Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall Meat Chickens

Summer has come and gone, and with the cooler temperatures, comes a new batch of meat chickens.  As all great planners know, the ability to change plans and adapt on short notice is crucial.  That is true in all facets of life, not just chicken farming.  But it became relevant at the end of this summer.

The same crew that ventured out this spring on a meat chicken journey, decided that the journey was worthwhile, and worth doing again.  Everything had gone well, so the plan was to follow our template on the first go around, with the small change of expanding our numbers.

The Red Rangers were ordered and all we could do was sit and wait for them to arrive at the end of July.  This would give us approximately 10 weeks until Columbus Day weekend, the first weekend in October, to get them to weight for butchering.

The day came in July, and no calls that our chicks had shipped.  Checking online, there was only a notice that the supplier had run into a "predator problem" and that starting the week we were supposed to get our chicks, they would be shipping no more chicks the rest of the year!  Oh no!  Now what?

With such little time to find a new source, we started looking for any place that had them available to ship in as short a time as possible.  After a couple weeks, it was decided we needed to change breed from the Red Ranger to the Cornish Cross.  Cornish Cross is the mass production breed that all the big producers, and many of the small farms, use for production meat chickens.  They have the fastest and most efficient conversion of food to meat, although not a heritage breed.

Decision made, order placed.  This would allow us to still hit our target weekend of Columbus Day.

The week arrived, along with a phone call.  They didn't have enough chicks to ship to us, but they would ship the next week.  Although we had ordered only roosters, we told them to ship whatever they had the next week so we could get our broilers going and not be delayed any further.

The next week, they arrived.  All 132 small balls of fluff.  They are so cute when they are only a day or two old.

Everyone likes holding and playing with them.  With most chicks, you have several weeks to play with the small balls of fluff.  Not these chicks.  After only a week, they are already losing their fluff and starting to get feathers.

After two weeks, these things are becoming chickens and no longer chicks.  They are gobbling down food like there is no tomorrow, without knowing that there aren't many more tomorrows for them.

They are getting big but they don't have a lot of feathers yet.  These should be easy to pluck, which may be another trait that they are bred for.  Much easier than a Barred Rock rooster.

By three weeks, it is time for them to relocate.  They are going from one chicken tractor at Scott's house, to the pasture at our house and being divided into two chicken tractors.  Although we put 95 Red Rangers in one chicken tractor in the spring, these are going to need more room.  So we loaded them up into the bed of Scott's truck.

They don't seem to try to fly much or get off the ground at all, so we figured it would be alright for the just over one mile trip.  Glad to say everything went fine, other than a few feathers here and there blowing out.  Although, getting the chickens to the pasture was easier than getting the second chicken tractor.  But Scott and his boys figured it out.

Screen door and all, riding down the road on the back of his trailer.  Simple and effective solutions are always the best way.  Now all the chickens are living out their last few weeks in the pasture, enjoying their new surroundings and eating the clover.

Now that we are all up to speed on the fall batch of meat chickens, I will attempt to give a quick weekly update along with a photo or two to show how fast these little white monsters are growing!

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