Thursday, June 25, 2009

Meet the Meat Chickens

Hello everybody! I know it's been a while since my last post. We have been shopping for new puppy and it seems like all my time on the computer has been dedicated to this quest. I'm not the great multi-tasker I once was and it seems like all other interests are abandoned for a short while then soon revisited and put once again in the forefront of my mind. I think I must just be getting older.

Anyways, I wanted to share with you all my first experience raising a few meat chickens. Yes, all chickens are made of meat but the bird of choice for the poultry industry and backyard farmers is the Cornish Rock Cross. They are a hybrid of the Cornish bred to the Plymouth Rock and from what I have learned so far is that parents of these crosses are specifically bred themselves to produce the desired qualities looked for in their hybrid progeny.

The purpose of these Cornish Rock birds is to grow fast...really fast. To be a nice frier/ broiler size within 6 to 8 weeks from hatching. Along with this fast growth comes the risks of their body weight growing faster than their legs can suppose them.

I really wasn't planning on getting meat birds this year but I was thinking about it. I was especially inspired by the wonderful blog The Deliberate Agrarian . It's a great place to not only learn about raising and processing chickens but also living self-reliantly in a spiritually inspired way.

My buying three meat chickens was a little of a impulse purchase though all three cost about the same as venti mocha at Starbucks. I was at the feed store the first week of June when they had their last shipment of chicks arrive. They were all pre-sold meat chicks but in one of the brooders they had 3 big one-week old meat chicks and they were available for $1.30 a piece so I bought them. I figured it was an okay deal since they had an entire week of feed and heat lamp already invested into them.

My goal for these three birds is to raise them to roaster size which is a little larger than a frier/broiler chicken. So, I'm experimenting with allowing them to grow at a slower rate by feeding them a layer food and taking it away at night. They do have interesting personalties though. Very calm and docile birds but they seem perfectly comfortable with pooping while still laying in front of their food dish! Definitely couch potatoes!
Currently I get my friers either from Costco (already processed of course!) or from my extra roosters that are a byproduct of hatching our own heavy brown egg layers. Here's one pictured above. I slaughtered a couple yesterday that were Buff Orpington crosses. These birds are young and tender but do not have the broad breast the Cornish Rock Crosses possess. I'll probably end up slaughtering some of my Cuckcoo Marans roosters, too. They are supposed to be a good table bird and they mature a lot faster than the Buff Orpington crosses.

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