Frequently Asked Question: What kind of chicken should I raise for meat?
There are a few options now:
Broilers. These are a Cornish chicken crossed with another breed (Vantress, White Mountain Rock, etc.). They grow quickly, 6-9 weeks depending on how big you want them and how you raise them. They are not as hardy and need more careful brooding than the other types of birds. They are messier and smellier. They are not as efficient on pasture and do require grain feeding. That’s the downside. The up side is that they grow quickly so they are come and gone in just a couple of months. They do produce a nice, meaty carcass. They can be pastured (we have ours out), and do best in the contained “chicken tractor” because they are babies their whole lives.
Layer chickens/heritage birds. Roosters make great eating. There are “heavy” breeds and “light” breeds. You want a “heavy” breed like a Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Black Sex Link, Black Australorp, or Rhode Island Red. Down side: roosters take about 24 or more weeks to reach a nice butchering weight and are not usually as fat or meaty as a Cornish cross. They don’t make the boneless, skinless breast type of cuts. They can be chewier or tougher than the Cornish cross birds and need a little different cooking technique. Up side: They have more flavor in the meat. The meat can be fairly tender if cooked correctly. They are better foragers and can grow well on alternative feeds and grasses/bugs/etc. The rooster chicks are often cheaper than the broiler chicks. These fellows
like to “free range” and can be contained in a tractor but prefer an open house situation.
3) Freedom Rangers. This is a new hybrid. They look like a layer rooster but grow quicker like the Cornish cross. Most people we know who have raised them have done so in about 12 weeks. They forage well and can grow on forage and also need some grain. They don’t get as heavy as the Cornish cross, but still have a nice double breast. They are a little more difficult to find as chicks but are becoming more available.
That’s the quick answer. We do have a Pastured Poultry class coming up soon: June 28 – 30. Some scholarships are available, so let us know if that would help you be able to come. Here’s Mark’s intro to the class: