Suggest fast growing Heritage bird

Dec 2, 2020
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I plan on hatching my own meat birds ongoing without being dependent on hatchery birds each year.

I am keeping Icelandics as my layers. They don’t make for great meat chickens. I have quite a bit of predator pressure. Skunks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, black bears....so the Icelandics fit the bill of being able to survive better

Most of the information online is conflicting.

Delaware, Hampshire reds, chanteclar, Bresse, Dorkings and others are mentioned frequently.

Wildly different estimates of time to butchering weight online.


What is fastest growing “heritage” breed one can raise? What if forager/predator resistant is added?
 

iwltfum

Crowing
Sep 10, 2018
769
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Maine
To me, predator resistant reads as light on their feet. I have seen barred rocks grow to a really nice size in 5-6months, astrolorps and easter Eggers too. Males will be significantly bigger than females with the heritage breeds.
 

MysteryChicken

Spicy Silkies🌶🥢
Premium Feather Member
May 31, 2018
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Tawas City, Michigan
I plan on hatching my own meat birds ongoing without being dependent on hatchery birds each year.

I am keeping Icelandics as my layers. They don’t make for great meat chickens. I have quite a bit of predator pressure. Skunks, foxes, coyotes, wolves, black bears....so the Icelandics fit the bill of being able to survive better

Most of the information online is conflicting.

Delaware, Hampshire reds, chanteclar, Bresse, Dorkings and others are mentioned frequently.

Wildly different estimates of time to butchering weight online.


What is fastest growing “heritage” breed one can raise? What if forager/predator resistant is added?
I just cross breed different ones for meat birds. Best cross I done so far is Brahma X Easter Egger.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
29,489
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Southeast Louisiana
Most of the information online is conflicting.

Delaware, Hampshire reds, chanteclar, Bresse, Dorkings and others are mentioned frequently.

Wildly different estimates of time to butchering weight online.
There are reasons you get wildly different estimates of time and butchering weights for the same breed. Different people get wildly different results for different reasons.

One reason is strain. If the person who is selecting which chickens get to breed uses a different criteria than another person they get different results. If someone is breeding them for show size is important. How fast they reach that size is not important to them as the judge doesn't care, the judge can't tell by looking how fast they got to that size. Someone breeding for show has to pay attention to eye color, ear lobe color, type and appearance of the comb, and many other things that have nothing to do with meat bird traits. Some people might select for egg laying traits. Some breeders don't worry about show bird traits but breed for producing meat. Hatcheries are breeding to mass market chicks at a competitive price, they are going to use breeding techniques that bring the price down which does not lend to breeding for the same traits as others. If you can find a breeder that knows what they are doing and are breeding for the traits you want you can get some really good stock to start with but don't expect to pay hatchery prices for those chicks. I don't have information on which breeders that might be but some people on this forum have done the research and might be able to help if they see this thread.

We raise them differently. We feed them differently. Some provide a high-octane feeding regimen while others may depend on pasturing them. How you feed them can have a huge effect on how fast they grow and how big they grow.

People use different criteria to decide when to butcher them. Some look at age, some at weight. How you plan to cook them can have an effect on what age you might want to butcher them.

Some people like different body conformations (light versus dark meat) or may believe certain breeds taste better. We use different criteria to determine what works best for us.

What is fastest growing “heritage” breed one can raise? What if forager/predator resistant is added?
As far as I'm concerned there is no one heritage breed or even strain of a breed that works best for all of us. We want different things.
 

Mosey2003

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 13, 2016
3,177
5,241
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North-Central IL
What you need to be focusing on is breeders, not necessarily breeds. If you want a fast-growing dual purpose, you want someone breeding them with that goal in mind. New Hampshires (no Red in their name like many think) tend to be good for meat, especially if you're near someone that breeds them that way. Rocks (White and Barred) tend to be good growers, Delawares and Dorkings (if you can find them), Australorp, and some strains of Marans all will make a fine table bird if you raise them well.

If you're going to order from a hatchery, they're all going to be about the same and they aren't going to perform as well (for early butchering) as breeder birds will if they're bred well.

Male black sexlinks make pretty nice butcher birds, you'd want to keep a pen of Barred Rock hens and some NH roosters. You could sell the pullet chicks for layers right out of the brooder.

As far as predator resistance, I'm no help there. Anything heavier is going to be more prone to predation.
 

gabbyliberty

Hatching
Oct 4, 2021
2
2
1
There are reasons you get wildly different estimates of time and butchering weights for the same breed. Different people get wildly different results for different reasons.

One reason is strain. If the person who is selecting which chickens get to breed uses a different criteria than another person they get different results. If someone is breeding them for show size is important. How fast they reach that size is not important to them as the judge doesn't care, the judge can't tell by looking how fast they got to that size. Someone breeding for show has to pay attention to eye color, ear lobe color, type and appearance of the comb, and many other things that have nothing to do with meat bird traits. Some people might select for egg laying traits. Some breeders don't worry about show bird traits but breed for producing meat. Hatcheries are breeding to mass market chicks at a competitive price, they are going to use breeding techniques that bring the price down which does not lend to breeding for the same traits as others. If you can find a breeder that knows what they are doing and are breeding for the traits you want you can get some really good stock to start with but don't expect to pay hatchery prices for those chicks. I don't have information on which breeders that might be but some people on this forum have done the research and might be able to help if they see this thread.

We raise them differently. We feed them differently. Some provide a high-octane feeding regimen while others may depend on pasturing them. How you feed them can have a huge effect on how fast they grow and how big they grow.

People use different criteria to decide when to butcher them. Some look at age, some at weight. How you plan to cook them can have an effect on what age you might want to butcher them.

Some people like different body conformations (light versus dark meat) or may believe certain breeds taste better. We use different criteria to determine what works best for us.


As far as I'm concerned there is no one heritage breed or even strain of a breed that works best for all of us. We want different things.
Based on how you would cook chicken, can you recommend an age that's best for different cooking (baking, grilling, roasting, etc)?
 

U_Stormcrow

Crossing the Road
Jun 7, 2020
8,161
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As someone who free ranges, I can say with absolute confidence that even if you get great breed stock from a breeder focused on meat production in a heritage, if they free range, they will put on weight slower, and be tougher. For the same reason that two people on 3k a day calorie diets end up at different weights if one is a runner, and the other "runs"in an MMORPG all day. A fast growing, meaty, predator aware free ranger is like the holy grail of Chicken raising. No such beast.

Closest you will get currently is one of the better "Freedom Ranger" lines - hardly a heritage breed. Or sit down and do the hard work of building your own landrace, from the ground up, well suited to your predators and your climate.

Otherwise, its a matter of balancing priorities - hatching your own BSL and culling the males for meat is one decent solution. Though you will need to periodically replace your breeders. Finding a large, not heavy feathered bird, and crossing it with a very fast grower may also give you what you need - but no guarantees it will breed true.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
29,489
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997
Southeast Louisiana
Based on how you would cook chicken, can you recommend an age that's best for different cooking (baking, grilling, roasting, etc)?
That is a fair question but no, I don't have ages for cooking methods. There are too many variables. Some of that is your personal preferences and what you are used to. If you are used to the store chicken, that's the Cornish X butchered around 6 to 8 weeks of age. You might find a 12week old cockerel fried kind of chewy where someone else would be OK with a 14 or even a 16 week old. You might be OK with an older fried bird but your kids or spouse may not be. The same thing is true of other cooking methods.

How you manage and feed them can make a difference. Part of that is diet, part is how much exercise they get. A couch potato will be more tender than an athlete.

As they go through puberty the hormones cause the boys to increase in texture and flavor. Not all cockerels go through puberty on the same schedule, some start a lot earlier than others. Some of us like that flavor, some call it gamey and hate it. An early maturing 18 week old can be a lot tougher than a late starter.

Pullets don't go through that hormone thing like the boys do. The girls will gain texture as they age, an old hen can be really stringy if not cooked right. But with the girls it's a really slow process, with the boys it can be really fast. Do you eat the girls?

Aging, brining, and marinades make a difference. All birds should be aged until rigor mortis passes. If you don't age them, any of them can be really tough. There is some debate on here as to whether brining tenderizes them or just causes them to retain moisture. Retaining moisture can help if you use a dry-cooking method but doesn't really make a difference if yo use a wet method. The acid in a marinade breaks down fiber so marinading can make a difference in texture. How strong the acid is and how long the meat is in the acid controls how much the fiber is broken down.

Details of your cooking method can make a difference. I suspect frying in a deep layer of lard might give different results than trying a thin layer of other oils. How much do you baste when roasting? When I bake I use 250 F, I don't go as hot as 325 F. What temperatures do you use?

Another reason I hesitate to give ages is that I don't use many different methods. I don't fry or grill my own chicken so I don't have that experience. I'd think you'd be OK frying or grilling to 12 weeks, 14 weeks might work. I bake my cockerels up to 6 to 7 months and my pullets up to 1 year. After that I tend to go to other methods.

My general suggestion is to use trial and error. Try something. If it doesn't work try something else until you find your sweet spot. When you start out try to be cautious but as you gain experience get more daring.

Good luck!
 

U_Stormcrow

Crossing the Road
Jun 7, 2020
8,161
28,549
776
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
I take most of my "young" male birds at 15 weeks+. Usually closer to 20 weeks. They are all free rangers. I like braising. Its easy, and doesn't require that I watch the (crock) pot. I don't fry, as I frequently burn myself. Baking results in a bird with a lot of "chew" at those ages, probably amplified by my bird's activity levels. Soups, stocks, stews all good at any age. Smoking also works well, since it allows connective tissues to gelatinize, creating the illusion of tenderness in otherwise slightly overcooked meat (though not as overcooked as beef or pork, obviously).

I tend to marinate with mild acids and strong flavors (yogurt based curries, for instance) when I take older males during the wet aging process. Generally don't cull young females, they are for egg production, limited experience. ...and put me in the camp of brining doesn't tenderize, just preserves moisture.

Over a year in age, I like mechanical tenderization. I grind them for sausage. Chicken can be used as a pork substitute in most sausage recipes with similar end results. Duck is a good substitute for beef. Poultry fat, however, can't be used as a beef/pig/etc fat substitute - it doesn't get hard enough at room temp, the texture is all wrong.
 

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