheels! We added two wheels part way through, and will add another pair soon. I will do the 18% protein from start to finish again though the current batch I started on 20% because I thought I had made a bad decision. We will be advertising in the local paper. We already have customers who bought from our first batch signing up for the next batch. We now know what a bird looks like before it dies. We will cull them out instead of pulling bodies out of the tractor. The blue combs and blue/red skin usually meant the bird died within 24 hours. Add heavy breathing and/or listlessness to the list and they were usually dead within 8 hours. We got our 1000 bird permit without a hitch. Our inspector was easy to deal with and the requirements were easily met. When we speak with people at our co-op we're amazed at how many haven't gone through the inspection process because they think it's difficult. It's not. We will keep running batches of 100 until we have a customer base where demand exceeds our supply. None of us are scared of more chicken in the freezer, and besides, it's great trade fodder. For example our livestock vet will come out for a couple of chickens and a dozen duck eggs. In the meantime we are working with our inspector to get our under 20,000 bird permit. It looks like our biggest hurdle will be a flush toilet. I still don't understand why that makes a difference since one washes their hands regardless of where they squat. It's not like anyone's butt is touching the poultry.... We processed our first 40 birds in three hours and the other 43 in an hour and a half. We could not have done so without the help of other local farmers. Their experience helped us tremendously. I've been volunteering to help others process since last winter trying to gain experience and it was well worth the time. I now know three other farmers who I can trade processing labor for processing labor. This is probably a dry read, and many may not find it interesting, but I was looking for this sort of thing before starting out. I'm sure I left tons of stuff out so feel free to ask questions if you have any.