How we raise Meat Birds

Most people are squeamish about raising their own meat.  I can understand that!  I am an animal lover and hate to see anyone in pain.

But I also care about my family.  I am concerned about how the American food system is taking care of their products.  Hmmm, how is sending chickens to China to be processed a good thing?????  So, I combat this by raising my own animals.  I know what they’re fed, how they’re treated, how happy their life is, how big the shelter is, etc.

My philosophy is make sure all their days are good until their last day.  And that last day is not a happy day for anyone!!!  I miss them when they are gone.  But it makes me appreciate their gift to me more now that I know what happened in order to have it.

Last year, we ventured into the world of pigs/pork.  I LOVED it.  Loved their antics.  My husband and kids are loving their bacon and smoked pork chops.  And say it is the best tasting EVER.  I love being able to provide for my family.  Getting ready to order my next batch for this year.  Halfway through last season, I decided to add more pigs so I could sell those and make costs even for my own meat.  If you taking care of one, why not add a few more!

One thing I noticed was how quickly we clear out a freezer!!  When you load it in the freezer as you come home from the butcher, you think, how can we eat all this!?!?!  But I gave a lot out as Christmas gifts – to someone who gave us their leftover corn, to our neighbors, grandparents, aunt/uncle, etc.  And we might eat at home more than the average person?  I have no clue on that.

I bought 65 butchered chickens last year and we don’t have ANY left!!!  My kiddos are missing chicken meals.

So this year we will be focusing on raising meat birds/broilers/cornish cross.

We have butchered our own roosters and they weren’t my favorite taste so I researched more into it.  First off, the roosters we ate were not the eating type.  Second, I didn’t let them sit (to remove rigor mortis) before cooking.  Third, did not cook them the best way to soften them.

I looked into raising Freedom Rangers.  This is said to be a more natural type that doesn’t gorge themselves to death and are better raised on pasture.  BUT I was concerned as my husband is not keen on the dark meat flavor of regular grocery store chickens so how would he be on these?  So that is why I am raising Cornish Cross this year.

As I posted earlier, we hatched 21 eggs.  Then we purchased 24 more eggs and 24 chicks.  If these all hatch/reach maturity, that would be 69 chickens but that won’t be enough for a year AND provided my butchering helpers with chicken too.   So we’ll do at least 1 more set of eggs and chicks.

For the first 2 weeks, they live in our garage in a horse trough with shavings, a heat lamp and well-covered to keep out our cats.  I am able to check on them regularly and keep them in clean food and water.  Now meat birds are different than layers!  Whoo Whee!!!  Smellier, messier, eat more, swim in their water bottle and uglier.  And since they can gorge themselves to death, after their first week, I take out their food at night.   I buy all of our feed from Scratch and Peck but have it delivered through Azure Standard.  Since we will be eating these birds, I want to make sure everything that they eat is as natural as possible.  For the first 8 weeks, they are to be on Starter feed.  Then they will be moved to Grower feed.  I’ll supplement their feeding with a local farmer’s scratch mix as it will cut feed costs.

Once they reach about 2 weeks old, we move them to the brooder that my husband built in our chicken coop.  I think he did a pretty good job designing it but I may be a little biased.  He is so resourceful!  As our house was being built, every scrap that was thrown out, he took and stored in a building her on the farm.  And he manages a warehouse so every time something comes in on pallets, he brings them home.  Other than buying hinges, he had everything on the farm!

This brooder hopefully will be all they need til butcher time!

We’ll butcher them at around 8 weeks if they are around 6 lbs before butchering.

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