We raised up some cornsh cross chickens this spring. The last time we raised cornish cross was almos the last time ever for raising them, for me anyway. They were disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. We raised them up in a chicken tractor, ala Joel Salatin, but on a smaller scale. I’m not sure if the tractor was too small, moved too little, or who knows what but they spent all their time laying around eating and pooping. They were covered in their own shit when we went to butcher them The smell was just down right nasty enough to make you gag when they hit the scalding water. I refused to do them again like that, in fact, I couldn’t even eat the meat and ended up giving it away.
Enter learning about fodder, fermented feed, and paddock shift.
After the dog attack and slaughter of most of my flock of laying hens I ordered some more this spring, buckeyes of course. I love my Buckeyes. I’m impatient, so wanted to get them ASAP in the spring, however the only way that was going to happen was if I ordered minimum of 15. I definitely did not have room for 15 laying hens so I decided to order 5 sexed pullets and 10 meat birds to try out things I had learned about raising meat birds. I lost 2 of the meat birds in the first couple days after they came in the mail (they sent 11 meat birds) but raised up 9 happy, healthy, non-smelly , running around, sumo wrestler meat birds.
How did I do It? In my suburban >. 3 acre back yard, no less?
Half their daily ration was fodder, the other half was fermented chicken feed from my local(ish) feed mill, soy free and organic of course. They went outside during the day starting at 2 weeks old, and at 3 weeks they were outside full time. They were shifted around my yard every couple of days until they were 4 weeks old and then they were put in the rabbit barn (at night) where they roosted(!) on the hay bales in there. I had no idea meat birds wanted to roost! Every week a new part of the intensively planted “pasture area” was opened up to them for scratching, pecking, and running around. Yes, I said running. Did you know Cornish cross could run? They are fast little boogers too! They look like little sumo wrestlers running around the yard. I should have taken some video, it was super cute to watch. They had solid, normal looking chicken poops, no diarrhea at all. No poopy feathers, no smell to their bedding, no smell at all, not in the brooder, not in their coop, just none. These were real chickens. They acted like real chickens. I really enjoyed having them around.
We butchered them just before 10 weeks old, however we could have done it at 8 weeks and ended up with the same weights, they didn’t grow at all between 8 weeks old and 10 weeks old ( i weighed them live the same way I weigh my rabbits: a cloth bag and a fish/luggage hanging scale.) Carcass weights were 4.5 lbs on average. Very nice beast size and huge thighs. The meat was tender, juicy, and so flavorful. Completely amazing. I used 2 bags of chick starter (100lbs) and around 50lbs (maybe, it’s hard to tell, I grow so much fodder for all the animlas) of mixed wheat and barley for fodder, however this was split between the 9 meat birds and the 5 replacement layers so it wasn’t just the meat birds that this amount fed. Man, they loved their fodder. I fed them enough chick starter in the morning around 9-10am that by late afternoon they had some, but not a lot, left, and by evening they were empty. In the evening they got their fodder. They spent 90% of their day pecking and scratching and dust bathing, basically just being chickens.
I am extremely happy with my results of raising these Cornish cross birds and will be doing it again in the future. I really, really enjoyed having them around, and in fact, kinda miss the funny little clowns. I’m curious to be a bit more scientific on charting how much I feed them since the 5 replacement layers were added in on the feed cost. It was crazy to me how much bigger the Cornish cross were then the buckeyes at every stage of growth. Heck at 10 weeks one of the roosters from the Cornish cross started crowing! I must have stood there with my mouth hanging open for 5 minutes the first time I heard it. I think it was the same rooster that was starting to get mean. Next time I will butcher at least a week earlier, probably two, if the grow out rate is the same.
We used the drill chicken plucker , modified to not fly off the table like before, to pluck the birds:
All of the information about the modifications are in the video. It worked great!