On pastured poultry

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What??? You want to EAT our sistren and brethren?

(Yes but not you, dear Maudie.)

It is usually around the beginning of March that we go to our local farm store and pick up some new yard birds. This year, we’ll be doing something a touch different.

This is the year of The Meat Bird. Our order will be kind of big, so we’ll be ordering our birds in the mail. There’s a minimum order of 25 chicks. That’s a lot! Too many, at least at first, so we’ll be ordering a couple of bantams (little bitty chickens) and two or three Buff Orphingtons (a strawberry blond, quiet, large-ish egg-laying chicken) and maybe a turkey or two. But the majority of our order will be Hubbard White Mountain broilers: a crossed (hybrid) bird that will be going from egg to freezer in as little as 8 weeks.

I’ll describe our movable chicken tractor in a later post. However, I have a question to some of you chicken ranchers out there. Does anyone have experience with electric fencing, like PoultryNet or Kencove? We plan on having the tractor within a larger (electrified) run. During the day they can get out and eat bugs and grass, but at night they get locked up within the tractor. They’ll be on a part of the property that’s a bit far from the farmhouse, so I worry about them, especially at night. Does anyone have a particular brand recommendation, or other thoughts?

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29 responses to “On pastured poultry

  1. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about this. I hadn’t heard you could pasture the hybrids. The woman I buy from tried them once and said they just sat by the feeder and ate – she hated them. That’s a pretty strong reaction, so I’m interested in hearing how you like them.

  2. Ok, I had to look up Hubbard White Mountain, only to find that it’s the same as Cornish Cross. I don’t understand why the hatcheries must insist on confusing us like this. Grrr.

    I hate to be a spoiler, but based on my experience with the Cornish Cross, they’re not terribly interested in bugs and grass. All they really care about is feed. If you give them access to a larger area, the chances are great that they won’t use it. My understanding of the tractor idea is that it’s movable so that each day, you have them on fresh ground with new grass and bugs. It’s especially important with the Cornish X, because they spend most of their time sitting, and you want to keep them off the poop as much as possible. (That’s not to say they won’t get poopy bellies, because they still do.) I raise 12 birds in a 4×8′ movable pen that gets scooted along once a day (2x/day as they get bigger), but they only live in the tractor for four of their eight weeks of life. I don’t want to put them out too early because I am worried about predation.

    In 2006, I raised five heavy breeds (like Barred Rock, RI Red, Wyandottes) to compare their growth and feed conversion to the Cornish. They took 16 or so weeks to be a decent (although still small) size, but what was most interesting was how much more active (and cleaner!) they were. The heavy breeds were always interested in fresh grass when I moved the tractor, and would fight over worms, while the Cornish would just plop down and wait for me to put the food trough back in.

    Last year, friends raised Kosher King chickens, which reached a good weight in 10 weeks, and were much better foragers than the Cornish. One downside is that they were dark feathered. I haven’t tasted their chicken yet, but based on conversations with them, it sounds like they don’t have full breasts like the Cornish, and have more dark meat. That’s what we found with the heavy breeds, too, which is fine for me, but James prefers white meat.

    I’d really like to hear more about your tractor design: how big it is, how easy it is to move, etc. Basically, I think the meat birds are kind of gross, which got me into trouble on my blog with some militant vegetarians: why would I raise them if I was kind of repulsed by them? Answer: they taste good, and they grow quickly so I don’t have to deal with them for long. But, yeah, they *are* gross. πŸ˜‰

  3. Haha…. it took me forever to gather my thoughts, and I just saw Hayden’s response. That’s it, much more succinctly!

  4. El – I have a question about buying from the local farm stores. I purposely choose to buy from my local stores this year because (in my mind), I wanted to avoid the stress on the birds from ordering from, say Murray McMurray, which is across the country from me. The farm stores in my area order from Idaho (~300 mi) or Washington (~100 miles) and it seemed like this trip wouldn’t be so tough on the poor babies. Here’s the downer for me, though – I just found out that neither of my farm stores’ chicks are going to be vaccinated against Marek’s disease. Everything I’ve read says it is vitally important to vaccinate chicks against this when they are a day old. I think by the time I get them, they will be too old to vaccinate (and besides, I have no experience with this!). Your thoughts?

    Also, do you feed your chicks a medicated feed against coccidiosis?

    Message to Liz – I loved your comment – very informative and thorough!

  5. My parents always get their chicks in the mail, and have done quite well. They have free run of the farm though, so I can’t give you any thoughts about the fencing. Good luck! And what a great photo! That chick looks pissed! Too funny.

  6. Hayden: I heard the same thing, but then again I heard it from an Amish guy who’s not exactly what I call a card-carrying member of PETA.

    Liz: Thank you, my dear, for your considered response. Like Hayden’s friend and what I remember of your own experience, I have been leaning toward these hybrids BECAUSE they’re big slobs who’re nothing like my beautiful funny yard birds. Killing them is going to be a leap for me, and I suppose if they don’t have my respect I will find it easier to bring the knife to their necks. It’s funny, though: my hatchery carries both Cornish X and these Hubbards. My favorite meat farmer swears by these over the Cornish, and, well, we’ve loved their birds, so Hubbards are the way to go this time. I have wondered about the feed conversion between traditional large breeds and these all-breast-meat hybrids. For this first batch, though, I think I will try the big uglies. We’ll probably raise two batches of birds this year, or maybe three, at 20 birds a turn. But I thank you for the suggestion of the Kosher Kings.

    Deanna (sorry if that’s not quite your name) or Farmgirl: I know, isn’t Liz the greatest? πŸ™‚ I’ve never gotten birds in the mail, but my understanding of them (having gotten day-old birds before) is they’re pretty dumb for the first few days of their lives and will do nothing but huddle up with their fellow hatchees as the new world is kind of a sensory overload to them. (Human infants are the same way, and I can understand it: it’s bright out here, and chilly, too, and there’s so much space!) But don’t fear about the mail. They have enough nutrition from the yolk they were attached to to last them a couple of days. They’ll start pecking in earnest by day 3. As far as Marek’s disease, my understanding of it is that it’s more common in some areas of the country than others, so do your research and see if it’s a problem in OR. I have never inoclulated my birds, and I am not sure if they had been at the hatchery. I do, however, give them medicated feed for their first two weeks. I am worried about the bugs they’ve picked up from the hatchery (as opposed to my farm). My other insurance policy is diversity: I’ve always had lots of different types of chickens to both mix it up and make sure that I would have different bloodlines to fall back on if some horrible flu or other bug swept through. (It’s why I do heirlooms and not hybrids and why I would never get a purebreed dog, too: the vigor of the mutt, as it were.) Good luck: are you doing eggs or meat?

    CC! I know isn’t she a scream?

    Allison, thanks for the info. My other girls free range, and they’re fine, but then again their coop is fairly close to the back door. These meat birds will be out in the back 40 a good 200′ from the house so I won’t be there to chase the danger away. Good to know that your folks have always had good luck with getting them in the mail. I have heard that too.

  7. El, we’ve had good luck with premier 1 electric net poultry fencing, though you’d need a charger of some sort if you don’t already have one.

    We’ve done well with the slow-growing Cornish crosses, which grow out in 10-12 weeks. I’ve gotten them from Privett hatchery in New Mexico, but this year I may try a more local source if I can get my order in before they sell out. These slow-growers have done well on pasture and are just as active as our heritage breeds. We’ve had only one loss due to heat, and that day was *really* bad.

    I don’t vaccinate my birds or feed medicated feed, and we’ve never had problems.

    A couple notes on birds from the farm store. Do check where they’re getting them; many order from the same hatcheries and get them by mail. Also, if you ever order laying pullets, be sure to ask about debeaking. A friend of mine ordered a batch, only to pick them up and find that they were all debeaked!

    We’ve had good luck with Privett and Ideal hatcheries.

  8. : ( there goes my plan for free ranging cornish meat birds!!! I am glad I read your post. I was about to order 50 of them for our meat supply for 2008 -2009. I thought they could range freely in the spring and summer and we could butcher them in the winter. If they wont range and will only eat pellets…I dont think they will be really free-ranging : ) what a dilemma!

    is that because they have been bred that way? what would be the next best in terms of fast growth and free ranging? We butchered 2 of our RIRs at 5 months and they were very tough to eat. They did take that many weeks to look they were ready for the table.

    love your blog!!

  9. We tried the electric net fencing from Kencove. But it didn’t work well for us. Ours was 48″ high, and it had verticals every 7″, and fairly tight mesh toward the bottom. But the birds were able to hop through the mesh anyway. It didn’t seem possible for those big feathery birds to fit through, but they did without any trouble. As they got bigger, they figured out that they could just fly right over.

    We’ve got Dominiques and Buckeyes – not exactly placid grain guzzlers like some of the meat crosses. We also didn’t have them confined early on (long story), so I wonder if they’d have done better if they had more experience with boundaries.

    So now they are truly free range. (CHICKENS OFF THE PORCH!) Luckily we haven’t lost any to predators yet. I’m actually kind of shocked by that. I know there are foxes and coyotes in the area.

    Changing the subject completely… Um… Do you want to buy some electric net fencing? πŸ™‚

  10. Now I’m confused. When I googled Hubbard White Mountain, I got the link to Townline Hatchery. According to their poultry page, Hubbards are the same as Cornish X. Hmm.

    Anyway, the ugly-ness is why we keep raising the meatblobs (this will be the fourth year)…. it’s such a relief to have them GONE! πŸ™‚

  11. Hey mama – we use kencove and after a few adjustments are very happy with it… we started with the poultry netting but now use that for pigs/turkeys/etc. since yes, even the bigger birds seem to hop right on through. We now use the smaller stay spacing (still 48 inches high) and nobody squeezes through – I think it’s the type recommended for smaller, bantam etc. poultry. Our charger is decent, from the farm store, and we use a deep marine cycle battery and keep it in a honey super so it stays dry. We keep two batteries and charge one in the garage while the other one is out there – we find changing them every two weeks or so keeps the fence nice and hot, and it works since that’s how often we move their pasture. I have to second using a tractor, no fence with broilers – doesn’t seem worth it. We use one length of netting and one chicken tractor (sort of a Saltatin “egg mobile) per 50 of our pastured hen. One charger/battery can handle a bunch of these set-ups as long as they’re, obviously, connected on one end or another. *grin*

  12. As we’ve been seriously considering giving meat chickens a try, I will be watching this project with great interest. A colleague of Dan’s raises meat chickens (CornishXs) and she plans on slaughtering her chickens just before the first frost. She claims this keeps flies to a minimum, and makes it easier to start the chicks when it is warm. That made sense to me, but I don’t know if we will do it or not…. The Cornish Xs don’t hold much interest for me, but I can imagine it would be great to see them gone.

  13. We raised Cornish for sale for 8 years, and used the Salatin field pens. That worked the best for us and the pasture. Because we intensively graze our cattle, his system worked perfect. People get hung up on Salatins methods, but it works if you follow his detailed instructions. Mainly, they will only graze the first half hour, on short, succulent forage. The best is grazed by a cow beforehand, but I know that is not attainable if you don’t have cows, so say somewhere in the 3″ – 5″ in height. To entice them to eat, we would remove the feeders and move the pen and then feed after about 30 minutes. Cornish will not free range and eat enough grass to make that golden broth we all crave so much. I did a post about that broth on my site, Throwback at Trapper Creek, http://matronofhusbandry.wordpress.com/ They also do not do well in a cover crop situation. They are still just babies at butchering time and are so highly bred to grow meat, that is just what they do. We still raise 75 birds for ourselves, starting them May 1st, so we can have them on grass for the last 5 weeks, butchering at the end of June. The grass is still tender and the weather is warm enough to have them outside. We get order ours from the hatchery, because the feedstores in our area automatically give medicated feed.

    For our pastured layers we used the Premier Poultry netting and it is wonderful, we used a PEL energizer with a 12 volt RV battery and it kept the fence charged very well. We also use these chargers for our cattle fencing.

    We have stuck with the Cornish for meat, because they are gone after 8 weeks and then that is one less chore that needs daily attention. I’m using a 10′ x 12′ pen now and I can easily raise 75 birds in that size. If you move the pen daily. This will build up pasture like you won’t believe! When we were selling them, my husband built a fleet of 8′ x 8′ pens (50 birds) because we had a stash of 8′ boards. Best of luck, nothing beats having your own meat!

  14. We had some electronet for teh sheep and the chickens never bothered it when it was on – the squares were large enough for them to fit through when the fence wasn’t on which turned out to be more often than not. Do not rely on a battery operated charger. the top of the line model we had with 2 marine batteries never got through a 24 hour period, so as one battery was charging the other had already run out of juice. Needless to say that fence didn’t last long. If it were me I’d be seeking an easily transportable non electric fence.

  15. Researching meat chickens this morning I found this interesting hatchery producing chicks for the free-range organic market. They look quite interesting.

    http://www.freedomrangers.net/index.cfm

    There is a great deal of interesting reading on the backyard chickens forum, with lots of info about the Freedom Ranger cross chickens, including this photo http://backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=12691&p=8

    After reading all this I am more tempted than ever to try meat chickens!

    Ali

  16. Meat birds! That will be interesting–those things can get HUGE! (For a chicken, I guess.) I can’t wait to read about them. Are you guys going to do the butchering yourselves?

  17. hey El – tried your bread recipe…it worked!!!! I am so happy. Thank you…..so much!

    I kept thinking about your bread photo all this week : ) See pic on my blog….looks almost similar …..yours look much more professional…

    Thanks for sharing this knowledge. I didnt know…you could bake bread in a covered pot!

    http://weekendfarmer.blogspot.com/

  18. All I can say is WOW! Thanks, everyone, for your inputs.

    Danielle, thanks for the recommendation of both fencing and hatcheries. The longer growth time appeals especially if these guys will actually walk away from their food. Hmm. That’s interesting you don’t do medicated feed, either. I only did it for 2 weeks with both my batches of yard birds; they seemed to grow just awfully well either way.

    WF: Yeah, the Cornish X were raised to never see the light of day, I guess, which is why they hang around the food bowl and have a heck of a time even getting their heavy breasts up off the poopy ground. Yuck all around. There are lots of other breeds to consider, though, like Ali’s suggestion of these freeranging meat birds. You may wish to look into the growth season though: as it is the Cornish X are ready to be butchered at 8 weeks, and would be positively huge if you let them live out a whole summer! You may wish to look into the Jersey Giants, especially considering your location πŸ™‚

    e4: Hwah! Off the porch! We ended up moving our furniture off of our deck for the same reason. Both of your birds are traditionally big movers: I had heard Buckeyes especially are easily spooked, is that true? From what you and others have said about Kencove, I am apt to go with ElectroNet instead; maybe you can use yours if you get goats again?

    Liz: Yes, I was confused too, so I asked my grassfarmer friend (who uses the same hatchery) and he said that his luck with straight Cornish X was not so great in terms of hardiness…he’d had better luck (and I can aver they taste great) with the Hubbards. Interestingly, he said these ones have a definite range in size when it comes to Harvest Day, whereas the Cornish were about the same size. I am not sure what that indicates.

    Shannon: Hey, thanks, mama! I’m hoping the super you use wasn’t due to a loss of a hive and just, well, farm junk you had lying around. One of the other reasons I would like to use the netting IS for turkeys, so I am glad you mentioned them; I do plan on getting two in this batch. And yes, thank you for the recommendation on batteries. Surprisingly, though, we’ll actually have power where the birds are going to go (a long story).

    Ali: Okay, if you were to make a choice, would it be bread oven or meat birds? πŸ˜‰ Yes, please do stay tuned. I think it will be an interesting transition here. And the unchicken-y nature of the meat blobs is what really interests me in this first run of fun.

    Nita! (Bows deeply in respect) I am really glad you started blogging. With few exceptions the majority of we pseudofarmers have been at this only a few years; your lifetime’s worth of experience is a deep trove of great information. We don’t have cows, though. I have Salatin’s guide on poultry, and I am still troubled by the idea that it is still confinement: not necessarily a dark cage, but confinement nonetheless. Never mind that meat blob Cornish X chickens have had their very chickenness bred out of them in favor of a deep fat breast and a willingness to gorge themselves…it’s disturbing in itself. So I guess it’s something I am going to have to get over. But yes, they are babies at 8 weeks; it’s why I am not getting them now but instead plan on a March 20somethingth date to get them: they’ll be stinking up my potting shed for only 3 weeks then, and my calendar says the first mowing we usually do is mid-April. It’s all a lot to consider, and consider I have been. But I want to thank you for your kind words!

    Tameson: thanks! I had considered doing a simple step-in movable fence, but realized I did have access to electric in the area I had considered ranging the chickens. Interesting. I really want the fence to keep nighttime predators out and not necessarily keep the darned birds in. My bigger problem, predator-wise, has always been hawks.

    Ali: Thanks again. Dang, their minimum order is 100 My Minnesota farm friends (who actually live in Wisconsin but that’s another story) had tried the golden ones and liked them. So there’s a note of approval. Did you notice the big legs on those birds?

    Meg: Well, thanks; keep tuning in! But actually I am going to do the butchering, as Tom wants nothing to do with it. (Considering he said he’d never move back to Michigan or move to a farm his “nevers” don’t mean much against my more bullying will.) He claims he has a low gag reflex, but hey, he changed diapers readily for years on a cloth-diapered baby (lots more contact with the good stuff with cloth, I will tell you) so I think he’s willing to at least pluck the things. I have a feeling I will rely on the help of a neighbor and some other relatives on Harvest Day.

    WF: That is GREAT about the bread! I am so glad you tried it and were successful. Nothing beats homemade bread, I think. Keep up the great work!

  19. I always find myself in the minority, because I love raising Cornish Cross. We free-range ours similar to what you’re talking about – a shelter surrounded by poultry netting. I need to order new netting this year and plan on getting it from Premiere. I don’t know what my old netting even was – bought it 5 years ago at Fleet Farm.

    The main predator problem I’ve had is hawks and owls. Owls aren’t so bad to fight, because they only hunt at night. So shutting them up at dusk takes care of it. Hawks are harder because they hunt during the day. So last year I’d take our Great Pyrenees out there in the morning and leave him in the pen with them until dark. That took care of it.

    Do they love their feeders? Sure they do. But mine also run around, fly a bit, and they eat down the grass pretty quickly. They’re not as active as a laying breed, but mine have never really been “blobby” either.

    Here’s pictures of our setup:

    Our old chicken setup

    Our new chicken shed

    Chicken pen with dog

  20. Lol, no El, we always have at least one piece of a hive or two lying around…we try to buy enough bits and pieces at the yearly beekeeper auction to have one whole extra hive. We lost a hive last winter and despite our best efforts, couldn’t help a poorly times swarm pull through till this spring. We may split our giant healthy hive, and we’re adding two new nucs with marked queens this year. The queen is our large hive needs to be replaced too, but luckily our friend has started her own queen rearing business, since this whole northeast dependence on the southern suppliers has only gotten more problematic as CCD spreads/sticks around. E catches quite a few swarms every spring and summer – he’s on a local listserve and people call him for swarm removal – and we’re hoping to add a few new healthy swarms earlier in the season to build them into nice workable hives before temps drop.

    We’re going to get some turkeys mid-summer this year – on the advice that if you get them too early you wind up with birds way to big to be practical for most family gatherings, lol. They will be for friends and family, with the extras sold to the processor to covering the processing and feed costs I’m thinking Jersey whites. While 99.9 percent or turkeys certainly aren’t ever going to try to get out of ANY netting, lol, but they’re more tempting to our local foxes and loose dogs then our smarter, smaller pastured layers probably so I’m going to make sure that portion is always 100 percent juiced.

  21. El, are you going to slaughter and process the birds yourself? Our laying hens are probably entering their last summer of laying (3rd) and I plan to process for stew meat, but have never done it before. Originally, we planned to use our tractor for roasters, but never got the permanent coop built for the laying hens, so we gave a few birds away to give them more room. I’d like to continue doing laying hens, but in a more permanent structure and keep the tractor for doing roasters, but here’s the thing…our birds are illegal so we have them tucked into the woods out of view. I can’t use the tractor to rotate over garden beds.

    anyway, your post has me thinking about it all again and wondering what’s the most logical thing to do…and wondering where I can find someone to train me how to properly slaughter and process the birds. Time to call on some of the farmers at the market.

  22. Thanks for the kind words. These are exciting times to be a farmer! That is, IF you can think outside the box. There are so many options available these days – you can try many different methods and breeds. Alternative farmers and people who grow their own food are an independent bunch, to be sure.
    The best chicken I have eaten over the years, in our chicken phase, were the cockerels that came with our pullet orders. I would butcher them at 16 weeks, they made the best broth and had the best tasting meat. However, to just raise them now for meat would not be economical for us, $$ wise and time wise. The Cornish X produce more meat in less time and the same amount of feed purchased. Grain products are expensive on the west coast because of… the current price for the same feed we bought last year, is up $250.00 per ton from last fall. I’m afraid to set a price for my turkeys, since I know by the time I get them in July, the feed price will have raised considerably.
    We never used medicated feed, we always felt we would just be weakening the birds immune system. If you can get Fertrell Poultry-Nutribalancer in your area, do it and offer it free-choice along with a good quality kelp meal. Those two supplements can go a long way in counter-acting any problems you might have with commercial feed (organic or not).
    Don’t worry about the butchering process, it’s a piece of cake and you will be an old hand in no time. Look for someone that is already selling poultry, they would probably be glad if you helped them butcher.
    Best of luck – Nita

  23. Kelli! Thanks so much for linking to your bird pictures. I think it’s really important for people to kind of understand how these things work, and pictures work where words fail. I don’t think you need to necessarily defend the CornishX; yours certainly look like they’re getting a healthy amount of exercise, and that gives me a lot of hope. I thank you for sharing your years of wisdom.

    Shannon, bees are fascinating in and of themselves. I went to get two nucs of my own last year but my bee guy/goat milk guy had lost all but one of his hives due to CCD. The idea of capturing a live swarm also is pretty darned fascinating, and I love that E’s “on call” to do it. I love the idea that your friend raises queens! I think I might try again this year (as, of course, I got all the equipment last year and it’s gathering dust now) but I think I really need to watch for the biggest problem of all: our guineas, supposedly, will sit on top of the supers and eat all the bees as they come in and out. Hmm. Maybe I will put them in a chickenwire cage…need to use up more farm junk…

    Kelly, yes, that is EXACTLY the method I am using to learn how to butcher. I got to “help” with last Thanksgiving’s turkey, but our meat guy has chicken harvest days for clients to come out and help gut and pluck. I have a few old laying hens in my freezer now: they make a great golden stock, frankly. But yeah, just to give you a few more ideas!

    Nita, thanks again. Yep, grain prices are high all over, even here in the Midwest. But you got me thinking about the turkeys, too: it’d certainly be better to get them in July than in Mar/April for a fresh Thanksgiving bird. Everything has a growing cycle. That in itself is the biggest hurdle to get through to people who only know the perennial harvest that is a grocery store.

  24. I have just read about these birds that I ordered earlier today.Bummer!The guy from the feed store didn’t tell me that they were a non-range bird.So tell me do they eat a lot?I ordered 50 birds.I normally buy whiterocks.Clean pluck.Love them!I thought I’d try something different.Now I’m wondering if it wasn’t a mistake?HELP!!!!Are they really that bad?If you could send me MORE info about these breed of birds I’d Truly would appreciate it!Feel free to write me.My E-Mail add.is obrienmj96@yahoo.com.Thank-you for reading my letter! MJ O’Brien

  25. MJ: Don’t freak out! I think if you read Kelli’s links above at Sugar Creek Farm she basically says that if they’re allowed to run around, they will run around. If they’re in a tractor, they will sit around. This is the first time I am doing this. I really chose them because they mature so quickly (mainly because they eat a lot), that, and I have eaten some birds from the same hatchery from my favorite meat farm and I loved them. So! Stay tuned.

  26. I’m sure many folks addressed the issues you raised in earlier posts (vaccination, poultry netting, grazing) but here’s my two cents:
    We’ve raised birds for a few years now (ordered from McMurray – we’re in Maine) with no problems. None. Last year we raised 60 meat birds, this year 25. Last year we did all heavy birds (orpingtons, brahmas, rr reds, etc) and they were excellent foragers – moved in the tractor through the garden, but they were small at 13 week slaughter and the meat was tough.
    This year we did Cornish (not the hybrid) and they were amazing! 6 1/2# on average at 9 week slaughter. They did not graze even a little bit. Too fat and lazy. Though they did get moved through the buckwheat in the fallow section of the garden and they pooped ALOT. So, for the nitrogen I’m grateful. They ate alot, too. Went through 100# of feed each week towards the end (that’s almost four pounds of feed per bird per week!)
    We’ve never had our birds vaccinated and never will — our layers or our broilers. We lost one bird this year to cocciodosis.
    I’ve read that pastured poultry doesn’t necessarily need fencing: the daily movement of the tractor wards off any predators. Though if you get a large meat bird, there’s really no need to even let them out of their pen — as long as they have enough sq. footage per bird.
    I’ve heard “Freedom Rangers” http://www.freedomrangers.net is an awesome outfit. There are a small family-run operation with a hatchery in Iowa. We haven’t tried them but we might next year.

    Re: turkeys – best to get order them for delivery in late July (about the time that May broilers go to slaughter) A friend ordered her turkeys at the same time as her May broilers and by November slaughter the turkey was 70 pounds!!

    Good luck — hope this year was a success for you.

  27. I have grown cornish cross and Kosher kings. The Kosher king roosters will get VERY aggressive, even in 10 weeks. I had them in a chicken tractor (40 in 8×12). one was injured moving the tractor, I segrigated it for 2 days until it was better and put it back. The other males almost killed it in 10 minutes. most made 6lbs dressed weight in 10 weeks.

    I have raised Cornish cross hens to a year and a half. full feed and 24hr heat lamp the first week. Remove feed 8 hours a day the second week, 12 hours a day the third week. introduce greens during the non feed periods. fourth week, if the weather is warm, turn them out to range. give them access to feed only 1hour in the morning and when you put them up at night. They will never be gracefull or fliers, but they will move and chase bugs. They won’t grow to 6 lbs in 8 weeks, but I’ve gotten males to 6 lb in 10 weeks that way. The three hens I overwintered layed 9 eggs a week between them on scratch grain and kitchen scraps. Even the big broiler houses feed restrict their young Cornish X chicks to slow their growth.

    I feed ground ear corn mixed with poultry concentrate at 20% protein after the first 50lb bag of turkey starter. Move the tractor twice a day the last 3 weeks. Cornish X are roughly half breast meat. Kornish kings are 1/3 leg/thigh, 1/3 breast, 1/3 everything else.

  28. roostershamblin

    http://roostershamblin.wordpress.com/ would you please spend a few minutes and read my blog. I have been raising 50 breeds of chickens 40 years.

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