Whenever someone hears that I raise chickens for meat, they often have many questions for me. The most common questions are How much does it cost to raise chickens for meat? How long does it take for the chicks to fully grow? Is it hard to raise meat birds? Do you butcher the chickens yourself? This past week, I sent my chickens to the butcher, and I wanted to share the process of raising chickens for meat with you.
When raising chickens specifically for meat, it is best to buy a broiler chicken with a good meat to bone ratio. These chickens are called dual-purpose chickens or meatbirds. Dual-purpose chickens generally take 5 months to be fully grown, while meatbirds are bred to grow fast usually just 8 to 12 weeks until they are full grown!
The two most common chicken breeds specifically bred for meat are Freedom Ranger and Cornish Cross. I have only raised Cornish Cross chickens, which are a cross breed of a Cornish hen and a white Plymouth Rock chicken. I have raised 4 batches of meatbirds, the meat is really good, very tender and juicy. Wow! These chickens grow very fast. The breasts are large, much like a turkey. I often joke and call them turkeys because they are so big!
Raising Cornish chickens is relatively easy. They are really sweet birds who just want food and water. I would fill their food and water dishes in the morning and the afternoon. Getting the birds into the freezer is the hardest for me as I do not butcher my own chickens. The chickens need to be transported to the butcher, and I feel this is the hardest part. I have chosen to have an Amish family butcher my chickens for me. They do a great job, and I am truly thankful for them. The chickens need to be at their farm by 8 AM, so we are up very early, loading the chickens into the cages to transport them. Butchering them ourselves would eliminate this step, and with every batch of chickens, I contemplate just butchering them myself. It simply comes down to time, and there is only so much time in a day. Butchering a batch of chickens is a lot of work, and with running a homestead, there are a lot of things to do that also takes time.
I think I have answered all of the questions except cost. How much does it cost to raise meatbirds? Is it expensive? I tracked my costs for this recent batch of meatbirds. The 15 chickens ranged in weight from 5.92 to 7.86 pounds. The total weight of the processed chickens was 104.4 pounds of chicken!
Here is the breakdown of the cost to raise this batch of Cornish Cross chickens.
15 baby chicks @ $2.50 each = $37.50
8 bags of chicken feed @ 17.50 a bag = $140.00
Butchering cost $62.50
Total cost was $240
Final cost is $2.29 per pound of chicken meat in my freezer.
*As a side note, I did not factor in the cost of housing for the chickens, or containers for food and water, as this is a fixed expense and only needs to be paid for once.
**Another important thing to know. These chickens eat a lot! My chickens ate 500 pounds of food. A lot of food goes into the chickens, and a lot of you know what comes out!