Wanting to raise meat chickens this spring

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Mrs.H, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. Mrs.H

    Mrs.H Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I wanted to start out with just a few meat chickens to try out this Spring. Plans were to build a chicken tractor so they have access to grass along with feed. Im seeing alot of post about fermenting feed, do you have to do this? Pros/Cons? I have read also at a certain point to start feeding them 12 hours on 12 hours off, do you keep a light on for them to eat at night before that? I was thinking you could just let them eat all day and lights out at night from the beginning. Also they start out with chick feed then move to grower? At what stage do you put them on grower? Do you use medicated chick feed or is that more of a choice? I have read alot of good articles about raising them but none of them seem to have specific details and of course the more I read the more confused I get. Trying to just raise them as simple as possible esp for my first round of meat chicks. Also any other tips would be great! Thanks
     
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  2. foreverlearning

    foreverlearning Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here is a thread that one of my friends started, it answers a lot of questions and shows what she would prefer for the next time:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/832053/100-broilers-and-fermented-feed-project

    I will try to answer as best as I can. First I suggest that you throw out the tractor plan and opt for a hoop coop instead. They are just as cheap and easy to make but they make your caring for the broilers much easier. With the tractor you have to crawl in to get any injured, sick, to feed, and to water. With the hoop coop you can still drag it around (use 1/2" PVC plumbing pipe or feed lot panels for framing) but you get to walk in to care for your animals instead of having to crawl in their poop.

    You do not have to use fermented feed but I suggest it based on my experience with broilers. It improves their health (they absorb more nutrients), keeps them hydrated (because there is water in the feed), reduces feed needed for the same growth, and reduces food waste. The only con is it freezes in winter. To make FF the easiest way: Get a 5 gallon bucket, fill with enough dry feed for a few days, mix in enough water to cover the feed about an inch above the feed levels, add unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (one glug, does not need to be exact, the more there is the faster it ferments). Go out in about an hour and mix in more water to get it to the consistency of oatmeal. Stir it at least once a day and when you take feed out replace with more feed and water. You will not need more acv unless to empty it out completely. There will come a time when you get a white/grey bubbly film on top, just mix it in that is the growth of the cultures in the acv.

    The 12/12 schedule is started at 3 weeks of age to give their bodies time to catch up with the growth and reduce health issues from over eating.

    They need heat just like regular chicks until they are fully feathered. If it is warm outside you can let them out for time in a run of some sort (tractor or hoop coop) during the day with no heat. If they huddle together make sure to give them heat as that means they are cold.

    I suggest unmediated chick feed unless there is a problem in your soil. The more natural you can get them the better it is for your health. The feed required is up to you. I had one 50# bag of chick (57 broilers) then moved them to 20% protein (either grower or high protein layer) (* do not give layer to chicks that are expected to live longer then 6 months)

    Now for more advice: I made a feeder out of a cheap gutter (got idea from here). It cost $3 and was 10 foot long. I cut it into sections and it worked great. They always seem to be hungry no matter what you do so wear good shoes because toes look like worms to them. If you allow free ranging they range well. Have several waterers because they drink a lot. Put feeders or waterers on bricks to keep the bedding out of it. I don't care what anyone says, mine liked to roost. They poop a lot more then normal and cleaning it constantly is a pain. If you have a coop for them that doesn't move (for ranging) I suggest employing the deep litter method. If you move their enclosure on a daily biases (pasteurizing), you will have to move it often as they quickly soil the area. FF reduces feed waste because they spread the crumbles all over the ground and if you move them often enough to keep them on fresh grass that is a lot left on the ground that they can't eat. It will also cut your feed bill by as much as half.
     
  3. Mrs.H

    Mrs.H Chillin' With My Peeps

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    WOW! Thanks for pointing out about the hoop house, that def makes more sense and alot easier, I had planned on putting in a couple low roost for them if they used them great if they didnt I could take them out. And FF def sounds like the way to go, I guess I didnt think doing FF was as simple as that!
     
  4. foreverlearning

    foreverlearning Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have read threw a lot of FF threads and they tend to try to make it sound complicated. Making your own feed is great and all if you can figure out exactly what nutrients the chickens require but the point of FF is to get those cultures from the acv to grow and into the chickens system. It doesn't have to be hard.
     
  5. Arielle

    Arielle Chicken Obsessed

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    Good info foreverlearning!

    I did FF with my meaties. Start them out from the beggining with FF as later transistion is harder but doable.

    THey eat soooo much feed that they have more poos, so soncider the stocking rates carefully. THey will be standing in their own poo in just a few hours so move the coop often.

    When mine had space to move around in a static coop and run, they stayed in the coop section more and more despite the huge run space. THey did better when I moved them to a horse stall-- the same environment and no change from ccop to run I expect. Later when older, I would open the stall door and a few would hop out and explore. Of course they were rolly pollies and I could not leave them out where a coyote could grab dinner for her entire family. lol ( I did have heritage types free ranging in that area though)

    FF is very easy once you find a system that works for you--I used a collander and metal spoon to scoop and stir the liquid until the consistency of mush. THe liquid has all the good stuff so it is a balance between keeping enough to ferment the newly added pellets, and have lots in the feed for the birds.

    Also, just as someone else warned me-- these birds drink a HUGE amount of water reflective of the amount of feed they suck down. THe mash provides some ofthis water and IMO is healtheir than eating dry then drinking lots of water and the pellets swell in the crop. Part of why I like FF-- pellets are already swelled up with water. Even with FF they will need a lot of water. THe more waterers the better, the more FF feeders the better. As they all like to eat at once.

    My FF didn't spoil in the summer like wet feed does-- THAT is a nice plus. Could freeze in the winter though, so perhaps feed enough for the birds to finish in a short time. ANd then feed pellets the rest of the day. THey still benefit from having the FF even if its only a small part of their daily ration.

    You are in for a big learning curve-- an experince well worth jumping into at least once. GOod luck.
     

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