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#1 2017-08-04 23:47:07

Sunfeathers
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From: Vancouver Island, North
Registered: 2014-05-15
Posts: 1167

Decided to try meat chickens

I thought I would try a few to start. I will not be buying grocery store birds anymore. The last cruelty story that came out a while ago did it. Hubby isn't quite sure yet. I've suggested he just stay away from them for now. I think I can do this finally, the slaughter/freezer part, that is  They arrived on Tuesday, twenty-five Cobb 500. All are looking healthy but I'm realizing my brooder is going to be too small very quickly.

I realize there are various opinions on feeding but I'm hoping to feed for healthy birds, keeping joint problems to a minimum, with average to good size. I aim to put them out in a chicken tractor at four weeks, if all our grass hasn't dried up by then.

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#2 2017-08-05 09:01:36

jocelyn
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From: PEI
Registered: 2009-01-23
Posts: 863

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

Sunfeathers, try letting their feed dish run empty for 2 hours in the mornings, after they ae a week or two old.
This seems to avoid the bad legs thingy.  See if other folks will chime in too, with more ideas.
A few shovels of soil on the brooder floor will give them good traction too, and it helps their legs if they have good footing.

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#3 2017-08-05 15:53:58

Sunfeathers
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From: Vancouver Island, North
Registered: 2014-05-15
Posts: 1167

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

Thanks Jocelyn, that's exactly the kind of input I was hoping for =)

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#4 2017-08-05 16:03:43

shaneb99
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From: Strathmore
Registered: 2012-08-28
Posts: 1987

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

I like to let them run out of food by the end of the day then refill in the morning. That gives them the chance to process the food in their system overnight. Also seperate their food and water so they have to walk a bit. I also like to add about 1/3 cracked corn to their food in the last few weeks. It makes them fatter but also gives them something to "chew" with their gizzards instead of just scarfing down soft food. Otherwise I just follow the feed recommendations wrt starter/grower/finisher,


Blue Buff and Silver Laced Brahmas plus too much other stuff to list.

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#5 2017-08-05 17:25:12

Tegaan
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From: Salmon Arm, BC
Registered: 2013-12-15
Posts: 556

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

I have mine in a brooder for about 10 days, move out to tractor for about 10 days then open up the tractor for the rest of the time so they can free range. This is in an enclosed, but large space. If it is still cold at night we put heat lamps in the tractor for a bit. During the 10 days in the tractor we move them 1-2 x a day.

Feed is organic starter for 4 weeks free feed. Then organic grower for the last 4 weeks fed 2x per day.....they run out in between. My chicks usually forage, chase bugs and dust bathe.

I rarely have issues. This year I got a call from the hatchery after about a week to check on my birds as they had a lot of issues with the hatch from my pick up day. Mine were healthy for the most part, I did have to cull 3 birds day 54-56 for leg issues which is not the norm (I think it was due to what ever issue others were having....I fared much better than others who had a lot of losses due to how I raise them ) Those chickens we will use for broth as they were a bit smaller that full grow out time. I also request NO respiratory spray at the hatchery.

This is how I calculate my feed and it has worked so far pretty good.
Starter-10 birds get 1/4 bag of feed per week (x4) So 10 birds would use 1 bag in 4 weeks.
Grower-10 birds get 2/3 bag of feed per week (x4) So 10 birds would use 2.6 bags in 4 weeks (round to 3)

Doing it this way with restricting feed and letting them roam results in a little less weight but a healthier chicken.....in my opinion. I harvest between 8-9 weeks and get between 4.2-6.9 pounds dressed. I am happy with that. Our birds cost $10.34 each to raise this year, resulting in $1.92 per pound meat cost (with the culls).

I also kept a male meat bird this year (I am soft) and he is doing very good, runs around, chases other birds, forages, dust bathes, etc. He stands nice and tall too. He just doesn't roost, he sleeps in the hay.

Hope this was helpful. Good luck with your birds.

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#6 2017-08-05 22:27:06

Sunfeathers
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From: Vancouver Island, North
Registered: 2014-05-15
Posts: 1167

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

Very helpful, thank you Shane and Tegaan.

Tegaan, do you think getting them out and moving early in life helps with the leg issues?

Last edited by Sunfeathers (2017-08-05 22:27:37)

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#7 2017-08-05 23:59:36

Tegaan
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From: Salmon Arm, BC
Registered: 2013-12-15
Posts: 556

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

Yes I do. The 1st year we kept them in the tractor longer and just moved them a lot. They sat mostly. I did not like it at all. Letting them out on grass early, oh and spacing the feed away from the water, makes it so they have to move and use those muscles. Early helps them to learn to forage too. And I think they are happier.

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#8 2017-08-06 01:33:34

Ipf
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From: Salt Spring Island
Registered: 2009-03-01
Posts: 1646

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

Yes, separating food and water (by gradually increasing distances each day) is very effective at making (and keeping) them mobile. Eventually we had food and water about 50 feet apart.
Another thing we tried was putting a "trainer" hen in with them - she will show them how to forage and search for scratch and other goodies hidden in the grass. It worked really well! In later years we didn't do that, and the meat chicks never really got the hang of it - they'd just stand and watch while we threw scratch into their run.

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#9 2017-08-06 05:15:58

uno
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From: Enderby, BC
Registered: 2009-02-22
Posts: 5428
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Re: Decided to try meat chickens

We feed twice a day. Morning and late afternoon. This is done to avoid such rapid growth that they become gross, crippled blobs. Also, if there is food in the feeders overnight, there are bears in the chicken pen by morning. Bad. So it's mostly to contain wild growth and partly to avoid wild animals.

However, one time we UNDERfed them and that was a HUGE mistake. There is a window of growth where they have the best feed to weight gain ratio, and that is in the first few weeks. As they get bigger, it takes more food for them to gain the same amount of weight. In other words, if you underfeed them to start with you will NOT be able to make up for that loss later on. You can keep them an extra 2 weeks and throw the food to them and they will not make up for lost time. This ends up costing you more per pound to raise. Avoid this. Feed them sensibly, but sufficiently for them to gain the weight they need without crippling like Jaba the Hut.

We also put a sploosh of apple cider vinegar into their water. I believe this helps them metabolize calcium into bone density. DO NOT PUT AC VINEGAR IN METAL WATERERS !!! It corrodes them instantly.

Last edited by uno (2017-08-06 05:16:41)

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#10 2017-08-06 09:14:08

jocelyn
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From: PEI
Registered: 2009-01-23
Posts: 863

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

You will find folks raise them as suits their personality and the predetor pressure in the area........and it all works.  Don't look for the ONE right way to raise them, grin.  There are probably 20 right ways to raise them.
Ours get fresh sods every day as neighbours dogs, foxes, coyotes etc make free range not possible.
They love to scratch and eat sods...........and they get more exercise doing that, so nice big legs, nice dressing percentage.  We put 4 in a bucket yesterday, weighed them, subtracted the 2 pounds 6 oz for the bucket and killed them in the order we weighed them.  They averaged 73 and a half percent dressed weight from live...so the exercise pays off.  They were at 53 days yesterday, and would have dressed higher if we had held them longer.  We are two old fogies though, and 6 to 7 and a half pounds dressed weight is enough.  They grow much faster than you think, and by 10 weeks, they will look as big as turkeys, grin.
You can always cut them in two lengthwise and roast half a one if the weights get away on you and they dress 17 pounds or something rediculous for two people.  They will eat an amazing amount of fresh grass, and that slows their growth a little, less of them that grow themselves to death and die of a heart attack.  The meat tastes nice too, with lots of grass in their diet.  You will have very nice meat for your table, and the birds will have a much better life while you raise them.  :)

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#11 2017-08-06 11:33:27

Schipperkesue
Administrator
From: Carnwood, Alberta
Registered: 2010-04-08
Posts: 15516

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

uno wrote:

However, one time we UNDERfed them and that was a HUGE mistake. There is a window of growth where they have the best feed to weight gain ratio, and that is in the first few weeks. As they get bigger, it takes more food for them to gain the same amount of weight. In other words, if you underfeed them to start with you will NOT be able to make up for that loss later on. You can keep them an extra 2 weeks and throw the food to them and they will not make up for lost time. This ends up costing you more per pound to raise. Avoid this.

From what I have read this is VERY IMPORTANT.


Embrace your mistakes....they are life's most meaningful education.

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#12 2017-08-21 14:07:36

Sunfeathers
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From: Vancouver Island, North
Registered: 2014-05-15
Posts: 1167

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

Thank you all for your input.

So far they are doing well, playing, dusting, sleeping but mostly eating, drinking and growing. Wow, incredible growth rate! Thankfully, I was paying close attention because my brooder became too small very quickly without enough ventilation and one or two started sounding wheezy. I moved them to a bigger, airy pen and they are all doing well. Almost three weeks old now. We are getting some sod for them and out they go in a tractor at four weeks.

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#13 2017-08-21 15:56:55

Schipperkesue
Administrator
From: Carnwood, Alberta
Registered: 2010-04-08
Posts: 15516

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

Congratulations on your success!  I look forward to further reports!  Will you be butchering yourself?


Embrace your mistakes....they are life's most meaningful education.

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#14 2017-08-21 19:11:15

Sunfeathers
A.C.E. Addicted
From: Vancouver Island, North
Registered: 2014-05-15
Posts: 1167

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

No, too much arthritis to do it myself. It would take me days to do them all. We are very lucky to have a processor 15 minutes away.

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#15 2017-08-22 15:37:56

countrychicken
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From: mayfair, sk
Registered: 2014-01-21
Posts: 1054

Re: Decided to try meat chickens

mine start in a brooder then when they start to outgrow that I open a door in the corner of it and they have the run of the juvenile section of the coop and attached pen. I turn on the heat lamp at nyte and after herding them inside for a few nights they start to do it on their own. as soon as poss I open door to pen and they free range w/everything else all over the yards.

like any other chicken till they get almost done at 5-7 lbs. they seem to start having breathing difficulties, wheezing, gurgling and some develop an odd gait  not all but some, only gets worse the bigger they get. we usually do the boys when starting to show sex, this year was about 5-6 lbs dressed. the girls leave for bigger roasters

the bigger and older they get the worse the probs. have tried to keep some over to get a cross in the spring but hard to do and they don't really lay or are properly impregnated. I managed to one year w/a black jersey giant roo and the x was outstanding, still have one blue girl and 2 dalmation girls that must be 4-5 yrs old now. wish I could do a cross as they are nice big breasts, top out prob 10lbs dressed and will roost

all in all exactly what they are sold as, a fast meat bird not a long living example

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