Why are my heritage birds not gaining weight?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by EpicBlueAcres, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. EpicBlueAcres

    EpicBlueAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    196
    12
    118
    Jun 23, 2012
    Ransomville,NY
    This is the 2nd year I am humanly raising our excess heritage cockerals (hatched here at the farm or from the breeder we started out getting our birds from) for meat. I like the flavor & personality of the heritage birds over the normal meat birds. My only issue is they are not gaining weight. I mean they are growing like weeds but very lean (not much to them). Last year I pen raised them, thought they needed more foraging so his year I built a massive chicken tractor (no floor) that I move daily to new grass via our riding mower (TO heavy to move by hand). I also feed top quality organic meat bird feed (nature's best) 27% first week then down to 22% then 27% last 2 weeks, along with our scraps, scrambled eggs from our layers with cottage cheese (read that was good to put weight on).
    What am I doing wrong? Or do I need to go longer than 15-16 weeks?
    I have Rhode island reds & whites, Delaware, Plymouth rocks and my extra French Black Copper Marans (not heritage I know)
    Thanks for any advise or assistance
     
  2. Stiggy

    Stiggy Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,186
    77
    161
    Apr 29, 2014
    New Zealand
    Heritage birds take much longer to mature than hybrid birds or medium flighty birds and bantams. If they have to much space to move around/ run they will lose weight or not gain any, as cruel as it is that's one reason they bulk up so fast. They will take longer, and they will need high protein and carb food, so extra meat scraps/ meat meal powder and carbs like wild bird seed can bulk them up faster, I've heard that turkey feed and the obvious meat bird feed like the stuff the hatcheries/ growing places feed. Personally I think you are doing the right thing by your birds in letting them live a nice life before the table. If you have a feeder that free feeds make sure they always have food, they will eat then rest then eat some more. Unlike the genetically bred meat birds which are programmed to gorge, then gorge some more and frequently die of heart attacks, non genetically tampered with birds will continue to act like typical chickens and eat as they feel like it.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. EpicBlueAcres

    EpicBlueAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    196
    12
    118
    Jun 23, 2012
    Ransomville,NY
    [​IMG]
    This is their tractor
     
  4. EpicBlueAcres

    EpicBlueAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    196
    12
    118
    Jun 23, 2012
    Ransomville,NY
    Thankyou for the info, I will add some of that (the meat proteins) and just wait longer to process any of the others. They do eat turkey feed the 1st week and last 2 weeks before processing. They have 2 feeders that are always kept full. I was just so worried I was doing something that was hurting the birds :( they do run around a lot & play during the day. I want them to live a happy filling life then in return have healthy (and humane) food to eat in return.
     
  5. Kildare49

    Kildare49 Chillin' With My Peeps

    281
    18
    106
    Jun 29, 2012
    Central Wisconsin
    You have a feed program that appears to be fine. You have a preference for heritage table fare.
    Are you breeding & culling flock to get the dual purpose traits you are looking for?
    A quick search on byc should give you plenty of reading material on this.
     
  6. EpicBlueAcres

    EpicBlueAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    196
    12
    118
    Jun 23, 2012
    Ransomville,NY
    I am not into it that deep (hence why I don't know the answer to the weight issue, this is a new endeavor still). We breed French BCMs (next winter I will be adding our cull Cream Legbars) and I use our extra/ cull cockerals (the hens are easy to sell to back yard enthusiasts that are not concerned about perfect standers just a nice bird, we hand raise and socialize all our chicks) and the heritage birds I get are from the breeder we get our heritage laying hens from, we take the excess boys he hatches so they don't have to suffer the kind of fate commercial hatcherys give to there male chicks (though this breeder would never do that). Us taking them as meat birds puts an ease to both our minds. I will do that search though,Thankyou!
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  7. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,953
    119
    213
    Apr 15, 2011
    Are these birds from hatcheries, or dedicated breeders? If hatcheries, you may be getting birds very far off from the standard. Leaner birds that are bred more for laying eggs (hatcheries are in the business of selling chicks not chicken dinners after all) is one commonly reported issue. The username escapes me, but there is a user on here who is reported to have bred up excellent Delawares (Kathymo...maybe?). I chose Dorkings to be the breed I work with, and they need a lot of help in the States to get back to being better meat birds. My reds are better than the silver greys, and are much more brick like and less scrawny. Heritage birds will take longer to fill in though. That is one of the factors leading to their better taste. :)
     
  8. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,953
    119
    213
    Apr 15, 2011
    Oops sorry, I started my post before yours went through. I would browse some of the heritage bird threads and compare the birds from breeders who are hailed as raising good meat birds/are approaching or meeting SOPs to the birds from your breeder, and then go from there.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  9. EpicBlueAcres

    EpicBlueAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    196
    12
    118
    Jun 23, 2012
    Ransomville,NY
    No they are not from hatcherys, I refuse to purchase birds from hatcheries due to the way they treat/handle them. I get them.from a breeder who does heritage chickens & turkeys.
    I will compare Thankyou
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  10. MicaelaC

    MicaelaC New Egg

    3
    1
    8
    Aug 1, 2014
    I also have dorkings, my first year raising them for much the reasons you are. I've had a very very hard time finding red's. Do you have any suggestions? I'm located in California.
    thanks!
    (also what age are you processing them? my silvers are not toooooo skinny but they are only 13 weeks.)
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by