Our first meat producing project for the year was chickens. I had raised chickens for meat in the past and basically knew what to expect. This was the first time for Don to experience it and he really rose to the occasion. The coop he built for our layers has a separate section that can be walled off and used for the broilers and he installed a completely separate yard for them. We planned to raise 12 for a friend and 13 for ourselves as the hatchery sends them out in groups of 25. They always send a couple extra in case some do not make it in shipping so we ended up with 27. I am happy to say ALL of ours made it through shipping and through the whole raising process. That gave me 15 in the freezer and I am thrilled with that!
They start off as cute little fluff balls and are so hard to resist. They outgrow that phase within a couple of weeks. These chicks are Red Ranger chicks and are suited to being pasture raised. They take about 12 weeks to bring to maturity for butchering.
As soon as they were fully feathered we let them have daily access to their yard. They are naturally curious and climb anything. Next year we will do 3 groups and keep the groups to about 12-15 each. You’ll see why in a few pics. LOL
These pictures show the grass growing nicely and the chicks happily moving around. It doesn’t take long for 27 chickens to decimate a grassy area even in the growth season. They naturally scratch and peck at the ground and eat EVERYTHING in sight. They had a great time mowing this down and the area has since recovered.
You can really tell the difference in this pic. I think I took these about a week from our first butcher date. We did half at the beginning of September and the other half at the end, keeping the smaller ones to round out some more. It was worth it.
I honestly think that if the group had been smaller they would have come to weight at the closer to the same time. Over half of our group were roosters which was fine by me. They grow larger in the same amount of time and about the time they figure out how to crow they go to Freezer Camp and the crowing is not an issue. I do believe that the smaller females would have done better in a smaller group though so next year we plan on doing 2-3 groups of 12-15 and see what our yield are. I already have a dozen spoken for and can probably sell off more if needed. It sure is nice to have a fresh supply of chicken around.
This would be the other reason I want to do smaller groups. It never occured to me that they ALL would want to stay in at night and not use the outdoor roost. 27 full sized chickens in that small an area made for a stinky mess. Not to mention the stress it put on my Resident Rooster Festus. You’ll meet him in a later post. ;)