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Wanted to raise meat chickens next year?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by jasmer, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. jasmer

    jasmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My husband and I wanted to raise meat chickens next year, preferably in some free range capacity. We live on 5 acres and will be building a 5' stock fence around our property (yes, I'm aware that a chicken will probably get out of that if so inclined). I was looking at meat breeds and apparently the Cornish X is the most popular but they seem to live such an inhumane existence. Is it true they grow too fast and have problems moving around and organ issues and all that? It seems to inhumane. Are there any other breeds with good meat production? Would a slower growing breed get tough by butchering age?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Fowl_Odor002

    Fowl_Odor002 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Cornish Cross are the best birds for meat
    they grow very fast - butchering age is 7-8 weeks
    and yes, their genetics do suck; they often drop dead for no reason

    they are eating (and pooping) machines and don't do much of anything else
    it's only inhumane the way factories grow them in over crowded bird cages with no sunlight

    just be warned, they are much, much, much more "smelly" than regular chickens


    Red Broilers / Freedom Rangers are a second choice
    they mature in 12 weeks

    Delaware and Jersey Giants were popular before the arrival of Franken-chickens
     
  3. DianeS

    DianeS Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you stuff a Cornish X with as much food as it can hold in an effort to get it bigger faster, and keep it confined to a tiny area so that the meat is less exercised and stays whiter - then yes it will have trouble walking and will have some issues with the heart and liver and maybe lungs.

    BUT if you portion the food into reasonable amounts, and encourage the chickens to move around, and give it sunlight and fresh air - then all you have is a huge chicken that matures in 7-9 weeks instead of 6 months.

    I bought 25 Cornish X chicks for the first time this past spring. Two died the second day (typical for any breed, also had a Rhode Island Red die the same day). One died about 4 weeks in, when I autopsied it it had tumors, so it was sick from the get-go. And one disappeared, I assume a predator got it. The remaining 21 lived just fine through to butchering which happened in small amounts between 7-10 weeks of age. Only one had any difficulties, and she just struggled with standing up after sitting down for a while, so I made sure to include her in the next processing batch, so she only struggled for a day.


    It's all in how you raise them. The quality of the food, the amount of food, the quality of the environment. I restricted feed after they were 4 weeks of age or so, kept the water and feed far apart to encourage walking back and forth, and raised them with layer chicks so they'd see their peers running around and imitate them. I used some fermented feed, in the future I'll use more of that. They have a nice life as long as you work to make it so.
     
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Lots more folks are free ranging their cornish cross and having good results. My last batch didn't get to free range until 6 weeks or so and were already pretty sedentary but they did like to move around a little and I didn't have any health issues, even on the two we let go too long (almost 3 months at butcher, they were like small turkeys and didn't fit in a gallon ziploc) were just a little slow moving.
     
  5. jasmer

    jasmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Are Cornish X something you can keep moving around and maintain your own breeders within reason? Part of our search is also for a sustainable breeding population so we don't have to order chicks every spring. I'm concerned that all the most popular meat breeds fall under the "difficult to breed" category, or so I've heard. We definitely want to free range our meat chickens in every sense of the word, giving them access to all 5 acres of our property. Would Cornish X happily do so if I ration their food and encourage them to go forage for bugs and stuff?
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    They're not so much for sustainability. For that look to rangers, rocks, dorkings, delawares, things like that. Breeder birds are usually larger, but can also take longer to reach weight. It's a trade off, no one bird is a great layer with high fertility and packs on a lot of meat in a short time. You have to balance what qualities are more important to you.
     
  7. calamtykel

    calamtykel Out Of The Brooder

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    I raised Cornish this year and I was prepared for the inhumane existence - but I figured, let's see. Honestly, I don't see it. Mine are now 9 weeks old and they move around very well. Yes, they rest more than regular bird, but they can really move when they want to! Mine free range and when they see me coming with the feed bucket , they sure can waddle at top speed! Mine do not have access to grower feed 24 hours a day - I do control their feedings and they get out and peck. I think this moving around does help them.
    We processed our first 12 on Saturday and they dressed out at 4-5lb each average.
    I started with 31 from Moyer's. I only lost two to illness so far. One was always much much smaller than the others and died as a chick. Another died during the night. Because they free range and they are REALLY stupid about coming into the coop at night (they will sometimes just literally flop down under a bush, or wherever they feel like it at dusk! I lost three more to a fox. I am now more careful to try to round them up at dusk instead of trusting them to go "home". They never wander very far from the coop,unlike regular chickens, so I would not worry about a fence. They are too lazy to go more than 50 feet I would say.

    They are much dirtier than a regular chicken - and they do stink. I would do them again, and have processing time be in the fall, like this year. I really cannot imagine processing in the heat with the flies!
     
  8. jasmer

    jasmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hm. So as far as keeping our own chicks every year should we instead look at a dual purpose breed? We aren't selling chickens or anything, so we only need enough to feed a family of 3-4. I like that I can raise Cornish X reasonably but I don't like that I can't realistically maintain my own population. We want to be self sufficient, so we want to try to avoid ordering chicks every year if we can. What breeds would you recommend for decent meat production and enough egg production to hatch chicks every year? With lower production rates could we sort of stagger when we hatch chicks, like a few every month or something?
     

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