What meat chickens should I raise? What's the differences?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Brunty_Farms, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. Brunty_Farms

    Brunty_Farms Songster

    Apr 29, 2007
    So, I've seen about 500 billion threads on here with what to raise. Either they have heard horror stories on the cornish x, want to be sustainable, or just want raise a bird that free ranges with their layers without adding much additional chores. Which is completely fine, this is the meat birds section I guess, but it would be nice to direct newbies or polished layer veterans that are looking into raising chickens for meat. So please, add to this thread with your experiences good or bad so people can read through and find out what fits them best. Things that you intend to do, that you did, or that you would have done differently...

    My experiences :

    DP or Dual Purpose

    These are birds that are not really designed for meat or eggs, they simply fall into the cracks of both. Heritage breeds consist of both rare and not so rare breeds and many of them fall into the Dual Purpose category. Layers don't really lay massive amounts of eggs but they hold their own, usually laying steadily all year long. The males, despite what people have claimed, do dress out to a nice weight of about 5 pounds usually after 20 weeks. My experience is I like to process them at 16 weeks for about 3.5 pound fryers. They make the best fried chicken because unlike the CX crosses the meat is very lean and thin. They fry very uniform making it nice not to pull them out of the fryer to find out they aren't cooked all the way. Overall they are a perfect bird for starters. Would recommend raising a batch of dual purpose roosters for meat before trying any other meat bird category.


    - They free range extremely well, definitely work for their food, and do it willingly even with having grain 24/7 available. The enticing pastures are extremely appealing to dual purpose breeds with their lush green forage and ample supply of insects it surely is a nice fit.

    - Meat is extremely flavorful if processed before 24 weeks. The meat seems to take on an extra "toughness" after this 6 month time frame and quick cooking methods could make the experience even worse. For tender meat that comes with any cooking method, process before 24 weeks. Not only are the males good for meat but the females make amazing soup chickens. I'm amazed at the amount of meat that an old layer from a dual purpose breed will give you. Dual purpose is a win / win for meat. Both females and males will suffice for the table. Females will usually dress 4-5 pounds at 3-5 years. Males will be 3.5 - 5 pounds in 24 weeks.

    - Layers seem to lay well in just about any climate. Certain dual purpose breeds do better in cooler weather than others but for the most part they can be raised just about anywhere. The eggs are extremely tasty due to their aggressiveness to forage for what they eat. Fertility isn't really an issue with dual purpose breeds and the majority of them make excellent mothers. Because this is the meat bird section and not the "breed" section I can't emphasize enough on their "soup" making capabilities. They are worth their weight in gold and bring just as much money as a pullet when processed for market. Layers will lay productively for 3-5 years.

    - Feathers from males can be sold to fly fisherman for their making of flies. Bringing in additional income. Some capes and hackles can bring upward of $5-10 which in some cases is more than the chicken is worth.

    - If marketed right, dual purpose can be sold for higher prices because they are grown more naturally and live longer. Due to the older age comes more enhanced flavor.

    - Eggs are also higher in demand, especially if the dual purpose breed is bred for certain traits. Eggs can be sold to other poultry enthusiast for top dollar, sometimes exceeding $20.00 / dozen.

    - If the world ended tomorrow and if you were removed from the grid, if you had an established dual purpose flock you could maintain that flock for years to come. Since dual purpose are also good mothers, the need for incubators and brooders would be obsolete.

    - You only would need one coop for your operation, since males would be processed before sexual maturity you wouldn't have to worry about them harassing your hens. Just make sure to add additional feeder space.


    - Dual Purpose are hard to market due to their slimmer carcass weights. Frankly customers are not used to this and are sometimes taken back from the odd shape of them.

    - Less overall meat compared to other breeds that are designed specifically for meat.

    - feed to meat ratio is often extremely higher than breeds designed specifically for meat.

    - If chicks are to be hatched at your farm, it can be costly to raise a breeder flock to hatch out chicks. If wanting to go into the business of selling extra roosters you would need incubators to keep your breeder flock laying adding additional expense in equipment.

    - overall they take 4- 6 months to see meat on your table or your customers, which could be too long if you live a busy lifestyle or have a short season to grow.

    - Not only do you have to maintain the chicks but also the breeder flock, or buy from a local hatchery.

    - With older chickens comes the issues of crowing, which if you have touchy neighbors or value your sleep, it could be a problem.

    - Difficult to process, mainly due to a harder keel bone which makes eviscerating a tough job for large hands. Feather is colored will leave a pigment behind and older birds will have "hair" on them as well which will need to be singed off. Especially in birds over 16 weeks.



    CX or Cornish Rock or Broilers
    The commercial broiler or the cornish x rock was introduced I believe in the late 40's early 50's and have been the choice for commercial farms ever since. Despite claims these birds are only genetically superior through select breeding, not by being genetically modified. Simply put these birds are a terminal line. Their sole purpose in life is to be processed in 6-12 weeks... period. The feed to meat ratio of these birds is extreme and commercial producers sometimes get 1.9 pounds of feed per one pound of live weight gained. Backyard producers it's more like 2.5 pounds per pound of live weight gained due to inexperience and lack of proper facilities and equipment. If you're looking for meat to put on your table quick... these are it. If you're looking for something a bit more "fun" to raise and want to hatch out your own chicks ect. these definitely are not for you. I can't emphasize enough that these are solely for meat... they are not pets and they are not pretty like a silkie. They are strictly bred for function and not for a fad. White feathers, light skin (white or yellow), and short squatty stance. All of which are great characteristics of a good meat bird.


    - Price of chicks are relatively cheap sometimes can be purchased for as low as $0.55.

    - both males and females make excellent meat birds

    - Fast meat for the table, you get on average 3.5 - 4 pounds of meat in 7 weeks. Unlike DP or Heritage, these birds will weigh out at 20 plus pounds at 20 weeks if grown that long.

    - Great feed to meat ratio of 1.9-1 which is extremely efficient. Second only to salmon.

    - Usually only ties up 7- 8 weeks of time throughout one year.

    - Large meat to bone ratio

    - Due to the young age, they are extremely efficient to process. Bones are soft and cavities are easy to access because of the width of the birds.

    - can be pasture raised in tractors, when properly managed these birds will forage for 10-25% of their food. Compared to being raised in confinement.

    - If managed properly on pasture or even in confinement, most of the commercial problems do not pertain to backyard enthusiast or small scale producers. Such as heart failure, leg problems, ect.


    - Unsustainable, meaning that new chicks must be purchased every year. Even if breeders were to be grown to breeding age, the cost to feed them would be way more than their worth. Making DP breeds cheaper to raise if you had to become sustainable with CX.

    - Without proper care, will have issues with joints in legs making them not willing to walk or search for food. Mainly from overfeeding, or too high protein. But could be caused from not enough exercise as well.

    - Without proper care, will have heart issues that will cause birds to die. Mainly from over feeding, or too high of protein. But could be caused from not enough exercise as well.

    - Do not free range willingly. These birds must have feed withheld for them to search for their food. Unlike DP's that could have 100% access to feed and still have the will to free range, CX's do not. If given feed 24/7 they will not venture very far from the feeders or waters. Which make them ideal candidates for confinement settings.

    - Need a separate building or tractor away from layers. Because they require different needs of both feed and pasture, both need to be separated. This makes it difficult for someone that doesn't have the time, money, or ambition to keep two separate coops / tractors.

    - May not be appealing to the average poultry enthusiast that is used to a pretty colorful bird. CX's are solid white and go through an awkward growth stage due to the rapid growth.

    - The amount of manure may be offsetting for some, these birds consume a lot of feed in a short time thus giving plenty of manure. Without adequate bedding it can be extremely messy causing foot rot or sneezing due to the ammonia levels.



    Colored Broilers or Freedom Rangers

    These birds are a cross between the common commercial broiler and standard dual purpose. Mostly containing genes that resemble the common broiler such as good growth rate, larger breast meat, thick body structure and a strong will to eat. However they grow slower giving them a better chance to have their bone structure catch up with the rate of gain. With this, they free range more willingly and have more stamina. Hens and roosters are designed for meat and not a good choice for eggs. Many pasture based operations decide to raise these because of their hardiness to pasture, slower growth, and intense flavor.


    - Birds are readily available through multiple hatcheries

    - Aggressive foragers and do well on pasture based systems.

    - Meat to bone ratio is more like the common broiler making the carcass a bit more appealing than a dual purpose

    - Colorful, for those wanting a pretty bird, these are appealing to the eye compared to just white feathers.

    - Can be grown with layers, so people with limited space can get by with one coop instead of a separate one for meat chickens.

    - More forgiving if mistakes are made by the beginner or novice chicken keeper. Being hardier birds they don't need much additional care, unlike the commercial broilers.

    - Good flavor, because the bird is 12 - 14 weeks when processed the flavor is truly amazing. You get the tenderness of a commercial broiler but the flavor of an older DP rooster.

    - Great birds to market to people of ethnic backgrounds that want a meatier bird than the DP breeds but still with the color. Popular colors are black, red, and buff feathered.


    - Unsustainable, meaning that new chicks must be purchased every year. Even if breeders were to be grown to breeding age, the cost to feed them would be way more than their worth. Making DP breeds cheaper to raise if you had to become sustainable with colored broilers.

    -You do have to rely on a hatchery and chicks are more expensive than the commercial broiler

    - Because of the grow out time it does make them more expensive to raise than the commercial broiler. In the same time frame it takes to grow out, you can get two batches of CX in, compared to just one of the colored broilers.

    - Pricing is higher, grow out time is longer, FCR (feed conversion rate) is lower making these birds a specialty item to sell to markets. A niche market must be created so customers will pay a premium price.

    - Feathers are colored making processing more difficult, pin feathers will be apparent and "ink" will be shown under the skin.

    - Produce a larger amount of manure than the DP breeds, making it a bit of an issue when brooding. Not as bad as the CX's though.


    Stepnout, Mraya, Chaos18 and 10 others like this.
  2. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

    Dec 20, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    Jeff I don't see how anyone could add to this. Very comprehensive and well stated, it would be nice if they stuck it to the top of the page. Perhaps you could also write one answering "How do I get stated with meat birds?" as that is the second most common question here. Good job.
  3. Buck Creek Chickens

    Buck Creek Chickens Have Incubator, Will Hatch

    Nov 26, 2008
    Neenah, WI
    growth rate, and time, that's the big difference, the fast growers eat alot but if you add the time it take for the slower growers it almost the same. CornishX can be grazed, I've done it, take them a little longer to get to weight, but oohhh do they taste good, the secret is place the food and water out of their shelter and space them at least 20 ft apart, makes them move

    I had freedom ranges, never again, I grew them and cronish at the same time same food, same graze, the rangers had alot of fat in the cavity, one hen had over one lb of fat yuk
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  4. Ryan McEachern

    Ryan McEachern In the Brooder

    Apr 2, 2010
    Maple Ridge, BC
    Thanks for that excellent summary.
  5. dinahmoe

    dinahmoe Songster

    Sep 19, 2009
    central georgia
    i have been wanting to raise some birds to put in the freezer.i just can't seem to do it ,yet.i keep reading and reading.i would like to thank you for this .i will keep this great info for when/if the time comes.
  6. Bossroo

    Bossroo Songster

    Jun 15, 2008
    Great post Jeff... however, your premice is great for Ohio and many other locals, but not so good here in the arrid far West where there is little rainfall ... from a shower or two in late Nov. then mid Dec. to Feb, and then sparce showers to April (average of 11" per year, 6.5" last 4 years) , brown grass for about 7 months of the year, so the chickens will not eat the dead grass. As for insects, we have plenty of ants and stink bugs which the chickens will not eat. Very few crickets and grasshoppers that can be counted as 1 per 1000 sq feet in the spring. As for free ranging, we count coyotes and roaming dogs thicker than theives. Tons of racoons, possums, skunks,bobcats, snakes, eagles, and hawks, which all in all makes life of a free ranging chicken dicey at best. Therefore, chickens must be raised in coops and runs. There are quite a few chicken coops with runs in my area but most are abandoned due to the larger predators breaking in and killing off the chickens plus the extreame heat ( 98* - 117*) of summer and early fall ( june- Oct) I raise my Cornish X inside my horse barn ( each stall 16x 24=384sq' / 25birds= 15.36 sq ft. / bird) and feed them 2.2 pounds of feed for a yield of a pound of meat. 6-8 weeks ( 25 birds 3x per year) and I am done . I used to raise the PBR, RIR, NHs and their x's similarly confined. My hens used to hatch their own chicks, but sometimes the numerous rats would kill some or all of the chicks. So I made very secure housing in additional stalls for the broody hens. This required 2-3 stalls depending on number and spacing of the hatch ( 1 stall for parent flock then 1-2 for the offspring) vs. 1stall for 3rounds of 25 of CX. My DP chicks ate close to 5 pounds of feed to yield a pound of meat and it took 16-20 weeks to accomplish that feat. Not counting costs of upkeep of parent flock, my labor, housing, etc., just the cost of feed for the chicks... for the CX - 2.2 pounds (for my feed conversion rate) at $14.95 /50 lbs = $0.598 /pound of meat in 6-8 weeks. While my DP chicks... very close to 5 pounds of feed at $14.95/50 pounds= $ 1.495 / pound of meat in 16-20 weeks. So, $1.495 / $0.598 = 2.5 times the cost for feed for my purchased CX and 2 to 3 x times as long. I can raise at least 50 ( ave 4.5lbs x 50= 225 lbs. of meat)and up to 75 ( 4.5lbs. x 75= 337.5 lbs of meat) CXs in the same time and space ( 1 stall) as I can raise my 25 ( 4.5lbs. x 25=112.5lbs of meat) DPs. How sustainable is that to my wallet for the DP especially in this economy?
  7. SteveH

    SteveH Songster

    Nov 10, 2009
    West/Central IL
    Quote:Since you have chosen to live in an arid environment not suited for agricultural use without the implementation of costly irrigation systems , sustainable flocks or herds are not practical unless someone subsidizes the irrigation waters . I can only assume your problems with rats and other vermin must be managed with the CX just as they should have been with chickens better suited to living more naturally . However , Jeff's summary of the pros and cons does support your choice of the CX based on their economic advantages over selecting for a more sustainable type of bird .
  8. Neil Grassbaugh

    Neil Grassbaugh Songster

    Sep 1, 2008
    Quote:Please explain to me how anything that is not economical can be sustained for long?

    Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I forgot about hobbies!

    Thanks Jeff for taking the time to write this. I have been putting off doing something like this for lack of time. The snow must be pretty deep up there in the snow belt and you have extra time in the house.

    Hatfields & McCoys, Good & Evil, BossRoo & Steve H. . . . eternal struggles.
  9. SteveH

    SteveH Songster

    Nov 10, 2009
    West/Central IL
    Quote:Please explain to me how anything that is not economical can be sustained for long?

    Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I forgot about hobbies!

    Thanks Jeff for taking the time to write this. I have been putting off doing something like this for lack of time. The snow must be pretty deep up there in the snow belt and you have extra time in the house.

    Hatfields & McCoys, Good & Evil, BossRoo & Steve H. . . . eternal struggles.

  10. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

    Dec 20, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011

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