This morning, we harvested the remaining Freedom Rangers that we were raising for meat. Here is the summary:
We started with 51 birds. None died from sickness. None suffered broken legs from excessive growth. We lost 6 due to predators (raccoon pulling birds through the side of the chicken tractor at night).
23 were harvested at 10 weeks old and averaged 3.7lbs (mostly roosters)
22 were harvested at 12 weeks old and averaged 3.95lbs (all hens).
The birds consumed 900 lbs of feed.
Therefore, it took 900 lbs of feed to raise 172 lbs of meat for a 5.24:1 conversion.
Average live to package weight was 65%.
29 of the 45 birds were sold and the rest reside in our own freezer.
We also harvested 9 heritage breed roosters this morning that were approximately 4 months old. The average weight was closer to 3.5lbs, the body cavities were smaller, breasts smaller, legs larger, and I suspect the meat will be slightly tougher. Since we cook almost all chickens in the crock pot, that doesn’t matter as much. The biggest difference is the heritage birds are not nearly as nasty as the meat birds.
We are torn about what kind of birds to raise next. Freedom Rangers are off the list. If we are raising meat birds, we might as well do the Cornish cross. However, we don’t really like the meat birds as much as the heritage breeds.
Today our batch of meat chickens (Freedom Rangers) arrived at the post office and Anna picked them up. The 51 chicks are 2 days old. Since this is our first experience with an actual meat bird, we will be keeping detailed records. They should be ready for harvest around July 7/8.
In other news, we have decided to cut back significantly in our chick hatching. After a review of the records, we just aren’t really making enough for it to be worthwhile. We definitely have a market for the Jersey Giant chicks, however, the other breeds don’t seem to sell very well. And when you are running 5 heat lamps at a time, it costs $5-6 a day to raise the chicks and your electric bill gets pretty high. So while we can make some money selling chicks the first week after they hatch, we lose all the profits on the extras that don’t sell.
With arrival of the meat chicks, by my spreadsheet we have about 162 chickens on the farm right now,and less than 50 are mature. Between all the different chickens, we are using about 30lbs of feed a day (that was before the 50 meat chicks got here). Did I mention it’s time to cut back.
Anna and I have debated many times the advantages and disadvantages of what to raise for a meat chicken. In the end, our primary concern is that we are raising a healthy chicken for our family to eat. We are offering some extra birds for sale, but based on the time committment to process the chickens (and raise them) we do not anticipate raising hundreds of chickens at a time. So, despite some previous discussions and plans, we have decided to order Freedom Rangers. One significant advantage of this bird is we can keep some for our own breeding stock if we want. The first batch of chickens will get processed in late June or early July.