Monday, 4 June 2012

Babies on the Farm - The Start of Meat Chickens

We made the decision to take the plunge and have a go at raising meat chickens and over the weekend we picked up our chicks.
We believe that since we are meat eaters it is important to be in touch with where our food comes from.  It is one thing to know that your meat comes from an animal but to actually be part of the process I think will make us appreciate it a lot more.
We have discovered that with farming it is best to really think things through, come up with a good plan then smile and get creative after your plan goes sailing out the window.
We have two bantams who spend a lot of time being clucky and the plan was that they would sit on half the chicks each.  So what do you think happened a few days before we were due to pick up the chicks?  Yep they stopped being clucky.
So now we have a cage full of chickens in front of our fire in the house.  And let me tell you these 14 little chicks make some noise.

It is not ideal to have them in the house but without a couple of surrogate mothers we are limited in our choices.
At this stage all these little guys do is eat, sleep and poop just like all babies so other than providing basic needs we are not too involved at this stage.
Before getting the chicks we spoke to the breeder at length.  We discovered that once you make a commitment to raise meat chickens you have to follow through as there is no changing your mind and deciding to keep them for pets as they will not survive if they are purpose breed meat chickens.
Basically there are two types of meat chickens, purpose bred like the ones used in a commercial chicken farms and then there are the naturally heavy breeds of chicken suitable for meat.
The big difference is that purpose bred chickens are the result of two very heavy breeds crossed with each other to produce a very heavy bird that gets big fast so you do not have to spend huge amounts of money on food.  But they have a short life span as their legs cannot hold their body weight if you let them get too big which is part of the problem with the birds raised in some commercial situations where the birds can become injured  and they are so crowded together that it is not noticed.
We will be killing our birds at 13 weeks so that should be well before they get too heavy and could possibly become injured.

I will keep you all posted on how we go with this new journey as I am sure there will be a lot that we learn along the way


  1. This is a path that we are also looking to travel. May I ask which bred of chicken you are raising?

    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to future updates.

  2. If those are Cornish X, 13 weeks will be quite late. 8 weeks is best with Cornish x.

  3. You got your chicks! I will be watching this space with great interest, Fiona, as you know we are just starting down this path too..although just making the two hatchy mamas comfortable at the moment. We are keen to try the large breeds of heritage birds, although having less meat on each bird is something we will have to get used to. This is a big time for you, all the best with it. xx

  4. Cute! I mean Yum! can't get emotionally attached!!
    I too looked into meat chickens a little while back and was ready to order some, but I found out that my own eggs were hatching again with baby Laura so it's all gone on hold for a while now until I have a little bit more time on my hands. Looking forward to seeing how you go. :)

  5. I had a giggle at Gooseberry Jam's comment! But they are cute! Good on you for doing this and hope all goes well. I'm looking forward to hearing how you go!

  6. The meat chicken. A purpose breed chicken to produce the maximum amount of meat in the shortest amount of time for obviously minimal cost.

    What about heritage heavy breeds? People have survived for centuries with these breeds and are able to breed their own stock. Less meat, to be sure, but more in tune with slow living and self sustainability.

  7. I'm definitely interested in how this goes.

  8. Good luck with your new brood. Never mind the nise - what about the smell - wont be long and they will be big enough to go outside. Hope you can remember how the family chicken processing days went long ago. At least neither of you are squeemish!

  9. That's fabulous! We've got our new layers (20 chicks) up to the 12 week stage and they are just about to move into their new permanent run. They started as day olds under a heat lamp in the garage in a brooder box. After a couple of weeks, we doubled the size of the brooder box, then at six weeks, moved that box to just outside the garage without the heat lamp. From there, they went inside their brooder box to an enclosure next to the other chooks, letting them out in the day. So this afternoon, its off to the big run that opens out into the various garden patches. And what that means, is we now separate the layers from the meat birds and have our four Sussex's start our new line on meat production. So that's a long way around to telling you that we aren't far behind!


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