Raising Chickens for Meat

When most people think of chickens they think of eggs, which is a great reason to have chickens, but chickens can also provide meat. But, are chickens that lay eggs different than chickens that are used for meat? Hopefully, we will answer these questions and more in the following blog post. But if you have questions or comments let us know! We are always looking for feedback.

Chicken Breeds for Meat aka Broiler Breeds

One of the best resources you can use to pick a chicken whether you are an old hand or a beginner looking for your first couple of chickens is https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/chicken-chart

the live stock conservancy has great information on the different heritage chicken breeds, which are best for show, eggs, meat, or eggs and meat.

 

What Should You Consider When Picking your Chickens?

  1. Geography – Pick chickens that can thrive in your climate. Some chickens do better in colder temperatures than others. Some chickens do better in warmer climates.
  2. Temperament – Some chickens are friendlier than other and will be more tolerant of children, so if you have kids then consider chicken breeds that do well with kids.
  3. Heritage breeds vs hybrids – Many heritage breeds are great for eggs or meat. Some people raise heritage chickens for eggs, but will eat surplus cockerels. There are a number of hybrid meat chickens to choose from, all of which we will discuss in more detail below.

Hybrid Broilers

Some of the best known broiler hybrids are White Plymouth Rock and White Cornish chickens. This is the chicken that you will commonly see in the grocery store. A benefit of these chickens is that they grow and feather quickly, gaining their target weight in only six or seven weeks. A con however, is that because of their quick growth they must be butchered or they will develop a number of ailments, unless they have been raised on the range. An advantage of the white Cornish hybrid is that they are easier to pluck, because they have fewer feathers and none of the underlying feathers that can be difficult to remove.

Colored hybrids generally grow slower than the white hybrids and include the Kosher King, Redbro, Red Broiler, Freedom Ranger, Rosambro, Colored Range, and Silver Cross among others. Their coloring protects them from raptors, but does make them more difficult to pluck. Colored hybrids do not gain weight as quickly as their white counterparts, taking at lest 11 weeks to reach target weight. For more information on colored hybrids check out googl/Yf3u4d.

Heritage breeds are often kept as dual purpose egg and meat birds. They are generally good foragers, but have a slow to moderate growth rate, reaching their target weight in about 16 weeks. Heritage breeds often do not grow at a uniform rate and unlike hybrids they are not as good as converting food to meat.

Free Range vs Confining your Broilers- which is better?

There are a number of benefits to free ranging your birds. They can forage which means their meat will contain less fat and be higher in omega-3s and other vitamins including vitamin A. A con of pasturing your broilers is that they are exposed to potential predators. You can place them in a confined, protective, portable chicken tractor – without a bottom, so while they will be protected from most flying predators they are still at risk from predators that dig under the cage. You will need to move them frequently as they will quickly deplete the area under the shelter. However, this may be a reasonable alternative to free range.

If you choose to confine your birds in a large indoor shelter until they reach their target weight make sure that they have plenty of dry soft bedding as well as plenty of food and water. It is suggested that you do not place roost in their shelter as heavy hybrids can break their legs jumping off the roost and some develop breast blisters while roosting. Obvious advantages of indoor confinement is that they are easy to check on and less likely to get attacked by predators. To make sure they have sufficient space each chicken should have 2 -3 square feet of space.

Do you have questions about broilers? Have you raised chickens for meat? Join the conversation here. Let us know your experience, so others can benefit.

 

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Hi Erin,

    I have raised chickens in the past along with dairy goats.  There is definitely nothing like having a source for fresh eggs…  Farm raised eggs are especially great when used in baking as the yokes are much richer than store bought eggs.

    I haven’t had experience with broilers; well, except eating them… My favorite chicken breed for eggs and meat is the Dominique.  They are beautiful “barred” (black and white “bar” patterns to their feathers), very calm, low key and easy to handle.

  2. I’ve heard so much about free-range eggs, and I guess it’s the same for chickens, too.  I like the fact that the meat will contain less fat and also that it will be higher in omega-3s and other vitamins including vitamin A.  Love me some Omega-3’s for sure!  I always look for the free-range organic eggs, and so when we raise chickens, even though I know you state there is that risk of predators, I believe we will be free-ranging them for sure.  I think it’s kinder, too, than confining them.  We would, of course, house them at night.

    1. Free ranging is perfect, and you are right the birds are generally happy and healthier. If you are worried about predators then using a portable chicken pens that give your chickens freedom, but also keep them safe, though I know a lot of chickens that just roam the yard!

  3. This is a really interesting article. I’ve been thinking about getting chickens for eggs. I don’t know that I could slaughter them. Is there a service that does this for me? 

    Thanks for the information and references to help me decide on which breed(s) to consider. I’d definitely want to free-range them as I feel like they would be happier that way.

    Not considering how long they take to grow, is there a specific breed that has a better flavor of eggs and meat?

    Thanks again.

    -J

    1. There are services that will butcher your birds so you don’t have to, check at your local farmers market, grocery store butcher, or even google “chicken butcher near me.” Your local Craig’s list might also list butchers in your area. 

      People report that different breads of chickens taste different and many people report that the eggs of different chicken breeds also taste different, so I think it can really be personal preference.  Certainly eggs from free range eggs are much better for you; they are often higher in a number of vitamins and omegas. When you go to select a chicken consider your climate and what type of temperament you’d like. Many people buy a variety of chickens and determine what they like the best. 

  4. This is a great article.  It makes me go back to my child hood days when my aunty and uncle had a farm and raised turkeys and dhickens.  I remember going out every day and feeding hundreds of birds that started out as chicks and grew into birds that we eventually put in our deep freeze and eat.These chickens were free range during the day and at night we had to lock them up because of predators like coyotes, foxes and certain birds.Thank you for taking the time to explain to people the differences in chickens that are bred to eat.Dale

  5. In these times when ecology and climate are constantly on the political agenda, it is nice to read an article that not only views animals as a raw material but also deals with animal welfare. I know several who have either reared broilers or still do so and I will pass on this article to them. Thank you for a thorough and detailed post on this topic.

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