Sunday, September 21, 2014

I recently saw an article about the possibility of China processing some of the food sold here in the US supposedly because the price of the processing is lower in China than here. Processed chicken meat is one of those foods. So this year we are raising meat chickens for our freezer. We raised chickens solely for meat about 4 years ago. The experience had mixed results. 

In retrospect, I don't think we let them grow out as long as we should have. We ended up with small roasters and the food/ meat conversion ratio was pretty high; something like 6 lbs of food for every lb of meat produced. But because of the recent turn of events (IE; Chinese chickens at the super market), I was willing to try again. I had also decided to purchase the chicks mid- summer instead of early spring. Spring time around here is often cool and wet- potentially deadly for baby chickens. The chicks have to stay under lights in the garage for a prolonged period of time to ensure they are warm enough to survive and usually aren't moved out to the coop until sometime in June and only after they are completely feathered out.  Most layer chicks don't mature enough to start producing eggs until they are about 20-25 weeks old. We try to purchase layer chicks as early in the spring as we can get away with since it would be nice for the little hens to actually start laying eggs before winter shuts down their egg laying capacity. 

But we were buying meat chicks. Since these meat chicks were going into the freezer in about 8-10 weeks, I was't too concerned about racing against time to beat the winter months. So we purchased 25 little yellow fuzz-balls from Hoover's Hatchery in July.  They were only $1.40 a piece which was a pretty good deal since the feed stores in town were already out of their chicks and other mail order hatcheries wanted (sometimes) more than $2.00 a piece! Between shipping, handling and something called a "small order fee", we were still into these little guys for a little over $55 by the time they made it to our house. 

Cornish rock X roo at 5 weeks old almost completely feathered out. 

They all arrived healthy and happy and HUNGRY! Since they grow so fast, meat chickens rival teenage boys in their appetite. #20 of non-medicated starter feed and 3 weeks later they were feathered out and in the coop with the layer hens. 

 Several roos at 6 weeks of age. See the change in feathering in just one week from the above picture?

Now at 9 weeks they are huge. Early last week I weighed them. The average weight was 6.6 pounds. I weighed them yesterday and the average weight was 7.1. pounds. We plan to harvest them Monday at 69 days since hatch. Since the cutting/ freezing weight of the chicken is about 75% of the live weight, I'm guessing we'll have about 125 lbs. of chicken in the freezer for this next year! Yea!

 9 week old Cornish rock x roo next to 2 year old layer hens. 

That's one big chicken!

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