The Meat Chick Experiment

We have raised several batches of chicks now, but so far have not got one to the table, mostly because by the time they got to table age they have either been hens (therefore kept for eggs) or bantam roosters (not worth plucking!). Although we do currently have a grow out pen of 8 or so roosters waiting to get to table weight, the Australorpe is now a year old and only just loosing his “bag of feathers” physique, and a couple of others got set back after a bout of cocci over winter – the rest are 6months+ and still need a bit more weight (and three are pekins so hardly a meal for five people).  Clearly raising chickens for the table is a time consuming – and given the amount of food they consume – also an expensive exercise.  You simply cannot rear a purebred chicken to table weight in the same period of time as a commercial meat chick, and when time = money…its cheaper to buy from the supermarket.  Even the bantam Indian Game (if they ever start laying again) take five months to reach table weight.

So I’ve decided to raise a batch of Meat Chicks (12) as an experiment to see if its worth doing on a regular basis (or at least until breeding of the Indian Game is in full swing).  I was lucky enough to get two week old chicks instead of day olds – $3.00 each instead of $2.50, which means two weeks less of being in the brooder with heating 24/7 saving on electricity, plus hopefully two week olds will be a bit healthier and robust than day olds.  If they have food available around the clock, they will be ready for processing (2kg+) at 6-8 weeks!

That is an amazing growth rate that would be excellent to get into the bloodlines in my chookpen.  Unfortunately the downside of these commercial Meat Chicks is that they won’t live much past that age as their legs snap or dislocate due to their excessive weight.  Some people have managed to keep them alive longer by placing them in larger pens, reducing food intake and increasing activity and this is something that I might try to do with one rooster – hopefully it would be old enough to breed with the bantam IG hens this season to get the first generation of chicks on the ground (with the idea of breeding them back to the IG bantams to make a faster growing offspring, at least in theory – I did say it was an experiment!

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