Raising day-old chicks for meat can be a rewarding business venture and an excellent addition to your home-grown food supply if done appropriately and humanely. The concept of raising poultry humanely does not mean you cannot eat your chickens when they reach an acceptable age.
It simply means you must do everything possible to prevent these animals from suffering undue stress or fear while under your care.
Before delving deeper into the discussion, it is essential to remember that birds have feelings and emotions just like you and I. Therefore, they deserve the same level of respect as any other living animal. More importantly, avoid causing undue anguish and pain during the slaughtering process.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to raise day-old chicks for meat.
Choosing the Right Chicken Breed
When raising day-old chicks for meat, it’s vital to choose a chicken breed specifically bred to be “meaty” or contain lots of breast meat. You can usually find these types of species listed on an incubator’s website or in their catalog. Above all, you should start with a breed that is known for the best meat quality.
Another thing you need to consider when choosing your meat bird breed is the growth duration and final weight at the maturity level. It would make no sense to buy various day-old chicks only to have them mature into petite birds like the bantam types.
Instead, always buy the commercial kind that produces a good amount of boneless, skinless breasts for your table. Breeds that make excellent meat chicken include the Australorp, Cornish Cross, Rangers, Wyandotte, Buff Orpington, Jersey Giant, etc.
Housing Meat Chickens
Providing optimum housing facilities is vital in keeping your chicken healthy. For this reason, ensure that you offer them enough protection from various elements. Note that if the birds are kept in an exposed pen or coop without proper bedding, there is no way that the delicate chicken skin won’t get wet and chilled by rain and snow. Not only can this be uncomfortable for your birds, but it can also cause health problems down the road.
It’s certainly not hard to keep your birds warm. Typically, ensure that they have access to dry pine shavings at all times. In addition, provide a covered pen with a barrier at least one foot high to keep the downy chicks warm and safe from predators.
Altogether, no artificial heat sources should ever be required to raise day-old chicks in an outdoor coop during summer. On the other hand, if you have to keep chickens inside all winter, use ceramic or electric heaters. Please stay away from thick solid pan heaters because they can get too hot around the edges. Safety First!
Ensure that the heat from the heater is not so much that it forces a draft on chicks because they can quickly get colds or worse if they are too winded. If possible, you should keep an eye on your brooder and monitor their comings and goings throughout the day – this way, you’ll know the best temperature for your birds. When in doubt, don’t risk it – add more bedding instead.
Feeding Meat Chickens
Rearing chicken for meat requires a controlled approach from the start. This is because growing chickens need more protein than their bodies can provide on their own. Yet, giving your chicken surplus protein from supplements and treats goes directly to developing muscle mass instead of producing meaty flesh.
To achieve desirable results, feed your chicks during the first week with a commercial starter and supplement if necessary. Later, introduce layer pellets or some other type of high-quality chicken feed. Finally, begin adding mash, typically made up of scratch grains mixed with water or milk. You can also add just enough corn oil or poultry fat to prevent spoilage.
Always wait until your birds finish eating the mash to refill the feeder. Do not forget to place fresh, clean water in the cage to enable your chicken to grow healthier and faster.
When to Harvest Meat Chicken?
Before pulling the trigger on your birds, there are a few things you need to consider first. For instance, the chicks may take about three or four months to attain a suitable size. However, it is vital to avoid butchering them after eight months because they tend to become tough.
During the butchering process, avoid messing up your space with flowing blood. The best idea is to use a poly tarp or some other kind of cheap plastic sheeting underneath so that all the blood washes off directly onto it rather than staining your floorboards. Also, please put them in an ice bath, which significantly helps in freezing excess blood.
Once the chicken is hung up to bleed, you can begin skinning it. Use a sharp knife and make an incision around the neck, then peels back the skin until you reach the end of the breastbone. At this point, you’ll find some cartilage in between that’s holding everything together; cut through this until you get a clear bone. Then, remove the fat and sinewy bits off with your hands or a knife. Make sure not to nick any organs while doing so.
Why Should You Raise Meat Chickens?
Taking care of day-old chicks for meat is never an easy journey. In other words, it’s an endeavor that will require you to put in a lot of time and work. It’s crucial to buy your chicks from a reputable source to avoid taking home sickly birds. The venture should not only offer you an abundance of quality meat but also should not incur losses.
Bear in mind that raising day-old chicks are much different from rearing full-grown birds because of a feed conversion ratio principle. This tells you how efficiently your animals convert food into muscle, fat, and other body parts. If you manage to lower this ratio, then you’ll be putting less money into buying chicken feed and more funds into filling your freezer with delicious meats.
These are all the points to consider when you’re about to raise day-old chicks for meat. I hope it helps you find out more information to help you deal with your baby chickens and then process them once they’ve grown up.Chickens