1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

Where do I start!?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by AJBatch, Dec 21, 2015.

  1. AJBatch

    AJBatch New Egg

    3
    0
    7
    Dec 21, 2015
    Central Maine
    I have had layers for several years, and love them. Now that the new meat labeling laws have been repealed, and we will soon not be able to know what country our meat (and poultry) comes from, I think it's time to try meat birds. But I have TONS of questions! How much space do they need? Do they HAVE to have outside space (I know that's ideal, but may be difficult on our property) or is it possible to do it indoors only? What kind of feed and how much? Will the males fight if I keep them together? Do they need roosts, or will that just make their leg problems worse?

    Like I said, tons of questions, and that's not even getting close to the processing part! We probably won't be getting the chicks for a few months at least, but I'd like to have some idea of what I'm doing beforehand.

    Thanks in advance![​IMG]
     
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Your first choice is what kind of meat bird you want. CX broiler? Slow growing broiler? Or heritage meat breed?

    Cornish Cross (CX) are the industry standard meat bird. They are what are sold on supermarkets. They have a growth time of 8 weeks (for 4-6 pound birds) and amazing feed conversion rate. They are extremely large and heavy and can be prone to health problems. On an appropriate broiler ration with enough space in non-hot weather they shouldn't have a terribly high death rate; if you're seeing the every other day deaths some people complain about, you're doing something wrong. These birds need to be butchered on time and should never be kept as pets or for breeding as they rarely survive to adulthood and when they do it's under a strict broiler breeder diet and the careful supervision of an experienced keeper. These are Frankenchickens, the product of 60+ years of intensive selective breeding. They have one job in life which is to grow grow grow and they do it well. They are rather smelly and gross and should be afforded the same amount of space as laying hens; 4 sq. ft. indoors and 10 sq. ft. outdoors. 10 sq. ft. full time indoor confinement.

    Slow growing broilers are large, heavy birds who grow faster than heritage breeds but slower than CX. They are often red or black. They grow to 4-6 pounds in 12-16 weeks. They do not have the double wide breast of CX and will have a poorer feed conversion rate but have very few health issues and can reproduce. Should you hold back some for breeding do not allow the male near your laying hens, as they may crush hens of smaller breeds (roosters can reach 10-12 pounds with ease).

    Heritage meat breeds are basically stocky but mostly normal chickens. They will be similar to your laying hens in the sense that they will take 20-24 weeks to reach full adult size, eating somewhat more feed than a laying breed while doing it. They will engage in natural behaviors like roosting, fighting, mating, etc. Standard Cornish are my hands down top pick for a heritage meat breed, they have the heftiest body around. Even hatchery quality Cornish are worth eating.

    So the answers to all your questions really depend on what type of bird you plan on raising.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
  3. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,649
    182
    178
    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    The only experience I had with cx was when I was a teenager my dad raised a batch, we had layers in the coop and they were the same age got both as chicks together but the layers took to pecking the feet of the cx till they bled then wouldn't let up, I don't know what caused that but we had to separate them for obvious reasons. We had no other coop or pen so dad built a 2 foot tall divider out of chicken wire frames with 2x4s and divided our garage in half and covered one side with wood chip bedding, this was where the cx were raised. They didn't get outside at all just in the garage in bedding, some would say that's bad, and I guess I'd rather let them run around in grass too but that was what was available at the time. We left one garage door open during the day so it didn't get overly hot. So to answer your question, yes they can be raised indoors and meat birds are regularly raised on far less space than is typically recommended for layer coops, cx especially just aren't the most active things in the world especially if you don't restrict feed and encourage free range.

    No matter what breed of meat birds you choose I'd feed a meat maker or broiler ration at around 20% or slightly higher, depends what your can find in your area. Leave feed 24 hour free choice the first 3 weeks of their life then start restricting, different people use different methods, 12hrs on 12 hrs off, feed as much as they will eat in 15 minutes then let the free range, etc there are many threads discussing different methods.

    Water is major with meat birds especially cx they drink a ton and shouldn't be let run out, they have a hard time with heat extremes as well and they would prefer to lay in front of a feeder and never stop eating. Restricting feed and encouraging movement will help keep them from having heart attacks and bad legs, I elevate feeders so they have to stand to eat and try to get them to search out free range feed when there's is gone.
    Last year I raised rangers and Dixie rainbows they range well and act like a regular chicken however they are still a meat chicken and will eat like absolute pigs. They're longer to grow out and don't really have the huge breast if the cx they're more proportional in their build to a regular dual purpose chicken they just grow larger faster. They're pretty easy to keep and I didn't experience any health problems. They don't seem to overeat to the point of harming themselves like the cx but they will eat alot and if you keep their feeders full you feed bill will reflect that, I feel it would be best to have these birds on a good quality pasture, it would definitely be the cheapest route to use minimal commercial feed, but not everyone has that including me.

    I use a hoop coop enclosure with a tarp over it to enclose the feeders waterers and provide shelter from rain and predators. It's inside my very large fenced yard which the chickens free range in, I know it's not really free range inside a fence but it's a large enough fenced area that they can be out all day and not close to cover it all, and they don't run it down to dirt either. Then when they get the ground beat down and crapped up under the hoop coop I just slide it over to a new spot.

    There are many threads on here about different methods I'm sure your will be doing a lot of reading before you get your chicks.

    Also about the roost, meat birds like cx will get so big that they won't be able to fly up very high at all, also they can hurt themselves jumping down so if you provide a roost keep it very low, just a couple inches high. My rangers and rainbows did like to perch but again they're getting very heavy at a very young age so try to minimize the height they are jumping down from
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
  4. AJBatch

    AJBatch New Egg

    3
    0
    7
    Dec 21, 2015
    Central Maine
    I think we're leaning toward CX at this point, if for no other reason than to get it over with as quickly as possible. We are also less likely to get attached to the Frankenchickens, hopefully. Last year we had a fox get hold of one of our layers and she was in rough shape so we put her down. I made an amazing chicken soup with her, but after raising her and interacting with her for over a year, then seeing the whole butchering process, nobody in our family could bring ourselves to eat her! I gave the soup to our neighbors, so she didn't go to waste, but I did feel like a bit of a hypocrite. We think that knowing what these birds are going to be for from the beginning will make it easier, and we are either going to bite the bullet and pay someone else to butcher them, or at the very least, not do it in our backyard.

    I have lots more reading and research to do, but this is a great overview and starting point for me. Thank you!
     
  5. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,649
    182
    178
    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    I'm going to either do cx or a slow white broilers next year, the white birds pluck so much nicer and look better you can't see the pin feathers as badly. Why not butcher in your yard, I do and it doesn't make that bad a mess and I don't even really try to keep it organized, doesn't matter where I'm at if a few feathers float away, but if you set up your tables with some garbage cans nearby you can keep a very clean deal of it
     
  6. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop


    Honestly I recommend CX to most first-timers because they are quick and easy. I don't know that it's any harder to get attached to them though... CX are some of the most friendly and docile chickens out there. One time this past summer I was rather curious as to what might happen if I lied down in my coop... so I put down a board and did just that. All my laying hens and cockerels ignored me completely but five minutes later I was covered in CX and meat turkeys pecking at my sleeves, pants, smartphone, and cuddling up to my armpits. That's the real problem with CX - they're too dang friendly!

    Another note - If for any reason you end up leaning towards heritage meat birds, I would also suggest you try out eating a rooster before buying a run of heritages. CX grow fast enough that their hormones simply never come into play - pullets and cocks taste alike. Red and Black Broilers are similar, but sometimes the 12+ week cockerels can get a bit of flavor to them. Heritage breeds, however, will have their hormones in full swing by the time they are processing size, and as such have plenty of flavor. This flavor is generally known as "rooster flavor." It's dark and gamey. Some people don't like it, some people do. I personally love it but my family hates it, which makes for some fun arguments over what to have for dinner. The other problem with roosters is that they get quite tough, and need to be cooked very long and slow. Crockpots and rooster stew are ideal methods. It's not hard to find a rooster for free on Craigslist - but be sure the owner knows you intend on eating the bird, not making a pet of it. Most craigslist roos will be "oops" males of laying breeds, so they will not have a lot of meat, but it will be enough to get an idea of what a roo tastes like. It would also make a good butchering practice bird. You can easily bring one home in the morning and cage it until butcher in the afternoon.
     
  7. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,649
    182
    178
    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    I say if you get a rooster for free on craigslist who cares what the owner thinks. I don't know the owner and they don't know me, never gonna see them again so they'll never know. Anyone who is giving away a rooster and expects it to never be eaten is kidding themselves as far as I'm concerned. Bon appetite, LOL
     
  8. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop


    True but maybe ignorance isn't always bliss... why get a bird who's got a shot at a pet home when there are plenty of boys available who's owners are only looking to get rid of them or better yet, mean boys who ain't got no business anywhere but the dinner plate?
     
  9. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,649
    182
    178
    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    The way I've always figured is a chickens place is always the dinner plate even hens eventually make the soup bowl. You make a good point about the shots, I guess I'd ask if they been on any meds recently. Though in my area it wouldn't be likely to run into anyone giving drugs to a chicken
     
  10. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop


    I meant shot like chance lol, as in roos who have a chance at a pet home
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by