Raising Meat Birds

Are you interested in raising chickens for their meat and not their eggs? While all chickens can be butchered, there is an option to avoid egg laying all together, but the process looks a bit different.

First, you’ll need to choose the breed of meat bird you want to raise. Below you will find a list of breeds we suggest, along with the number of weeks it takes to raise them to butchering age, and the ideal weight they should be when butchering.

Breed:

Weeks of Age at Butchering:

Ideal Butchering Weight:

Cornish Rock Cross

8-10

9-12 lbs.

Jersey Giant

20

10-13 lbs.

Orphington

20-22

8-10 lbs.

New Hampshire Red

20

6-8 lbs.

Rhode Island Red

19

6-8 lbs.

Brown Leghorn

16-21

8-10 lbs.

Delaware

12

6-8 lbs.

 

When ordering your chicks of choice, there are 2 things to consider; how many chickens do you have room to raise and how much chicken can you store after they are butchered? You can choose to raise and butcher chickens in the spring only or you can choose to do it in the spring and fall. You can raise as many or as few as you would like, some people raise and butcher 20 and some do over 100. Chickens are relatively cheap to raise and can be butchered at home, making them a cheap food source for your family.

Your chicks will arrive at only a few days old. You’ll need to provide them with a brooder set up to give them protection and warmth. Check out our blog Your Basic Guide to Caring for Chicks for more information on setting up your brooder and choosing a starter feed for your new chicks. You should use a starter feed with your meat chicks for the first 3 weeks, we suggest starting with our MannaPro® Non-medicated Chick Starter.

After your chicks have begun to grow their feathers and shed their fluff (around 3 weeks) you should switch them to a protein grower feed. Meat birds tend to be over-eaters so after their first 3 weeks on full feed, you should switch them to a 12 hours on and 12 hours off schedule. Take away their feed during the 12 hours off hours to prevent over-eating. They will stay on grower feed until they are of age to butcher (see chart above).

When raising meat birds, they tend to be quite messy and produce far more feces than laying hens. To maintain good heath in your flock, its best to keep your feeders and waterers off the ground. Hanging them will prevent your chickens from being able to get feces in their feed or water. If you are raising a large number of chickens, the Little Giant® Galvanized Hanging 30 lb. Feeder and Little Giant® 5-gallon Plastic Poultry Fountain  would be perfect for holding large amounts of feed and water for your flock.

After your flock has reached butchering age or weight, it’s time to schedule when you will process them. You can choose to butcher your chickens at home or use your local meat locker to do the work for you. Keep your eyes open for our next article on how to process your chickens at home!