This past year, for the first time, I raised chickens for meat. The reason I did not previously is that I do not like killing animals. I can butcher them after they are dead, but I don’t like killing them. Yes, I know, I’m such a wimp.
Informed of Chicken Processing Plants
I have a good friend, Tami, who works for the local feed store, and in the spring, they have lots of chicks. I mentioned to Tami that I would like to raise my own chickens for meat but cannot kill the chickens (or rabbits, or whatever). She informed me that, in Idaho (much closer to us than the Willamette Valley or the coast), there are chicken processing plants where you bring in live chickens and return a few hours later and have chickens that have been killed, cleaned, cooled, and sealed in plastic.
Going To Raise Meat Chickens
Well, that settled it for me; I was going to raise my own meat chickens.
I had done a lot of research on growing meat chickens, and I had decided if I ever raised my own fryers they would be Red or Freedom Rangers or the equivalent, and not Cornish Cross or Franken chickens, as I call them. Cornish Cross chickens are what are grown commercially because they grow from baby chick to fryer size in 6-8 weeks. In fact, they grow so fast that their legs often cannot keep up and you have a bunch of chickens that can’t, or can barely, walk. Further, many of them die of heart attacks due to their massive growth rate.
Red rangers take about twice as long as Cornish Cross. It takes twelve weeks instead of six to eight.
Bought and Ordered Chicks
So, armed with the knowledge that I would not have to kill them, I bought all 25 chicks Tami had in stock, and I ordered 25 more, which would be in in about a month. I figured that would give us about a year’s worth of chicken.
Chicks are usually available in March and April. You can purchase them from feed stores or order them online, and then they come in the mail.
Before You Pick Up Your Chicks
You need to have food, waterers, and chick starter before you pick up your chicks. You will also need some sawdust, newspapers, or something for bedding for the chicks. There are little plastic chick feeders and waterers that just fit onto regular mouth canning jars (either pint or quart). They are inexpensive and come in several bright colors.
You usually have a choice between medicated chick starter or non-medicated chick starter for your baby chicks. (Medicated has antibiotic in it.) It is your choice, but the medicated is probably not needed if you keep their cage clean.
Chick Starter Feeding
They will need to be on chick starter for the first 2-3 weeks of life. Please note, these feeding instructions are for meat chicks. Layers need to be on chick starter much longer. After 2-3 weeks on chick starter, the chicks need to be changed over to meat bird grower, which has about 22% protein, as they are growing at a phenomenal rate.
It is also good to have a little bit of chick probiotic/electrolytes on hand. This is not strictly necessary; it’s just nice to have in case they develop a severe case of diarrhea.
Online Chick Order Arrival At Post Office
If you order your chicks online, you need to be available on the day they come in to go to the post office and pick them up. You will usually get a call from the post master saying they are in and to come get them. Do not delay! These chicks are newborn and have had no food or water since they hatched or for the past two or three days while in the mail. They are really hungry and thirsty.
When Remove Them From Shipping Box
When you remove them from the shipping box, you will need to have fresh water available and dip their little beaks in it as you remove them individually from the box and place them in their new temporary home. They will find the chick food on their own.
Warm Temporary Home For a Couple of Weeks
March and April is really cold here still, so I raise them in the house for a couple of weeks and start them in a large clear plastic bin over which I place a lid which is a wood frame with metal screen that fits over the top of the bin. I place a brooder lamp on the lid with a 75-100 watt light bulb in it to keep the chicks warm. They need to have an area in their temporary home where it is approximately 90 degrees until they are fully feathered.
My bin is large, so the chicks can sit right under the light if they are chilly. They can also move out away from the light if they get too toasty.
If the night is expected to be especially cold, I also cover the half of the bin with a towel but not touching the light to help hold in some heat. (I do not want to risk a house fire so am careful to keep the towel away from the light.) Check your babies several times per day, and make sure they have plenty of food and water.
Cleaning and Checking For “Pasty Butt”
Also, you will need to clean out your bin every few days at the most. It can get pretty smelly. I usually move the chicks to a small box while I am cleaning out their bin. Moving them individually from the bin to a box for cleaning out the bin gives me time to check each one for “pasty butt”. Pasty butt happens when the poop is a little sticky and sticks in a lump on their vent/butt.
No matter how distasteful it may be to you, know that if it is not removed, they will be unable to defecate and will die. Do this the following procedure as gently as possible: Damp the butt/vent with warm water and a cotton ball or q-tip. Then clear it. Try not to pull too much of its down/fluff out because it needs that down for warmth. (Besides, it hurts when you pull it out.)
Here’s a funny story but true. I was raised in the country, but my husband was raised on the coast in Connecticut. While Jeff wasn’t raised in a huge city, it was still a city.
The February after we got married, I told him that on March 1, chicks would be available at the local feed store and I was going to get some. We had both sold our homes and were living in a rental house on several acres while we looked for another house to purchase in Eastern Oregon.
Jeff inquired, and rightly so, since there was still about six inches of snow on the ground, where I planned to put these baby chicks, as they would surely freeze to death outside. “In the house” was my reply. I was totally surprised by his question since I have always started baby chicks in the house.
Now, his eyes got big! “In the house?” Jeff asked, slightly alarmed. I could see that he was imagining chicken poop everywhere and chickens flying all over the house, on kitchen counters, and the dining table.
“Yes, I bought them a big plastic bin, and we can place a lamp over them and raise them upstairs.” I assured him.
He was skeptical and did not think it was a good idea since we were in a rental home, but I assured him that I had talked to the landlord and had a place I could move them to outside once they were feathered out.
It worked out really well. Jeff helped me with the chicks daily, holding them and getting attached to them. Baby chicks are really cute.
Tomorrow I will tell you about our pursuit for a chicken tractor. Also, we will go over some other details, such as cost and benefits of raising chickens for meat. Come back for more of our story tomorrow.
- Raising Chickens For Meat- Part 2, by Michele Cooper (Active on 1/20/19)
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 80 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
- An assortment of products along with a one hour consultation on health and wellness from Pruitt’s Tree Resin (a $265 value).
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances.
Round 80 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.