Raising Meat Chickens
*None of the below Cornish X chicken pictures are mine*
I could say I've been thinking about getting some meat chickens for awhile now, but I would be lying when I said that. The truth is this idea popped into my head exactly two days ago and I'm now determined to raise some Meaties!
But I don't want to raise them the normal way. I want to raise them as naturally and humanely as possible and let them enjoy being a chicken for the few short weeks they would be here.
We are fixing to butcher about a dozen of our geese, so that will drastically cut down on my work load and our feed bill. It will also provide me with more room; room that I could grow some Meaties in! After most of the geese are moved into the freezer I will only have a few (13 to be exact) geese left to house and I will simply build them some stalls inside the Poultry Palace (a.k.a my big insulated building). I will then tear out all the current stalls in the Goose House and when I get the chicks I will brood them in containers on the Goose House floor until they are bigger and need more room to run around. Then once they are about 2 wks old I will start letting them roam around in the large run that is attached to the Goose House.
As far as feeding goes, I would love to feed them organic feed, but right now that's out of our price range. Maybe someday.
Instead I would feed them Evergreen (a feed brand) chick starter/grower, which I would ferment (more on that later). I would also start growing fodder and sprouts for them. They'd also get any extra veggie or kitchen scraps we have. Throw in lots of sunshine and exercise and I can see lots of healthy Meaties running around! Oh wait..I don't even have them yet....
As for a source for the chicks, pretty much all of the hatcheries carry them, but most of the TSC's (for all you non-country-fried folks out there, TSC stands for Tractor's Supply Company) are still carrying chicks. I called our "local" TSC and asked if they had any Cornish X chicks available, and the sweet lady I talked to said they only had 8 left. Shoot. We were thinking we wanted to do anywhere from 20-35 chicks. If I'm going to take the effort to raise some, I'd rather raise enough to keep us in supply of meat for several months. Eventually I'd like to be able to raise enough to last us the whole year. But for right now, let's just stick with a few. After all, I've never raised Meaties before so this'll be an experiment.
If we had more grass and not so many predators who also happen to like chicken dinners, I would consider free ranging them but I'm afraid since they are solid white they would be a white flashing beacon to all the hungry varmints out there.
We might be going to town sometime next week, so maybe we can pick some up then.
So what's your experience been with Meaties? Have you raised them before? How did you feed and house them? What weight did they dress out at? Any tips you can give me? I'm all ears!
An awesome page showing the growth of some Meaties from day-olds to processing day. Excellent read!
Thread on free ranging Meaties: