You want to raise meat birds? Woo hoo!!! We had a great time raising meat chickens for the first time. I hope the following information is helpful to your endeavors…. or at least entertaining.
Step 1: Order chicks and pick shipment date **keep in mind the chicks arrive early in the AM and MUST BE PICKED UP at the local post office ASAP. I got the call at 5:45AM.
Step 2: A few days before the chicks arrive, set up brooder using large box, heat lamp, newspaper, chick feed and water. You want to get the area nice and warm before the chicks arrive.
After reading about the different kinds of meat chickens, we decided to go with the Red Rangers from McMurrary Hatchery. Why you ask? We didn’t want to raise birds that couldn’t walk on their own (like the X Rocks) and since the Red Rangers are also decent layers, we had the option of keeping one around if we chose. We also liked that the Red Rangers reached maturity in 10-12 weeks (as apposed to laying hens and dual breeds that often take 20 weeks).
Step 3: When the chicks arrive, get them warm right away. They will need constant food and water. McMurray sends newsletters with great info on how to raise chicks.
We started with 20 Red Ranger chicks and a mix of 35 other chicks. Aren’t they super cute?
The chicks grew very quickly and were ready to go outside in 4 weeks. The Red Ranger chicks were also more friendly than the others and would come right up to us and arch their back like a dog to be petted. Awww, right?
We raised our chicks in the garage. CAUTION: The chick down feathers get EVERYWHERE. I had the shop vac going almost daily to keep on top of the mess. ALSO, since these birds grow fast, they eat a lot and….ahem….. poop a lot. Be prepared to clean up their pen often.
Step 4: Put the chicks outside and fatten them up
Once the chickens were fully feathered we moved them to their outside area which is 1/2 of a one stall horse barn. We turned the “tack room” into the chicken coop and cut a chicken door out the back that lead into their fenced off area. The fencing is about 5 feet high and the chickens were not interested in flying out. I think they were more concerned with eating and growing.
Step 5: Find a good butcher in the area and drop them off to be processed.
After 11 weeks the birds weighed about 6-8 pounds and we dropped them off to the butcher. In 24 hours we had 4-6 lb bagged broilers in the freezer.
Step 6: Find some recipes and enjoy!
We’ve been cooking one a week ever since.
Some other things that happened along the way….
We didn’t end up keeping any laying hens (thanks to a predator that killed a few), but one of the chickens was a runt and didn’t reach the needed weight at the time the others went off to the butcher. The runt was added to our laying flock and now “Roosty” is king of the hen-house. As you can see, they get pretty big. So far “Roosty” is a very nice rooster. Red Rangers are hybrids and you aren’t supposed to use them in breeding, but he’s useful for breaking up hen fights and alerting everyone of intruders.
As for the economics of things, raising our own meat birds doesn’t save that much money (if any). There are other meat animals that are far more profitable (such as pigs which we are also raising). However, we like the experience of raising the chickens on our own and deciding what they are eating.
Cost Break Down:
Chicks: $2.45 each= $50
Purina Non-Medicated Start & Grow for the first 2 weeks = $17.99
Purina Flock Raiser for the remainder (we used 1 bag every 2 weeks) = $71.96
Butcher: $3.25/bird (we lost some birds due to predators and butchered 12) = $39
TOTAL COST (not including wood chips, heat lamps, and start up costs) = $178.95 or $2.98 a pound
The grocery store is about $2.09/pound for an organic broiler. If we had NOT lost 7 chickens, it would have brought the cost down to $2.12 per pound. To make it MORE cost effective you can also raise extra birds to sell and recoup some money.
Overall it was a positive experience and we will be doing this again next year in hopes of selling some broilers.
Have you raised meat birds before? Please share your experiences in the comment section!
Have a great day!
🙂 Mama Nice