What happens if I don't process a meat bird after 8 weeks?

Mar 17, 2011
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Howdy everyone!
I've been raising chickens for almost ten years now, but just laying hens and a rooster to keep them happy. I'm interested in broadening my flock to include meat birds to feed my family. When I started shopping for them, I noticed that the hatchery website said that the birds should be processed at 8 weeks. What happens if I don't? My idea was to buy 15 chicks and raise them, and then start butchering at eight weeks. Then I would butcher one or two per week, so in theory, some of them would be living until 18-20 weeks old. What would be the problem? I know nothing about raising meat birds, besides the basic feeding and watering routines, so any info you can offer up is much appreciated. THANKS! I appreciate y'all!
 

duckiemum

Crowing
Sep 30, 2020
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18-20 weeks should be find. Emphasis on should. Most people process at 12-16 weeks, for maximum meat harvested. The problem is these birds were not made to live long, so their hearts can fail, and their legs can break or get infected from the strain of all their weight.
 

Molpet

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Sep 7, 2015
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CX tend to die/put down from heart and leg problems if they don't have a restricted diet and exercise.
Rangers are similar to Heritage but harvested starting around 12 wks. They don't have the big breast like a CX though. But people have less troubles to keep them past harvest age.
There's several other colored broilers that would keep well also
 

cassie

Crowing
Mar 19, 2009
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If you don't process by eight weeks they will continue to grow. I would suggest you get some Broiler Booster from Murray McMurray. It is a vitamin supplement formulated for meat birds and it goes a long way in preventing the leg and other problems the Cornish X are heir to. My Cornish X had access to feed from seven in the morning until seven at night. Since I like big roasters I butchered mine when they would dress out at between ten and twelve pounds. The biggest one I ever processed dressed out at 16 pounds. I roasted him like a turkey and he was without a doubt the best "turkey" I ever had. I don't suggest anyone do that. It is just that things kept coming up and I delayed processing that chicken. If I decided to raise a batch of Cornish X again, I would butcher some very young as Cornish game hens, some as fryers, and a few as big roasters.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Feb 2, 2009
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. What would be the problem?
For the hatchery to say that you must be talking about the Cornish X. They would not say that about other types of meat birds.

Cornish X are bred to produce a lot of meat very fast and have a great feed to meat conversion ratio. The assumption is that you will feed them in a way to maximize that breeding. With that kind of feeding regimen they grow so fast that their heart or skeleton can give out if they are not butchered when they are ready. Fed and managed that way the Cornish X are the most economical meat bird, hands down. But that means you need to butcher them and preserve them when they are ready. That takes freezer space.

Some people can keep them longer but they typically have to restrict feed. I would not suggest you try that, especially you're first effort with meat birds.

Rangers would work much better for you if you are raising them that way. They still grow fast and make good meat birds but they do not grow as fast as Cornish X. If you allow them to forage Rangers usually do better at that too. You may wat to wait a few weeks longer to start butchering the first but you are much more likely to be happy with the results if you try that method with Rangers instead of Cornish X.
 

CaroleW

Crowing
May 13, 2011
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Awesome insight on this thread. Not all meat chickens are developed for the same purpose (some are for quick efficient production, some better suited for homesteaders, or big poultry houses, etc).

You can also look into eventually having sustainable breeds for dual purpose if you have the room. That way you could hatch from your flock and extra roosters can be harvested in a larger window than meat birds. I'm going in that direction. I like the idea of not filling a freezer but having a few extra roosters working at making compost that I can harvest as needed.
 

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