Some people want to know exactly where their food comes from. So, it has become very common to start raising chickens for meat. I know from practical knowledge that this can be spendy. But, you can’t beat knowing what you’re serving your family. Surprisingly, it can take as little as six weeks to get a full-grown chicken. Of course, they don’t just bust out of the egg that size, so it will take some doing before they’re ready to audition for the Colonel or your cast iron skillet. Let’s get them growing, shall we?
Best Breeds for Raising Chickens for Meat
Everyone has their favorites, but here are some of the best breeds:
- Cornish Cross – Great because: Cornish Cross can pack on 12 pounds in just 6 to 8 weeks.
- Jersey Giant – Great because They live up to their name. Roosters can tip the scales at 13 pounds, while hens weigh in at 10 pounds. Plus, they’re excellent egg layers.
- Delaware – Great because Some say it’s the tastiest bird of all. At harvest time, the male will weigh about 8.5 pounds and hens 6.5.
Rhode Island Red
Great because: According to the Livestock Conservancy, they were once considered “the finest flavored American chicken.” The males weigh about 8.5 pounds at harvest, while hens 6.5 pounds.
There are others, of course, but this will get you started.
Stage One: Starting from Scratch
The upfront investment for raising chickens for meat ain’t cheap when you’re starting from scratch.
In addition, little ones doesn’t cost much: 10 Cornish Cross chicks are relatively inexpensive from your local feed and agriculture store.
But you can also save some money and buy more from a hatchery and having them shipped to your home. At the same time, it’s all the other stuff you’ll need to raise them that makes for a pricey initial investment. What follows are some details about the route we took for our chickens. It is explicitly tailored to raising chickens for meat.
Here’s a breakdown of the initial cost
|10 Cornish Cross chicks$15.99Storage tub (their first home, sans lid)$4.99Storage tub (their first home, sans lid) $4.99$4.99Chicken wire to cover tub/extra for outside$69.99A heat lamp with bulb$8.99 Pine shavings for bedding$4.69Modesto Milling organic starter/grower (25 lbs.)$24.49Chicken feeder and drown-proof waterer$11.99Quality grit (5 lbs.)$6.99Thermometer$4.99 Total:$153.11|
Where will your chicks live?
Therefore, without going into too much detail, a plastic tub fitted with a heat lamp and a lid you fashion out of chicken wire can work well for housing for about the first month.
Though we used a tub because, frankly, we already had one, we’ve since learned the rounded corners help keep the chicks from piling on one another and suffocating. Who knew?
So, Why the heat lamp? The little ones need warmth to survive.
Recommended temperatures for broilers
|1st-week decrease||to 86°F|
|2nd-week decrease||to 78.8°F|
|3rd-week decrease||to 71.6°F|
|4th-week decrease||to 68°F|
Moyer’s Chicks, a breeder, recommends that you place an inexpensive thermometer on the chicks’ bedding to get an accurate reading. It’s best if the heat lamp is set up to create the optimal temperature before they arrive.
Getting Them Big
The trick to helping some broilers gain weight is serving them a higher protein diet and regulating when they eat.
For example, Valley Farms Hatchery recommends feeding Cornish Cross chicks this way:
- To begin with, start them on a 20-22% chick and/or broiler starter feed for the first 4.5 to 5 weeks.
- Next, switch them to an 18% chick grower feed after that time.
- Then, feed them 24/7 for the first 5 days. After day 5, only feed during the daytime hours. No feed for 12 hours. Water is okay to leave with them.
- Finally, at 6 weeks, cockerels should weigh about 6lbs and Pullets 5lbs. If you desire a bigger bird, they may be raised up to 9 weeks, with males weighing about 10lbs and females 8lbs.
Included in our modest hen haven, we always recommend organic, non-GMO feeds because you are what you eat when you eat their eggs and meat. Plus, it’s healthier for them.
You can use small glass dishes for both their feed and water, but some folks say it’s worth it to invest in a waterer so the chicks don’t go for a swim – which can make them cold, and/or drown. And cold is almost as bad as drowning – since they can die from that as well. This one attaches to a Mason jar you provide, which seems pretty cool, plus you get a feeder for the price.
But, we used a very small glass dish for water, and the only problem we had was the little girls frequently scratching their pine shavings into it. Just ask my dear wife, who dutifully scooped them out and changed the water about seven times a day. Or more.
Whatever you use to hold their food and water, be sure to clean them frequently, as well as their tub/home, since you don’t want mold or bacteria to grow.
Total Baby Chick Startup Cost – $153
Stage Two: Building a Coop
Therefore,long story short, the chicks will need to go outside in about a month.
But to keep them safe from predators, such as the neighbor’s dog, foxes, raccoons, or even hawks – a real threat — you want to spend some time and effort constructing a secure area.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. If you have a decently ventilated shed, that could work after you cover the floor with pine shavings and install poles high enough off the ground for roosting. (We used leftover 2x4s for one roost and an old mop handle for another. Recycle and reuse, right?)
Or, if you’re really handy, you can build your own coop and save a few bucks – but probably not a lot of time. There are tons of designs available here.
Here’s a Breakdown of Our Coop Costs
|Large Barn Chicken Coop||$299|
|EZEE Shed subfloor||$100|
|EZEE Shed/Chicken Condo||$249|
“Chicken Condo,” anyone?
When we relocated not long ago, our small-time chicken operation had to start all over from, ahem, scratch.
Since we didn’t have much time to get our hens settled, I bought a “Large Barn Chicken Coop” for a cost of $299.
The unit lacks protection from blowing rain and snow, so this necessitated the addition of another form of shelter – and we opted for something called an EZEE Shed.
Therefore, after mounting the EZEE Shed on a subfloor my son and I built to keep the girls high and dry, it kinda reminds me of structures that now crowd the coastlines of South Florida.
I like to call it our “Chicken Condo.”
Stage Three: Chicken Coop Security
Here’s a Breakdown of Coop Security Costs
|Utility fencing (100 feet )||$112.99|
|T-post fasteners (100 per bag)||$7.99|
|Bird netting 30 x 30 feet||$56.39|
|PVC Pipe (4 inches 10-foot length)||$13.19|
|12 T-Posts (8 to 12 feet apart)||$39.48|
|Zip Ties (100 pack)||$7.99|
|12 foot 2×4||$3.73|
|Hanging chicken feeder||$5.99|
These costs are for a small, 10 x 10-foot chicken run. (Our run is about 30 x 40 because we wanted to give them plenty of room to roam. It’s also healthier.)
Between the so-called Large Barn Chicken Coop and the Chicken Condo fitted with 2x4s for roosting, we definitely have the feeding and sleeping areas covered. But without some type of perimeter fencing, predators are bound to get them.
Since we started raising layer hens, we’ve had dogs, and a fox tries to get inside unsuccessfully.
Bottom line: You need a fence surrounding their coop and run and bird netting over the top.
What to do About that Fence
https://amzn.to/3g24NNEWe bought a five-foot-tall utility fence at $112.99 for 100 feet and chicken wire down below – all held up by steel T-posts at $3.29 a pop. T-post fasteners are $19.99 for a bag of 100. However, you already have a pair of pliers and/or needle-nose pliers handy to bend the fasteners.
Rip a 12 foot 2×4 and use some deck screws to fashion a frame for your door. Then staple some utility fencing and chicken wire to it. Zip ties will make decent hinges, and a few pieces of rope or bungee cords will lock them in.
After you erect your utility fence and cover the lower part with chicken wire, use bird netting to ward off predators from above. Buy it depending on the size of your run – the place where they will hunt for bugs and such when you’re not letting them roam your property.
We used zip ties to connect the bird netting to the fence and two pieces of 10-foot PVC pipe like tent poles to hold the netting up. You can get PVC at just about any plumbing store.
So there you have it: A secure coop and run
You won’t need a nesting box, but after you add a water container and a hanging chicken feeder, you and your broilers are good to go.
Stage Four: Monthly Costs
Unless you plan to raise them continually, they won’t be around more than two to three months. And that means feeding, and other costs go down.
It’s too soon to alert the accounting department to significant savings — since you’ll need to buy some stuff to “process” them, but hey, it’s better than nothing.
Here’s a Breakdown of Your Monthly Costs
|Diatomaceous Earth (10 lbs bag)||$19.99|
|Grit (10 lbs bag)||$16.49|
|Treats — Organic 3-Grain Scratch||$31.99|
Nailing down the exact monthly food and treats expenses has been tricky for us because as long as the weather’s good, we let them free range. But Organicfeedstore.com has handy charts that show the approximate amount laying hens and broilers eat as they grow.
For example, they say a Cornish Cross will eat about 3 pounds of food by week 8, the optimal time for them, shall we say, to begin their trip to your dinner table. They also emphasize giving them plenty of fresh water since it helps them digest their food.
Prepping the Meat Yourself
- It’s time once again to open your wallet for some additional items required to harvest your chicken meat.
- On the bright side: Some sellers advertise a package deal. This one offers what’s called a “processing kit” that includes a medium “killing cone,” a Swedish knife, and a Chicken Plucker
- It wouldn’t be a bad idea to wear an apron and some rubber gloves – things you probably have around the house.
- But this isn’t an activity that you’ll want to do in the kitchen. Take it outside and use a plastic table that’s been cleaned thoroughly.
- Eventually, you’re going to need a large pot filled with boiling water. Dunking the bird will help remove the feathers.
- If you plan on raising and harvesting more than a few birds, you may also want to consider investing in a larger freezer.
- We’re not going to walk you through how to process them, but there are plenty of online websites that can help. Visit here and here for detailed instructions. But remember: There will be blood.
Other Processing Possibilities
- If you’re a little squeamish and don’t want to do this yourself, I can see why – there are other possibilities.
- Perhaps there’s a local country butcher who would consider doing the “job.”
- Your area/local 4-H office may know of someone who can offer this service. You can find me here.
- A local deer processor may also be willing to tackle it. If you can’t find one online, your nearby gun shop might have some suggestions.
- Feed and Agricultural stores may also be familiar with someone who can help.
- I’ve seen pricing online ranging from $2 to $2.50 per bird, and since processing your own isn’t for everyone, that seems worth it.
So there you have it: A brief guide to raising chickens for meat. We didn’t talk about all the other benefits of having them on your property, such as eliminating bugs, improving your compost pile with their droppings, and the fun of raising them. Or the fact that now you’ll be able to continue to raise broilers or even layers. But just the ability to provide your family with a great tasting source of protein in uncertain times may be enough reason for you to give it a try. And, you’ll know exactly where your fried chicken came from.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Doodle Board!!