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Questioning my sanity on raising meat chickens.

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by TnAndy, Sep 25, 2018.


  1. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    So, have a slew of cornish cross chicks, now about 3 weeks old. We've raised 25-30/yr every year for the last 7 years, which is enough chicken for us for a year if we let them get to 6-8lbs each....that takes about 8 wks typically. I've kept pretty good records each time we raise them, and I find it takes 4-5lbs of feed to get one pound of finish weight chicken....dressed out, ready to freeze. Feed runs around $28/100lbs, so a pound of chicken is costing us a bare minimum of $1.12/lb. That doesn't include the cost of the chick (usually $2 ea), nor some electrolyte I give them initially, nor the heat lamps for the first 2-3 weeks, nor housing, nor labor (figure hour/day for us for 50-60days) to feed/water/move mobile chick pens on pasture, nor labor to kill/scald/pluck/clean/bag/freeze.

    Local supermarket chain was running 4-5lb whole chickens for $0.99/lb this past week, normal price $1.49/lb. We bought one (first chicken we've bought in years)....smaller bird than we normally raise...though I could process at 5-6wks and get this size bird. We let ours go to 7lbs (avg) and they certainly have MUCH more breast meat....so much so that I usually filet the breast if we cut them up.

    But for .99/lb, I'm questioning my sanity on raising our own. Starting to think we ought to wait for sale price, and simply go buy 30-40 and fill a freezer and have a total of an hour labor in the deal !

    I'd like to think we get better meat by raising them on pasture as well as commercial feed....but they still eat a LOT of commercial feed. I'm sure that .99/lb chicken never saw a blade of grass or an hour of sunshine....

    What say you, monkeys. Keep raising, or give into financial sanity ?
     
    BenP, Bandit99, duane and 5 others like this.
  2. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus Site Supporter

    What is the flavor like in comparison? I know the farmers market or organic store chicken tastes better than the cheap stuff, and I can't help but think its better quality and less full of crap

    What price quality?
     
  3. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    I wouldn't question it.
     
    Gator 45/70 and john316 like this.
  4. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    In pure economic rationalist terms...factory produced chicken meat might be the rational choice in $$$ per lb/Kg at the checkout....however, from a self sufficiency perspective, producing one's own food has advantages also, in the sense that the infrastructure is there in place when the $$$ for chicken flesh goes up, or simply becomes unavailable if there is a supply chain outage TEOTWAWKI style. As DL says, what price quality.

    For some people there may be ethical considerations beyond getting chicken flesh cheaply.....the time input opportunity costs may also be a deciding factor...raise chickens vs buying chicken flesh, and use the saved time to hunt quail, grouse, wild ducks, wild turkeys etc.....
     
    oldawg, Bandit99, 3M-TA3 and 3 others like this.
  5. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Whole cornishX (Tyson) at walmart here run .78 to .98 cents per pound. Up until 2016 when I first got sick we were raising and processing 4,999 per year on pasture and processing on the farm under the Poultry Exemption and had zero problem selling every bird we raised and processed at $3.00 per pound.

    Fair warning about Farmers Market and folks selling pasture poultry. About half or better buy those walmart chickens and repack them with their label and sell them for up to $10.00 per pound. Know your farmer because there are a lot among us that play damned dirty in the local and regional food markets.
     
    oldawg, Bandit99, 3M-TA3 and 7 others like this.
  6. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    So Andy,
    What is the fundamental purpose for raising your own?

    To save money?
    To have better quality meat?
    You are what you eat and that applies to chickens, so is it to know and control your what they eat so you aren’t eating crap?
    Is it to be well established feeding yourself if SHTF?
    Is it a hobby?

    Seems like if you return to the fundamentals of why, you’ll have your answer.

    You might also have a compromise answer, keep just a few chicks you can breed into a larger flock if commercial chicken becomes unavailable.

    AT
     
    Bandit99, BenP, 3M-TA3 and 9 others like this.
  7. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    Pure 'meat' type chickens like Cornish Cross, or Freedom Rangers are a special hybrid bird you have to buy chicks. To raise them, you have to buy commercial feed (I think). Those two factors pretty much make raising this type bird a non starter in a SHTF situation, because I'm going to assume the supply lines break down and there will be no chicks or feed.

    Pure laying hens, such as White Leghorns or Red Sex Links, (white/brown eggs respectively) are great layers.....but suck as meat birds. Yes....you could boil them down, but they aren't a 'meat' bird by any means (I've tried both).

    That leaves 'heritage' breeds.....like the Barred Rock. We have raised them, you can breed them (done both, we have a few of them in our laying flock), and they get 'meaty' enough to make a decent chicken dinner (lot more dark meat than the Cornish, but still a meaty bird). They are decent foragers, so they can provide much of their own nutrition (though at a reduced laying ability.....laying hens need a near constant 16% protein intake or their laying drops way off). The problem now with 'free range' is every critter out there NOW loves chicken....dogs, coyotes, raccoons, hawks, eagles, foxes (lost chickens to all of these), and that ain't gonna change in SHTF.
     
    Zimmy, Airtime, duane and 4 others like this.
  8. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Andy, in another life, I hauled food grade, then later chemical tankers. This would have been the late 1990s.

    At some point during this time, I ran with another driver who was hauling for Tyson foods. As drivers always got around to doing, we talked about what we were hauling, the city or town to which we were delivering it, etc.

    This was many years before I ever raised my first chickens, as we do on our farm today.

    Anyway, the Tyson Foods driver told me that chickens would eat as long as they were awake, almost constantly. (Boy is that ever true.) Since chickens naturally want to sleep at some point, they had this chemical that turned the chickens into insomniacs. So, they basically ate from the day they were born, almost 24 hours per day, until the day they were processed by the company. I don't recall how long of a period this was, exactly. But, it was a lot shorter length of time, than it would take a chicken consuming normal, organic food, to grow to butchering size.

    My point here is, your chickens are eating what you KNOW they are eating. You have NO idea what chemicals those market bought birds have in them. This is exactly why we raise our own livestock, including chickens and ducks. We want to know, we want to dictate what our birds are consuming, so not only they will, but we will live healthier lives as well.

    So, I guess it comes down to which you prefer to eat, birds that you know what they consumed, or birds that may just be cheaper.

    Question: Do you have enough land on which to raise corn, in order to feed your birds? If so, have you considered that? It doesn't have to be quality corn to satisfy the palette of chickens.

    Here, our feed is corn based. 500 kilograms (~1,100 pounds) of corn (still on the cob) costs us about $62 USD. So, we tend to buy that, and add the other ingredients here at the farm.
     
    Bandit99, Zimmy, 3M-TA3 and 7 others like this.
  9. john316

    john316 Monkey+++

    IN MY TRADE.......the cheepest product has the cheepest input
    SOMETIME.............BETTER does cost MORE
     
  10. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    To the critter list, add humans who haven't prepared adequately....:(
     
    oldawg, Bandit99, Zimmy and 3 others like this.
  11. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Oh, also consider raising Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) to feed to your flock. They are very high in protein, and chickens love them as snacks!

    Also, unlike house flies, Black Soldier Flies have zero interest in flying into your home, or landing on your food. They do not eat as adults. All of their consumption of food is during their time in a composting bin, while they are in the larval stage of their lives.

    They are also self-harvesting, believe it or not. The perfect fly.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
    SoaySheep, Zimmy, 3M-TA3 and 4 others like this.
  12. Gray Wolf

    Gray Wolf Monkey+++

    The ones you raise will not have hormones, steroids, or antibiotics.
    And who knows what other unhealthy stuff they are adding to make the birds bigger faster, without regard for the health of the consumers. Keep raising your own, the little extra money they cost you is not your main concern!
     
  13. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Two parts to your question in my mind. If you are raising 4,999, you are a small scale and more ethical Tyson type producer. The hybrid chicks and commercial feed will produce more chickens and at a lower cost and a standardized bird that the customer recognizes. If you do it in a way that minimizes the chemical inputs, you may be able to charge enough to make some money. You will never be able to compete with the largest producers on price due to vertical marketing and economies of scale. If however you are producing 100 a year on feed grown on your own land, raise a "heritage" type general purpose chicken from eggs either incubated under the hen or in a incubator, eating the roosters as they mature and the old hens, a whole different sense of scale and lifestyle is possible, although it will not be based on a cash society. At the moment in the suburban areas, you can do well in a niche market for the yuppies raising a commercial chicken with better inputs, pasture raised, organic, etc, and some ethical people are doing so. Here in New England with Thanksgiving coming up, the large grocery chains sell 15 pound frozen turkeys as a loss leader to get you into the store for about $13 and it will cost you up to $10 for a 2 week old heritage starter. Kind of hard to compete on price. Guess it boils down to if the SHTF yet or what the market is that you are selling to. If you are going to do it for a "living", all the usual problems exist, governmental control, bad publicity due to illness, unknown demand for specialized product, your health, cash flow, processing availability, etc. At 80 here in NH, no, but a 35 year old friend 25 miles from here living on his dad's farm, does fairly well with pasture pork, grass fed beef, free running chickens and turkeys, market gardening, etc. Still have to have one member of the family work in the real world for health insurance and if he had to buy the land, he would not make a go of it. Land is worth more for house lots than farm land. That is the reality of life here.
     
    Zimmy likes this.
  14. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I raise my own few chickens for eggs . It cost more in the short run but in the long run I believe I'm getting better product and if things do go south I'm still ahead . win -win .
     
  15. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    If SHTF tomorrow, you'd have chicken ,,,,,2 days from now , no store would have chicken .
    Your choice.
     
    chelloveck, 3M-TA3, TnAndy and 2 others like this.
  16. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Buddy is that ever the truth!
     
  17. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    We might have a spare acre to grow corn.....it would cut into my cow pasturing space. Although my layers LOVE cracked corn, and would eat it all the time if given the choice, corn is only around 12% protein, so it's not high enough by itself to be the main source of feed.
     
    chelloveck, Zimmy and SB21 like this.
  18. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    Well, not getting rid of our heritage (layer/meat) breed, this is merely questioning raising broilers by itself.

    Also, with 7 freezers, a root cellar, large storage of home and commercial canned good, and a couple pallets of freeze dried foods, food is not going to be a real big issue right after SHTF. And as I said, post SHTF, I'm not sure how viable it would be to raise birds you have to buy the chicks and feed.
     
    chelloveck, Zimmy and SB21 like this.
  19. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member


    Yeah....that's been what we tell ourselves on all the food we raise....superior, lower chemical product.
     
    Zimmy and SB21 like this.
  20. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    We could maybe spare an acre to raise corn, it would have to come out of our cow pasturing space (3ac). Corn is something layer chickens love, they'd eat it all the time if given, but the lower protein (10-12% for most corn) wouldn't be enough for a complete feed.
     
    SB21 likes this.
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