Thinking about raising chickens for meat... How many for a first timer

Back on the Farm

Songster
8 Years
Mar 9, 2011
114
4
103
Maryland
I've got laying hens for eggs and have been thinking about raising some meat chickens for my family. I haven't done any processing-so I've got first time worries... More along the lines of can I handle it? I'm a farm girl and know where my food comes from, but personally, never killed anything myself for food. My hubby & son hunt & I've helped them field dress and that doesn't bother me.

I was wondering what a good number is for starting out with meat chickens. I can get them locally, so I can get small numbers. I just don't want to get in over my head as I most likely will be the one doing the processing. Food cost for the chicks isn't a big concern as it is fairly reasonable in my area and I have plenty of space for them to free range. Also, any advice for setting up a work space? I really don't want to spend any money for a prep/processing station. I've got plenty of scrap lumber - and can build a brooder/pen for the meaties for the time they need housing. I've got an old kitchen sink that I can use & hook up my garden hose to for water. Scalding pot & set-up has me a bit stumpped...not sure what is best to use & keep hot.

thank you
 

booker81

Redneck Tech Girl
9 Years
Apr 18, 2010
1,929
67
183
Mid-MI
I think a nice even dozen or so is a good number to start with - it's enough that if you have some losses due to heart failure or something, you'll have enough worth still doing, and not too many that it's overwhelming to process on your own.

I do all my processing at home - killing in the garage, followed by a good rinse with the hose, then scalded in the kitchen, plucked and eviscerated on the counter and washed in the sink. I'm all about my comfort
I processed 40 over a two week period this way in the fall, with no change in process (other than I usually do batches of 6 or so at one time.

Here's a blog on that:

http://ramblingredneckmom.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-to-process-chickens-at-home.html

There are LOTS of ways to make it easier and faster - kill cones, pluckers, etc - but for the very basics, you really don't need much - and most of it should be in your house already.
 

ScottyHOMEy

Songster
8 Years
Jun 21, 2011
253
5
101
Waldo County, Maine
A dozen or fifteen would be a good number to start with. Do it earlier in the year so that, if it works for you, you can run another batch or two through before winter.

My own processing setup -- traffic cones with pails underneath to catch the blood. For a work surface, we here in the neighborhood all use one fellow's "butcherin' board" for everything from deer to pigs to poultry. He works at a chemical plant down at the waterfront and has a section of food-grade plastic cut from a large tank, so it's not entirely flat, but enough so and thick enough that we can rest it on tall sawhorses (bench height, not table height is a good idea for back strain). It resembles Coryan and is easily hosed down as the work requires. I'll admit it's rather unique. Any good surface at the right height will work, but it's a plus if it's easy to clean. If I ever lose access to the neighborhood loaner, I'd probably ask around some of the local contractors for an old Formica countertop from a kitchen renovation. If I foudn one of a suitable size and dimension, I'd likely cut a 4" square hole in the top and position a pail under it to catch what inwards I don't keep.

I don't have a sink for my setup, but if I had one with a drainboard as part of it, I'd sure be using some scrap lumber to get it up on legs and put it to use for a final pinning and rinsing of the carcasses.

Depending on the number of birds to be done, I'll either line clean garbage cans or 5-gallon pails with a can liner for chilled water to rinse or hold the birds between steps.

As for scalding, handiest and simplest is a propane ring and a turkey fryer. Can be found for not-exorbitant price and handy for setup and storage. Simple for maintaining the right water temp for scalding.

The basics are hot water, chillled water and lots of running water. A surface to work on, and a pail of a mild detergent and bleach solution for wiping down work surfaces and knives.

Primitive but adequate.
 

RWD

Songster
9 Years
Jan 2, 2011
347
32
138
Wartrace TN.
Cant go wrong with a dozen or so. The best scalder I have found is a turkey fryer, runs on propane. But you can get by heating the water on the stove in a large stock pot. Scald at 140-150 degrees, for 30-40 seconds while agitating the chicken up and down. (bought mine at walmart for 39.95) Then I am partial to my plucker, or you can use a tub plucker, or pluck by hand.
 

donrae

Hopelessly Addicted
Premium member
9 Years
Jun 18, 2010
31,453
3,899
581
Southern Oregon
One thing to always keep in mind is, how much freezer space do you have?

I'd start with ten or less, myself. I've not had large losses with my meat chicks, though, so don't really factor that in.
 

Darin115

Songster
11 Years
Apr 28, 2008
387
13
143
Asheboro, NC
I started with 6 the first time. I was glad that I did. I underestimated the amount of feed they could eat and the amount of poo they put out.
My next batch was 11. Now I am planning for 25 at the end of the month.

Darin
 

TinyChickenLady

Songster
8 Years
Jul 14, 2011
1,580
12
131
My backyard farm, Maine
This is my spring project and I'm clueless. Hope you don't mind if I hijack for a moment...

1. Can they house with laying chickens or should they be seperated?
2. What should they be fed? What's the difference between their feed and a lyaing chickens feed?
3. How long to keep them?
4. Is it easier to just get all females than to worry about caponing?

That's it for now LoL Thanks
 

whitejerabias

In the Brooder
8 Years
Dec 6, 2011
99
2
41
Good thread! Thanks.


Aside from fatter breasts what would be the dis/advantages to getting some plain old Cornish Cross X (or whatever, I mean conventional meat birds) as opposed to doing a DP bird? Is one easier on a first timer?
 

Renee'

Songster
10 Years
Feb 8, 2009
337
2
131
Yucaipa, CA
Quote:1. No, they can not be housed with your layers, they will be too small. Yes, they can be housed with layer chicks their same age.
2. They need a higher protein content. Start with one bag of chick starter then switch to flock raiser.
3. Keep them where they can poo alot. They will be warmer than layer chicks so keep an eye out for pasty butt (pasty butt = too hot).
4. Just get a straight run, you'll have a variety of sizes rather than all huge chickens or all small chickens. If you get all pullets you'll have to feed them longer to get them bigger. Remeber you'll probably process them when they are 8 weeks old. (Depending on your family size you may want to process earlier or later. 8 weeks was too long for my family of two. I processed my last batch at 7 weeks and the size was better for us.)

5. I recommed that you spend some time just randomly reading posts on the meaty forum, there is tons of info here. Also, take a look at the articles in the sticky at the top of this page, very valuable info.
 
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TinyChickenLady

Songster
8 Years
Jul 14, 2011
1,580
12
131
My backyard farm, Maine
Renee' :

Quote:1. No, they can not be housed with your layers, they will be too small. Yes, they can be housed with layer chicks their same age.
2. They need a higher protein content. Start with one bag of chick starter then switch to flock raiser.
3. Keep them where they can poo alot. They will be warmer than layer chicks so keep an eye out for pasty butt (pasty butt = too hot).
4. Just get a straight run, you'll have a variety of sizes rather than all huge chickens or all small chickens. If you get all pullets you'll have to feed them longer to get them bigger. Remeber you'll probably process them when they are 8 weeks old. (Depending on your family size you may want to process earlier or later. 8 weeks was too long for my family of two. I processed my last batch at 7 weeks and the size was better for us.)

5. I recommed that you spend some time just randomly reading posts on the meaty forum, there is tons of info here. Also, take a look at the articles in the sticky at the top of this page, very valuable info.

Great! Thank you for the advice. They will be getting bought around the same time as other layer chicks so they will be the same age. I will definately go "troll" the sticky and meat convos. Thanks again
I didn't realize it was only 8 weeks. That doesn't seem too bad.​
 

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