Raising Chickens for Meat: A Third Year in Review

Well, this year has brought us some relatively large changes as far as raising our own meat birds.

(For a recap click Here, Here and also check out our Cost Of blog, ifen you’re interested.)

First – we only bought 3 bags of flock raiser feed and then moved onto the meat bird crumbles at 2 weeks old. Flock raiser is $0.38 per pound and the Meatbird Crumble is $0.375 per pound. I know it doesn’t seem like a ton of savings, but when you buy a pallet at a time, it adds up. 1 50lb bag feeds 50 chicks for 2 weeks and 1 day we’ve discovered.
This is also important, because we sacrifice a good few bags to the resident rodents of the barn every year, too. Not our barn, or it wouldn’t be a problem – we’re mostly thankful to have a free place to store a few pallets of feed every summer. We will be building our own barn next summer hopefully

Second – we did two rounds of birds, one month apart. The first round of 103 arrived the third week of June the second round of 51 arrived the last week of July. This made for a lower mortality rate for a few reasons, I believe. One being they were less susceptible to heat stress with fewer birds in the houses. The other being that they didn’t crush on each other so much as they got bigger, slower and less eager to move.
We’ve decided that this is much preferable in a lot of ways and plan to do this from now on. Even more so, as we’re only going to do 50 bird runs from now on.

Third – we had indoor and outdoor sickbays – don’t judge me.

It started with the first 103 – one arrived with a broken leg. But she just didn’t want to die. I know that sounds silly- but she didn’t. So I gave her an area of her own and lo and behold – the NEXT MORNING another chick effed up their leg in the feeder. So in with the other one it went. And they did just fine. The chicks leg healed up a little weird, but they only needed to make it to 6 weeks anyway, so I figured, as long as she was willing to walk to the food and the water, she was worth the investment. Over the course of the full time I ended up with 8 different birds in the sick bay and all of them made it to butcher time. Not all of them stayed the entire time, like the two originals, but they all had a chance of making it, Just Because I was Willing to Separate them. We only lost 2, to what I believe was crushing, which was a solid improvement. Very much worth the extra few minutes of work a day to take them out and then back in at night.

Fourth – This was the biggest change. We’re butchering them ourselves, which was a whole ass endeavor that I will try to explain well- but is really deserving of a whole blog (or 3, I’m not even really exaggerating.) of its own- so I’m just going to focus on the way it changed our chicken rearing experience in this one.

So on to the why, what & well there’s that.

Around February, our regular chicken butcher closed up shop. For a good reason tho, he got a fantastic new job and just didn’t have the time to butcher anymore. Which was not a huge deal, as we were moving toward butchering ourselves, but this was the final point of “okay, now its time to do this”.
So, I hopped on Amazon and bought a Chicken Plucking Machine ($$$ no lie) and started talking to MrGillis about the ABSOLUTE NECESSITY to buy a new fridge because we needed a place to rest the butchered chickens (FOR 48 HOURS!). This is just the tip of the cliff we threw ourselves off in order to be prepared to butcher the birds ourselves. I will pick up this topic again in a Cost of Blog down the line. Trust, this was not an inexpensive endeavor to hop into. BUT we know it was a worthwhile investment – this equipment should last us a lifetime.
The next way it changed stuff up for us is that we no longer had to worry about transporting live birds, thank goodness. Which also freed us up to pick & choose which birds went at what time, instead of just trying to catch 50 chickens to take to Calais. This allowed us to have much better control over how big the birds got, culling the weakest and giving the runts a bit more time and room to grow.
Lastly, there is absolutely no lie in the pride you take at growing and processing your own food, completely, start to finish. This is almost overwhelming for me, as an ex vegetarian – I stopped eating meat when I was 8, because it was, and still is, awful how animals are treated in large scale agriculture. I had to start eating meat again at 20 because of how sick I was. I still tried to be as ethical as possible, which can be tough on the upper side of poor where we rest economically.

I now can proudly say, I only eat meat that I have a direct hand in bringing to the table. My animals have a good life, on the pasture, basking in the glory of the summer sun, eating bugs and flora, and only have a bad 30-45 seconds at the end of it. We do our best to never let any of it go to waste.

Thanks for stopping by, dear reader- Have a wicked good day!


Published by gillisgardensllc

This is the official website for Gillis Gardens, LLC. Gillis Gardens is a farm, run by myself and my wonderful husband. We believe in biodiversity, organic growing methods and doing things ourselves. I knit, crochet, make jewelry and sew. MrGillis builds, doing everything from our plumbing to our mechanical to our renovations. We are both active members of our little community. We both take care of the plants and animals. He weeds, I harvest. He spreads manure, I plant. We raise multiple breeds of chickens for eggs and meat. We have a herd of Alpacas that we shear every year for their beautiful fiber, which we then have milled into ultra luxurious yarn. We make our own maple syrup, preserves and pickles. We raise bees for honey and herbs for medicine. We also raise pigs for meat and fun. We are the parents of two young children, and consider that our most important job. Follow our adventures here and also on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

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