Picking the Right Chickens for the Best Results
Raising Chickens for Meat
First of all, I want to be clear. I really do think chickens are pretty cool or I wouldn't be doing this site, but that doesn't change the fact that I love eating chicken meat, It's probably one of the tastiest, healthiest meats you can eat. It's high in protein, low in fat, and if you raise them yourself, they're probably even better for you...
Chickens have been domesticated for about 8,000 years and have probably been used as a food source for all of that time, if not longer.
Even today, more chickens are eaten by Americans every year than there are people on the planet.
There are specific chickens bred purely as meat chickens. These chickens make optimum use of their feed and are the most efficient converters of grain to meat of any other breed of chicken.
Chickens from these specific breeds are great for roasting, broiling or frying as more and more families raising chickens for meat are finding out.
Picking the Right Chicken
Here are some things you should probably think about if you are going to be raising backyard chickens for their meat.
When raising chickens for meat, then you'll want to get the right chickens, specifically those that are classified as a meat chickens.
Chickens that are categorized as "meat chickens" are the ones that tend to grow more rapidly, carry a lot of weight (meat) and have frames that are large and solid making them good choices for meat producers.
You want to look for breeds that are able to gain weight within the first four months of life.
The personality and temperament of meat chickens isn't as important as that of your egg layers because they are not going to be around as long.
The classic meat chicken is a Cornish Rock. This type of chicken is a cross between two other breeds of chicken - a White Cornish and White Plymouth Rock. They are also referred to as a ‘Cornish’ or a ‘Cornish Cross’.
Things to know about Cornish Rock:
Other Good Meat Chicken Breeds
Some other breeds that are good for meat production include:
These chickens are usually great for all kinds of cooking.
All of these are good examples of the Heritage Breed of chickens.
These heritage breeds have a slower growth rate, but the birds will remain healthier and a lot of people think they also taste better.
A heritage breed rooster will take anywhere from 8-12 months to become a good sized broiler, and the meat will still be tender and flavorful even at a year old.
Another good choice for families raising meat chickens would be to get a slower growing hybrid broiler.
Broilers will often weigh in excess of eight pounds and the roosters may reach as much as eighteen pounds.
These tasty birds can be butchered when they are anywhere from five to twenty four weeks old, depending on how much meat you want from each chicken. The Red Ranger, for example, is usually ready to dress at about fourteen weeks.
Cornish Game Hens are from the Cornish Rock broiler breed that are actually just 5 week-old hens.
The chickens most often found in grocery stores are usually only 8 week old, male or female broiler type chickens.
The Day of Reckoning
This is the part we may not particularly like.
Harvesting a member of your flock that you've raised and spent time with is never pleasant, but at least you know that they were raised in an environment where they were able to live the way that nature intended, drug and chemical free, able to roam around and lead a normal, healthy life.
Now they are providing life giving sustenance for you and your family, and that's a good thing.
One final thought, if your family is raising chickens for meat, you may want to consider NOT naming them just to avoid getting too attached.
Raising your own chickens for meat is a great way to ensure that your family is getting a fresh, chemical free food source.