I am working on our meat production for the year and I am hedging on things, like most things in my life, I tend towards the prepared side of things, the have a backup to your backup.. or two is one and one is none..
So the first line of little fluffy chick’s, ducklings, goslings and Turkey pullets is of course their natural mothers.. All my females are given the extra’s and are encouraged to go broody and to sit their own eggs and hatch the next generations on the farm. I work hard to bring this back into my lines or I work with folks and buy proven stock that have sat and hatched and raised their own babies.
The second line is my incubator, it was bought to help with this, it allows me to collect, and hatch babies in the spring, this is huge because I can set more eggs in then a hen can sit, and just as important.
I can control when the eggs are set to hatch, so that my babies can get extra feed from the gardens and farm at the right time of the year.
The last line is to buy babies.
Which brings me to my list.. I realized that what I am missing in my flocks is Meat Chickens, I have only two hens and one rooster in my little over wintered flock that can produce nice big birds that would be great for the dining table but one of those hens is older and she is in the flock because she is a outstanding broody hen, and I want her sitting, that only leave’s my big gal.. and that means that at the most, she is a slow layer, she averages three or four eggs a week, that means in my max ten day egg collecting window, she is at best going to give me six to eight eggs, figure on four to six chicks max..
Not the numbers I want that ‘s for sure, I am wanting to raise and put up around 30 meat birds this year.. which brings me to buying babies..
And that brings me to cost.. locally a mixed dual purpose chick is going to cost you right around 7 dollars, plus gas and it will take a average of at least 16 to 20 weeks to grow to the four to seven pound kill rate.. (with a dressed weight of around 70 percent of live weight)
Now I have a couple choices.. I can do a straight run of a dual purpose meat breed for male chicks from the hatchery at around 2 dollars a chick, plus 20 for all the extra fees if I want to bring in 50 of them.. I can even lower that price to a mear 1.25 if I get a hundred.
But I don’t need a hundred, I want 25 to 30 birds to put in the freezer and canning jars but I can an will process more if it happens.. but the price really drops if you do 50..
Then comes the choice of what to get, I will not get white rock.. they are off the table.. the death rate and the very way they are breed and created bothers me.
But that leaves me with two choices pretty much.. a “special” blend of heavy birds that is the hatcheries recommended meat breed, and they are fast growing, they are healthy but they are called “firm” in meat and what that really means is that if you allow them to free-range and spend time in a more natural type chicken way, is that they are tough as can be if not cooked very slow and easy. Not this does not matter much for the canned meat but for just wanting a nice roasting bird.. it does matter to me.
I like flavour, I like them to chase bugs and eat grass but I don’t like tough as nails meat either.. and yes, I have been told that if I brine them for three days and cook proper that they will be tender..
or a one of the heavier dual purpose large brown egg layer, they take longer to raise, they are smaller at finish and they eat more.
Pro’s and Con’s on all of them..
I am still a bit up in the air on it at this time, but I need to get it figured out, the order I want to get them on is coming in on March 22 and If I want to know that I have them for sure on that date, I need to book them 4 weeks ahead. I could wait till april if need be..
At least I don’t need to worry about breeding, hatching and raising my laying hens, that I have well in hand.
I had hoped writing this post would help me figure out what I want to do lol but I am still unsure which route I will be taking..
Are you getting in meat chicks this year? How many are you getting in for your own families use? Are you raising for others this year as well? Are you planning on just working with what your hens or yourself hatch out? Will you be buying locally? Do you have your breed picked out?
We get a Cornish Cross meat bird, cockerels only. We slaughter between 12 and sixteen weeks, they dress out between five and a half pounds at the smallest, to seven and a half at the large end. They get fed wheat and whatever they can catch. We’ve never had an issue losing any, no legs going out, no breast blisters. The only complaint I’ve had is that on slaughter, the wings tend to dislocate on the plucker – really their bones don’t keep up with their growth. We solved that issue by mixing oyster shell in with their wheat from day one – they’ll eat it as soon as they’re able. The first two weeks we start them on organic game bird starter for the higher protein. Once they are slaughtered, I drop them in a barrel of ice water for an overnight – gets rid of rigor.
I’m like you – I want a bird that’s above and beyond tasty and tender with zero fuss. The morning after slaughter – I grab one out of the barrel and plunk it in the oven for dinner. No salt, pepper, nothing. I want to know what my chicken tastes like, not disguise the flavor.
We have tried dual purpose birds in the past – a few different breeds, and I found the results disappointing. Much to long to raise for less than ideal weights. They suit canning up fine, but after factoring in the price – I get just as good results by canning up the old layer hens. 😊
great feedback, thanks so much
Now that I have a longer moment, very interesting about the game starter and giving them the shell from the very beginning.. I know that you have lots of milk normally, have your ever feed clabber for the last week or two as a finish? I was reading up on it.. I am not sure I would be willing to give up the milk for it, given that I am milking sheep and a goat this year but I would have had enough if I was still milking my cow.. I would like to try it for even five or ten birds and see if the taste difference is there or not.. I know that finishing my lambs on squash and pumpkin does effect the overall end flavour profile of the meat.
When the house cow is in peak production I donate a gallon of clabber a day to our laying hens. I would say it makes a big difference – not only in production, but the flavor seems….richer? I’m not sure, but my egg customers vow they are the best eggs, and almost get an anxiety if they think I might be short. Several actually prepay for eggs so they can stay at the top of the list. In the summer, when I’m not using my cookstove – I make a quick Creole cheese (it’s almost like a thick yogurt) and feed that to the pigs with their regular grain. They gain weight like crazy and taste stellar. Oddly, the milk/meat bird thing has never coincided – it might this year though – and if it does, I will definitely give them clabber – as well
as their regular grain.
Of course at around 4 – 6 gallons a day average – I have the milk to experiment with. I think for me also, it’s also about what I can supply from the farm to offset the cost of purchasing feed. I’m sure you do the same 😊