Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What About Broilers?

A couple weeks ago I asked for your thoughts on getting some chicks ... specifically some chicks that would eventually grow to be a new laying flock for the farm and at the same time do a bit of pasture sanitation for us. But, laying hens haven't been the only kind of fowl running through our Stoneyfield Farm discussions lately because we have also been talking about guineas and, as today's title suggests, broiler chickens. So, I thought I would throw the topic out there for discussion.

My biggest question is this: What do you raise for broilers? If we were to go ahead with some this were we are talking about doing a very small amount, mostly for ourselves and a few customers that are interested, but I'm not really sure what to get when it comes to ordering chicks.

I have read Joel Salatin's book, "Pastured Poultry Profits", and I know that he (and others) are successfully raising the Cornish X Rocks birds because they have found that that is what the consumers want. But, I'm just not totally convinced on this "franken-bird". It almost looks like a chicken on steroids.

I was able to find this discussion over on the Homesteading Today message board dealing with just this question and I notice that there are quite a few people that raise things other than the "super bird". Do you guys have any suggestions for breeds/crosses/specific places to order from? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Steven said...

We're in the same position here Ethan. We're not too excited about raising the sumo white cornish X birds but that seems to be what most people use. Because we're only wanting to do about 100 we could stand to not be the most efficient this year so I think we're going to try the French/American Range birds from J & M Hatchery. These are the same birds that are used in France for their high dollar Label Rouge pastured chickens. They are supposed to be nice meaty birds that still forage and are active. I guess we'll find out.
I'd love to hear from someone that's actually used them.... or any other alternative bird.

John said...

I was thinking about the Cornish Roasters at McMurray. Butcher the pullets at 8-9 weeks and the roosters at 10-12 weeks for 2 sizes. Here is the link. This will be my first time to try this so plan on ordering 25 to start.


Rich said...

I've once raised a group of McMurrays's Cornish Roasters like John mentions. They are sold as straight run chicks, and I had an almost even mix of male and female.

I raised them for personal consumption and wanted a little bit bigger chicken than was available in the store, so I raised the females until they were about 10-12 weeks old (and around 5-6 lbs dressed), and raised the males for almost 16 weeks (and about 10-12 lbs). If I remember it right, I also fed them a high percentage of cracked corn to help develop a 'yellower' fat and skin color.

They were relatively active until they were about 10-12 weeks old (but not as active as a laying chicken), then they started to get pretty sedentary (just eating, sleeping, and growing).

I'm not sure how they would do on an entirely pastured system where they would be required to forage, but they would probably work in a Salatin-style movable pen system.

I have personally wondered if there is a market for something like 10-12 lb. roasting chickens from relatively young 16 week old 'corn-fed' chickens. It results in a unique product that is impossible to find unless you raise it yourself.

Joe said...

We raised the Freedom Rangers (2 years ago?)mentioned in the first comment in floorless pens like Salatin. They were by far the hardiest broilers we have ever raised. They didn't seem to grow much slower than the standard cornish X broilers either. If you google "Freedom Ranger Broiler" you should be able to find them. We have also had good success with McMurry cornish X broilers, they're dumb as a box of rocks, but they do grow fast, even on pasture. A cold rain in late spring can be hard on the though, even if they are feathered out.

Jena said...

I am also planning to order the "Colored Rangers" from J.M. Hatchery. I have searched extensively on the internet several times using several different words and could only find their hatchery offering the colored ranger type birds. The hatchery breeding the original Freedom Rangers from a few years back apparently went out of business and I haven't found any others.

I haven't raised these new birds yet and plan to start the year with 25 of them and maybe a separate batch of Cornish Xs. I have raised the Cornish Xs before. I didn't experience leg problems but did have some die when I tried to raise them in the winter. They are definitely not hardy in colder temps which could be a big problem if you wanted to keep any breeding birds.

The J.M site was not very informative as far as ordering dates but when I inquired they told me to let them know when I want them and they can usually make it work.

Anonymous said...

From my own perspective, the Cornish X chickens are just gross. Sure you get a "Big Roaster" but you get a bird that does not grow feathers properly, is not very healthy, and just grows and grows and grows. Leave these birds to the Tysons and Perdue industrial farms.

For better flavor and a overall nice looking bird that forages well - we raise Silver Laced Wyandottes. They grow very fast and although they do not have the breast meat on steriod look - they dress out cleanly and have a very nice carcass. We had some 6 - 7 lb birds within 3-4 months. They also have small combs and overwinter well (at least in northern Maine they do). We have a digital incubator and raise all of our own poulty. It saves us the time and headache of buying batches and batches of chicks from hatchery stock (home incubated chicks are healthier too).

Best of luck!!

The Farmers said...

We have raised "sumo-chicken, franken-birds" for the last 2 seasons with great success. We just don't think they are "natural" or sustainable, so this year we are changing to colored range broilers from JM Hatchery in PA. We plan to raise just under 1000 birds.
All of our customers are very excited about this change.

Randy said...

I just found out about S&G Poultry in Alabama (www.sandgpoultry.com). They sound FANTASTIC! It seems that they have developed Broilers specifically for the pastured poultry and gourmet chicken market.

We'll be ordering from them this month.

Steven said...

I found S & G Poultry this weekend online too. They do sound awfully good for broilers but I've yet to read about anyone that has used them.

Kerm77 said...

We have been doing business with the folks @ S&G for abt 3 years now. We can't speak highly enough about them!! Just good honest Southern Folks! We have raised all of the breeds successfuly. This year also trying the new heritage whites. Egg production out of all of the breeds is what we consider above average. Give em a try! I can assure ya you won't be doing business anywhere else again!
Raymond, Ga

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