Monday, February 22, 2010

Raising Meat Chickens

This is not a Cornish Rock, but they all start out small.

I thought it would be to some and advantage if I shared our experiences raising meat birds.  Mr. D and I have had many experiences together and I think it would be helpful to some to share these experiences.

We have raised meat birds for quite a few years now with the exception of two years when we were moving and thought it not a good thing to try and take on the responsibility with all the other stuff we were involved in.

Our first year we started out quite ambitious with 50 chicks.  We had a couple leghorns that a fellow teacher had given me, so we had space set aside for birds.  I don't think we realized how much space we would actually need nor how dirty and smelly 50 meat birds could be.  We got a straight run (males and females) of Cornish Rock Giants.  They came in May and we had to keep them indoors where it was warm for a while.  I  didn't know at the time how much dust 50 chicks could produce... let's just say it's a good thing the computer still works.  They were cute little things and it was OK for a while to keep them inside.  When they were old enough we took them out to the coop and introduced them to life outdoors.  The current resident didn't think much of them, but there was safety in numbers.  At this time a friend gave us a bunch of random breed birds that he had purchased and didn't want so many.  Among those birds were some "Turkins", the craziest looking creatures with bald necks and tufts of feathers on their heads.  So we had quite a mix.  We had plenty of eggs and the meat birds were growing like weeds... literally.  In September we thought it time to start butchering.  Our chicken bible was "Living with Chickens" by Jay Rossier  --- purchase here:
This is a very informative book that we picked up at our feed store.  We followed it word for word that first year.
When we started butchering in September, some of our chickens were dressing out at 10 + lbs. and we were very excited.  They looked like turkeys. They barely fit into the roasting pan.  When they froze, they expanded so that the top of the freezer popped up, and we had to purchase another freezer... used, but good one.

The meat was really good.  We had fed them from the very beginning so we knew what foods they had eaten.  Lots of veggies and non-medicated feed.  Lots of tomato hornworms which they eyed all over before picking up to eat.

So what have we learned?

Things to know when raising Cornish Rock Giants:
* raise roosters not hens
* have plenty of space 'cause they grow fast and they get big
* make sure they have plenty of fresh water and lots of veggies/weeds to supplement the grain or they eat you out of house and home (funny is giving them a watermelon)
* order in April for May delivery so the slaughtering can be done while it is still warm
* start with not so many -  better to start small and see how you do, especially if you're doing all the work yourself.
* don't bring the chicks into the house.  Keep them warm with heat lamps in the coop if at all possible.  They are incredibly dusty.
* if you get your chicks in May you will be slaughtering in September.

More on the subject in the next blog.


  1. Did you get your nor-easter (or whatever they call them?) ... if so, I hope you had a safe trip to Boston. Love the pics of your (tasty!) chickies!! :)

  2. Thanks Conny...
    Praise the Lord, no snow yesterday when we had to travel to Boston. Woke up this morning to 12" heavy snow at the house, but thank the Lord for reliable car, snowplow and sand, keeping the crazy drivers away from me, and last but never least... protection all the way and also a good job which makes it worth getting here. Hope you have no crazy weather at your house.

    Have a great day!!!

  3. Very helpful practical tips! We have been raising layers for years, but are thinking of getting some meat birds for the first time this year. I think we may start with 10-15, and my husband is thinking of building "chicken tractors" to move them around the pasture...