Well, our meat bird raising experiment has concluded. We learned some things on the way and figured out what we’re going to do in the future.
|Day old chicks
The biggest difference with raising these little meat monsters compared to dual purpose layers is that they aren’t nearly as hardy. Their biggest threat is pasty butt, which requires vigilance to keep them cleaned up. But even doing that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make it. Some, which seemed perfectly healthy would simply die. Of the 10 that we had, we lost 2 of them to unknown causes. We had another one with a deformed leg which caused spraddle leg, which is where the chick is perpetually doing the splits. At 6 weeks we had one that couldn’t walk anymore due to it’s weight so we had slaughter that one early.
|At 6 weeks old
They also eat a ton of food, but because you only keep them for a short amount of time they don’t go through nearly as much as the dual purpose breeds to get to slaughter weight. Not to mention they are at least twice the size at slaughter than the dual purpose breeds. Their rate of growth is insane so it makes their feed:meat ratio really economical.
Another thing we noticed is that they run really hot. I don’t think I’ll raise them in the summer just because it would be too uncomfortable for them. Even though it has been really cool around here, they preferred not having the heat lamp on once they started to feather out. I’d even find them panting occasionally when the lamp was on and it was 50 deg F out.
When slaughter day came they were surprisingly heavy. They all dressed out at over 6lbs. We also did some of our old layers that day and the size difference was definitely apparent. They all came out around 3lbs.
So will we raise them again? Yeah, probably. We may try the Freedom Rangers next time to see the difference but you really just can’t beat the efficiency of these Cornish Cross compared to the Dual Purpose birds. I wish we had kept their feed separate from the layers so we could track it. Next time we definitely will.