So we decided to raise more meat birds. The did a group of 15 in the late winter and the spring. They turned out really well, and we have been enjoying them. It is true what they say, it tastes so much better when you raise it yourself. My husband says, “You can not buy chicken that good at any price in the store”. Even though, we calculated that our birds cost about $10 for a 5 pound roasting chicken. Not bad in my book and cheaper than the store!
We recently ordered 24 slow growing cornish rock. These birds take about 10 weeks to grow to roaster size, between 4 and 5 pounds a piece. We decided to go with slow growers because watching the fast growing cornish rock birds grow was freakish. The grow so fast they can hardly move. We wanted birds that were able to forage and scratch and be more bird like. I found the slow growing meat birds at the Welp Hatchery. We have had them for about 3 and half weeks and we have already noticed a big difference between them and the fast growers. These are much more chicken like. They like to scratch and roost. They are very active, enjoy worms and fly larva from the compost pile, which is great because it saves money on feed costs. We are even feeding them hay and they enjoy that. The meat bird we raise at the end of winter did not do anything. They just laid around all day. You could tell that all of their energy went to just growing.
The slow growers are also able to be kept outside, which is another reason we wanted to raise them. We were able to raise the other meat birds in our garage and it worked, but it was very dusty and to be honest with you at the end of the 8 weeks I could not stand the smell anymore. This go around we wanted to keep them in the back yard. My husband built a simple chicken tractor using 2×4′s, chicken wire and a dumpster bag for a roof.
The chickens were inside the house for about a week, then they moved to an empty rabbit cage in the bunny barn and finally they have been put outside for over a week. At night, we pull the dumpster bag down so it covers the sides and we turn on a heat lamp. During the day we open the sides so that they can get fresh air. We move the tractor every couple of days so that they can get new grass to eat and new dirt to dig in. We still use some bedding but not as much as we did before. Our back yard does not have the best soil quality, in fact it is all construction fill dirt, and there is almost no soil at all. After we move the chicken tractor we are planting grass seed in the bedding and covering it with straw. The only problem with this plan is when we let our laying hens out in the afternoon they are eating all our grass seed. But either way, we are still creating more soil and increasing our ability to hopefully grow grass in the future. Right now we have more weeds than grass.
It is hard to believe that these birds have already been here for more than three weeks and that they go to be processed in less than 7 weeks. It is pretty cool that I have not bought chicken from the store in 9 months and we hope to never have to again! Next fall I might even be able to convince my husband to let me raise our Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey!!! That would be so cool!
Our chicken tractor and the birds at 3 weeks! They grow quick!!