“Of all the forms of livestock, chickens put meat on your table with the least amount of time and effort. In a matter of weeks your chicken-keeping chores are over and your freezer is full of tasty, healthful poultry.”
–The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
A few weeks ago I wrote to you through an article titled 5 Compelling Reasons to Raise Your Own Meat Birds.
It was then I shared that our shipment of meat birds was scheduled for delivery the week of January 26th.
Well guess what!?!
All 60 bright yellow chicks (I know! Try not to get lost in the cuteness factor).
This will be our second batch of Jumbo Cornish X Rock broilers. The first time (October 2013-December 2013), we raised 15 to the age of dispatchment…that experience taught us so much about the differences in keeping layers vs. meat birds. Confident in our ability to grow and harvest enough meat to stock our freezer for a year, we placed an order for 60 more.
Choosing a Breed
So as I mentioned — for this second batch of chicks — we decided to stick with the Jumbo Cornish X Rocks.
We made this decision primarily for the ease of production. In 8 weeks — give or take a week or two — the whole process will be complete.
The downside to the Cornish Cross…they’re a hybrid (a special mating between two different types of chickens). This means there’s no sustainability to the breed for the small-scale homesteader.
Therefore, we also made the decision to ordered 50 Silver Gray Dorkings and have big plans for a sustainable breeding program that will insure our family’s future meat and egg production.
Historically, Dorkings were developed for their especially fine quality meat and exceptional egg laying ability. They are now, however, listed on The American Livestock Conservancy (the leading nonprofit organization working to protect breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction) as a “threatened” heritage breed.
- are great foragers (reducing the cost of feed).
- have a very gentle temperament.
- the hens are often broody (limiting the need for egg incubation) and make wonderful mothers to the chicks they are able to hatch.
- are able to mate on their own.
- lay a beautiful white/cream colored egg well into the winter months
- produce very tasty meat.
- are a homesteader’s dream chicken!!!
We can’t wait to raise them here at the ranch!
Learn more about — and purchase — meat, dual-purpose, heritage, and egg-layer breeds on sites like:
How much money you spend to raise chickens for meat depends heavily on such factors as:
- the breed of chickens you want
- what your plans are for housing and confinement
- type of feed
- what supplies/facilities you already have on hand
Housing and Confinement.
There are three types of confinement methods for poultry:
- Indoor Confinement (housing chickens indoors on litter and bringing them everything they eat)
- Range Confinement (keeping chickens within a movable structure on grass)
- Free Range (lets chickens freely come and go)
We will raise our Cornish X Rocks with a mix of indoor and range confinement.
The chicks will live — indoors (the garage), in a cattle tank, on a bed of TerrAmigo (pine pellets made from pure Arizona pine), under a brooder light with a heat lamp – for 2-3 weeks until they move outdoors to enjoy the rest of their days outdoors on grass. Even outdoors, they will need protection from the elements and predators…this made possible within the bounds of a movable chicken tractor.
Free range is not a viable option for Cornish X broilers because they are not aggressive foragers.
Types of feed.
Buy it or make your own?
With the price of GMO-free, organic beans and grains (yes, even when buying in bulk) it’s still cheaper for us to purchase pre-made feed. Through Azure Standard we purchase what I think is the BEST non-GMO, soy-free, corn-free, organic chick starter by Scratch and Peck at a fabulous price!
However, you may want to consider the following homemade feed recipes:
- Our Grain-Free Chickens
- Homemade Chicken Feed without Soy or Corn
- Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed
- Organic Chicken Feed Is “Cheep” When You Make It Yourself
Preparing for Health Maintenance
From the time chicks arrive here at the ranch, maintaining their health and preventing disease is my primary goal.
A healthy chicken will drink, eat, and grow big with great ease.
My arsenal of natural chicken health supplies includes:
- raw, organic apple cider vinegar — great for immunity, prevents respiratory problems, and maintains digestive health (I add 1 tablespoon to every gallon of water.)
- oregano essential oils — researchers found that adding oregano essential oils to chickens’ water was the most effective at preventing salmonella…click here to read more (I add 3 drops to every gallon of water.
- organic garlic — fresh garlic is and excellent anti-parasitic and wormer, great for immunity (I always keep a mashed clove or three in the waterer. I also free-feed fresh garlic, along with other herbs, to the flock.)
- blackstrap molasses — read about the benefits of molasses for your chickens here…
- diatomaceous earth — read about the benefits of DE and how to use it
- goat milk — goat milk has a great amount of beneficial vitamins and minerals for chickens — it’s especially effective in building strong leg structure (I give day-old/fermented goat milk free-choice to my chickens for the first 7 days, then as often as it’s available.)
There you have it!
The chicks are all settled in and growing.
Interested in learn more? I highly recommend the following books:
- The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
- Pastured Poultry Profit$
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens
- The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens
- Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock
And be sure to follow my Pinterest Board “Keeping Chickens” for added inspiration!
Feel free to ask questions in the comments!