When to start butchering?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by CityBredCountry, Nov 5, 2014.

  1. CityBredCountry

    CityBredCountry In the Brooder

    Sep 1, 2014
    We are new to chickens and we currently have them on a 12 grain feed that our feed store currently custom makes. Right now we have a total of 31 with 4 of them being roosters. We want to be able to use them for eggs, replenishing the flock, as well as for food. We are hoping to get more this spring so that we have a good solid supply.

    1.) When is a good time to start butchering?

    2.) Does the book Backyard Chickens that's from this website cover butchering?

    3.) Is my feed okay for them, any feeding secrets?

    4.) Any tips I need to know?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. 1 person likes this.
  3. CityBredCountry

    CityBredCountry In the Brooder

    Sep 1, 2014
    Thank's for the pics! I know I have some setting up to do.

    What age did you start butchering at? What is the oldest to butcher at?
  4. My age, 65.... :D The chickens were between 3 and 4 months old. They were the fast growing Cornish Cross.
    I plan to butcher 3 roosters tomorrow, and they are 3 months old. I'm going to cut them up into fryer pieces. I also have 9 hens I'm letting get a little bigger before I butcher them.

    I don't want to freeze another whole 12 pound roaster. We were eating that chicken for four days because there was so much meat on it.

    I covered my table with a clear folded plastic shower curtain. And used an acrylic/plastic cutting board.
    Clean up was easy by hanging the shower curtain over my garden fence and hosing it off.
    My rinse water and scald water went into the garden area.
    The heads and blood went into a bucket, then I took it out and dumped it into a hole I had dug. I also buried the feathers.
    I didn't feed the birds the night before, or the morning of butchering, but made sure they had plenty of water. And there was a lot less smell than I expected. No full intestines or crops and no poop.

    I hope my venture tomorrow goes as smooth. I will be doing everything solo.
    Good luck,
    1 person likes this.
  5. the1913trio

    the1913trio In the Brooder

    Aug 17, 2014
    Denver, Colorado
    My husband and I have had a few rounds with slaughtering some chickens and a few ducks for meat (as well as culling deformed chicks that hatched and aggressive birds that weren't worth eating for meat). Hopefully we can give some advice that is helpful and provide names of the resources that were awesome help to us when we were first learning everything from scratch. We are still fairly new to keeping poultry and live in a 100yr old urban neighborhood with about a 1/4 acre sized patch of land to utilize.

    We highly recommend you check out two books that helped us more than oodles of other books we looked into:
    a.) "The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An all-natural approach to raising chickens and other fowl for home and market growers" by Harvey Ussery
    This author is the Chuck Norris of poultry. He gives plenty of info on every aspect of raising chickens for eggs and meat (including butchering with lots of great pics), and as a plus he shows you how to feed the chickens more without feed and use the birds to help with your gardens too!
    b.) "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens" by Gail Damerow
    ***There is info on everything in this book too, with more in depth on breeds, chicken behavior, showing chickens, collecting eggs, etc etc...get the newer 2011 edition as it did have some valuable add'l info.

    1.) When is a good time to start butchering?
    Answer: It depends on the breed of the chicken, what you are feeding them, your needs and issues in the flock itself...if you happen to get the common Cornish broilers then the usual time for butchering is 6-8 weeks. You can get hybrid broiler that take a couple weeks longer, but are better for free-ranging and have fewer health issues. They are ready for butcher at 8-10 ish weeks. We feed our hybrid broilers game bird feed (super high in protein), which makes them meat up and grow a great deal quicker than the chicks we give the usual chick feed with 18% protein. If you are giving the chicks feed with a coccidiostat, then check and see how long they should be off of the medication before butcher to make sure it is safe for consumption. Other breeds of chicken that are heritage breeds can take longer till butcher (like 12 weeks to 4 or 5 months). It really depends on how much meat you want on the chicken and their breed. For example if you have a mean, nasty rooster that won't be up to a "market weight" for another two weeks or so you can still butcher them right away and sacrifice a pound or two in meat to rid yourself of a problem to the well being of the whole flock if isolating them is too much of a pain for you. I have heard from many youtube videos that when chickens (esp roosters) are butchered after 12 weeks of age the feathers are much harder to get plucked out sometimes? Not sure of that as I have never waited more than 10 weeks.

    2.) Not sure if the backyard chickens book covers butchering, but see the two book recommendations above I have listed if you want some additional resources.

    3.) I am not sure if the 12-grain feed is okay for them. I would ask the feed store what the protein content is (should be 18% for average chick feed), as well as what the amounts are of other nutrients and compare that to a common chick starter feed. I myself need to learn more about making my own feed! Be sure to give the babies fresh greens too from the yard/land around your house...dandelion greens are excellent for them, and you can use grasses too. This helps to: entertain the chicks, expose them to the germs in your area gradually so they develop better immunity, and gives them extra nutrients. If they free-range then you already have the greens covered as well as some bugs to help with nutrients too. We give our foodies (aka meat birds) game bird diet their whole life to make them grow quicker with the higher protein content. When we have a surprise cockerel we cannot keep on regular chick feed we switch them to the game bird feed for a couple weeks to fatten them up more quickly to then butcher.

    4.) Quick tips we thought of: a.) handle the animals as babies so they are used to being touched and are less freaked out by being maneuvered to butcher. b.) Don't get too stressed, it is nerve wracking killing your first bird, but once you do it you realize it wasn't so bad since the animal will be put to good use and lived a good life! c.) We decided we liked bleeding the bird better than the hatchet as one time we had a rooster that didn't bleed so well after cutting the head off correctly, and it was for some reason harder to get used to cutting the head clean off initially. If you cut the head off chop hard and if it doesn't come off all the way IMMEDIATELY give more swift, hard whacks to finish the work promptly for both the sake of the bird and to bleed them out well before the heart stops. d.) Watch lots of videos on youtube it helps to get you used to the idea and to see different techniques in moving action e.) Remember that you can either skin or pluck the bird depending on your needs with the meat as boiling the bird to pluck is a stinky step and maybe not necessary depending.

    Hope that helps and good luck! Feel free to ask us anything else or if we haven't explained anything well enough to make sense!
    2 people like this.
  6. CityBredCountry

    CityBredCountry In the Brooder

    Sep 1, 2014
    Awesome advice!!! Thank you so much for the resources and the time to write us! :-D

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