Our First Attempt at Raising Chickens for Meat

meat chicken harvest day

 

I have a 10 Year Plan. It’s nothing fancy, but it is a big one. In 10 years I want to be able to provide all the food our family needs from home. Last year was my first garden, and this year is my first “big” garden. Yet while the herbivore side is being taken care of, what about the carnivore portion of our diet? Previously we relied on venison my husband shot during hunting season, along with some wild hog here and there, and then shopped for chicken and pork. But that just isn’t enough anymore. In order to cover *all* our previous grocery store bases, we needed to try our hand at chickens. I didn’t want to replicate the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), I wanted to grow happy, healthy chickens that were free for their brief lives. Here is a quick rundown of what the past three months were like:

delaware-meat-chickens

 

We started with 10 Buff Orpington chicks, 10 Delaware chicks, and 8 Cornish Rocks (it’s half of what the Cornish Cross breed is, designed to grow well for meat but not so quickly their legs break and their organs/quality of life suffer).

13 thoughts on “Our First Attempt at Raising Chickens for Meat

  1. You’re my hero. Seriously. I’m so proud of you. And don’t forget, you’re saving the gas/exhaust of traveling to and from the market, and consistently avoiding supporting big corporate companies. That’s HUGE. I wonder how much you could get away with feeding them on your own (not relying on commercial feed)? I know chickens are scavengers and will eat almost anything you put in front of them, so maybe they could help cut down on food scrap trash you guys make, for at least some of their feed? Thus, also, reducing your costs? And if hubby kills any deer, maybe you could feed the organs to the chickens? I’m just riffing here…

    1. Those are great suggestions Dana! I’ve been pinning posts left and right on growing/making your own chicken feed, and that’s definitely on the horizon. I may do it for the next round, at least partially. What is just so mind-boggling to me is the hidden wisdom found in others when I mention what we’re doing. It seems like so many raised meat chickens, or laying chickens, or raised gardens in their youths. Then it just got tedious and they stopped and started just going to the store. They look at me like I’m a silly little kid, and I look at them like “why would you let all this experience just go to waste?!” It’s so interesting to see how things are coming back full circle!

  2. Brooke I applaud you, it’s no small feat to do what you’ve begun. Thank you for sharing your insight, both good and bad, it’s invaluable to others. I wish you the best of luck with the 10 year plan, those little girls are gaining quite an education in the process.

  3. This is so interesting Brooke! I completely agree with your feelings on CAFOs and the meat industry, and actually recently became a vegetarian again because of it. I understand why it was hard for you to kill the chickens, and I’m not sure I would be able to myself! I think it’s awesome and very ambitious what you’re doing. Just curious: the birds you lost, were you able to eat them? I don’t know how that works.

    1. Holley they were all lost in the first week, so no, they were much too small to eat. It could have been anything: birth defects, sickness, disease, who knows! I don’t think I’d eat a bird that died, even of natural causes.

  4. Very courageous! My family and I are on a similar road to becoming self-sufficient. Being so connected to our food sources has made me a much more intentional and grateful human. Not much goes bad in my fridge anymore knowing the sacrifice those animals made on my behalf. Although I must say there is a certain attraction to tilapia farming vs. chicken/other livestock πŸ˜‰

    1. Hannah do you have any good resources on tilapia farming? I’m trying to convince my husband that aquaponics are the next thing on our horizon. And by convince I mean warm him up to the idea that it’s happening no matter what πŸ˜‰

      1. Brooke, I wish I could say that I did! What I know about hydroponics and tilapia farming comes mostly from internet searches and Mother Earth News. I am leaning towards an initial system that looks like a raised garden bed with what is essentially a large aquarium underneath it. It looks easy to build, manage and learn on. I was a bit intimidated by how complex these systems can be, but this seems like a good way to get one’s feet wet…pardon the pun. Once (if ever) I know what I am doing with little system, I will also have to figure out how to integrate a system into our backyard landscape in a way that will not offend our local historical society, since we live in an old house in a Nat’l Historic District. So far, they have been accepting of the chickens, but I know they won’t go for “disposable” pools set up randomly in the yard, which seems to be how most ‘at home” tilapia farmers are doing things.

        Best wishes in all of your endeavors!

        1. Thank you Hannah! I’ve been researching pretty much non-stop since beginning, and I think we’re planning to get started on our system soon. I decided on making plywood forms and using a pond liner called DuraSkrim for waterproofing. It’s what some pros use to even get organic certifications, so I feel comfortable enough growing food in it. Those disposable pools make me nervous since they’re mostly made from PVC and it’s not necessarily UV safe with the chemical leaching. I have a friend in chemical engineering and have basically bugged her to death over the whole “Is this material save to grow food in?” question. I plan to blog our entire process, so stay tuned! Hopefully your society could see the setup and decide it’s not an eyesore.

  5. I loved reading this.. I am all about self-sustaining with food (and any other way you can find) – and the idea of having chickens has always intrigued me, but I just don’t know how I would feel come time to make them into dinner, you know? It’s nice to read about it in a non-gruesome way, from someone passionate about giving the chicks a good and healthy life. Bravo to you!!

  6. We had chickens and turkeys a few times when I was a kid. I always got crazy attached to them and had a hard time when they were harvested. But, I also struggle with the idea of factory farmed meat. I think our solution for now will be joining a co op to get some ethical meat!

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