Monday, February 20, 2012

Meat Chickens - Part I

So from the title of this post, you can guess what decision has been made.  My BIL from Knoxville along with a local friend have decided to raise some meat chickens this spring.  Our original intent was to just raise a few to try it out for ourselves to 1) Rely upon ourselves for more of our food, 2) Have food that is more natural and not stuffed with antibiotics, hormones or any other unnatural food stuffs, and 3) Take our chicken loving to the next level.

Once the decision was made to do the chickens, there was the discussion of what chickens to raise.  There is the common Cornish Cross that is the Franken-chicken of the industry.  It grows out to butcher size in about 8 weeks and has the best conversion rate of food to meat.  This is the type of chicken that you buy in the grocery store and that Tyson raises.  But again, this is a chicken that can't breed on its own, and because it grows so fast, the rest of its body can't keep up, so they often have a high mortality rate while growing and can have leg problems and heart failure.  From a production stand point, sounds good, but it isn't why we were trying this.

After looking around, we settled on the Freedom Rangers, or Red Rangers, or whatever variant that people call them.  We won't go into all the naming nuances, but it is more of a heritage breed of chicken that takes a bit longer to fill out, but will tend to forage more on its own if given the opportunity.

Please remember though, this is all information coming from someone who hasn't done this before and has just read a lot of information on the internet.  For this reason, I will try to keep you posted on all our adventures in the meat chicken front as we progress.

After the breed was selected, it was time to place our order.  Again, more internet reading and research.  We finally decided on MT-DI Poultry Farms.  To get the price break, we ended up buying 76 chickens!  (Remember the beginning of this post of wanting to do a "few" chickens?  Oh well.)  Now we are committed.

The chickens should be arriving the second week of March with the anticipation of having our big processing celebration on Memorial Day weekend.  That way my BIL can come up with his family from Knoxville to guide us, as he is the only one of our group that has done this in the past.  It may be a long weekend!

Time is running out before the chickens arrive.  They need food, a place to brood, a place to pasture.  Oh my.  What have we gotten ourselves into?  Tune in to find out if we are over our heads or can handle the pressure of being chicken farmers processors.

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