Two Letter Re: Our Experiences with Raising Meat Chickens

Mr. Rawles:
I had to respond to the article about meat chickens. We have raised laying hens from chicks many times. Last year we too decided to try Cornish Cross chicks. The company we chose only gave “straight run”, so we couldn’t choose their sex. We got 16 and filled out our 25 chick minimum with new laying hens. One died the day after we got them. We brooded them in a large black poly water trough with paper covering the litter in the bottom. And we had a heat lamp over the top. Plus even though it was also in our shop, we covered it with wire just in case. After about two weeks we used a fence panel covered with chicken wire to board off about half of the laying hens 12′ x 12′ stall in the barn and they moved out there. We didn’t follow the food suggestion of removing the feed for 12 hours. They had chick starter and water 24 hrs a day. When we ran out of starter they went on the same high protein feed the hens used. When they were about a month old we took down the separation and they went in with the other layers. They are always locked in the stall at night. During the day the door is open. We do not have a pen, they are all free range. It was funny to see that a couple of them buddy up with the new layer babies and they would try and keep up with them. Most of the meat chicks stayed inside but they would go out and lay in the grass and sun themselves when it wasn’t too hot. But to watch the ones following the layers was funny. They really looked like Baby Huey on the cartoons. But with our experience, we never lost another chick. We went through three 50 lb bags of food after the starter. And we took them to be butchered. $3.50 a bird was cheap as far as we were concerned. We could do it if we needed to but at this point it was just easier. The hens finished out at about 4 lb and the roosters were 5 lbs. But we took them in when they were 56 days old. We have been told if you go too long they will literally outgrow their organs. Ours weren’t as big as those in the article, but we had no loses other than the first day. – Toni T.

Dear Sir,  
Thank you as always for your outstanding work. SurvivalBlog is a daily must read.   Though I do not yet raise poultry, I am doing my homework, and Pat O.’s article illustrates why I will never raise single-purpose specialty breed chickens or other livestock. There are many older breeds of animal that are well-suited in all ways to fend for themselves, be intelligent and resourceful, and still supply us with high-quality eggs and/or meat. Most heritage breeds of chicken are quite capable of foraging, thereby greatly saving on purchased or raised feed costs, and they have enough sense to know where they live. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is working to save over 180 rare and endangered species from extinction; there are many dual-purpose heritage chickens available that are better meat than egg birds, for example. When selecting breeds for your farm or retreat, please give a thought to helping maintain the genetic diversity and long-proven character qualities these animals represent, and are important to retain. Thanks again and best wishes, – Burne