Monday, 27 June 2011

Chickens for the Freezer, Final Stats

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

We butchered our meat birds yesterday and so now I have all my final facts and figures in place enabling me to see just how much it costs to raise this portion of our food.

I used the standard Cornish Cross meat bird because I appreciate the growth efficiency that has been bred into them. They provide lots of bang for the buck. Not to say that they can't be fraught with problems if you don't follow the instruction sheet. Basically these are race car chickens and they need the high octane fuel, My old 6 banger hay truck doesn't need race car fuel and it is slow as heck, but it gets the job done. So if you want,need, or desire a slower growing chicken by all means grow that type of chicken, but please don't try to fit the industrial Cornish into the slow growing, low protein type feed, it can end up very sad for both birds and the people raising them. There's plenty of opinions out there on what breed of bird, type of feed, and raising methods to use. I am not addressing any of that here, I am just reporting what it took to from hatchery to freezer on my farm. My equipment is already off the depreciation schedule so I haven't included start-up costs. And labor costs vary depending on how much you think your time is worth or what you are willing to pay someone else to do your work for you. Obviously the longer you raise your birds the more time you have into them.

$ 126.00 - Chick Cost (day-old includes shipping)
$ 450.00 - Feed (custom mix non-organic broiler feed)
$ 5.00 - Electricity(brooder)

$<581.00> - Total Expenses

*VALUE (*reflects comparable product available in my area)

$1764.00 - Meat 441 pounds @ $4.00 per lb
$14.00 - Hearts/livers 10 lbs @$2.00 per lb
$ 29.00 - gizzards 14.5 lbs @ $2.oo per lb
$72.00 - feet 18 lbs @ $4.00

$1885.00 -Total Value

$1304.00 - NET

I started with 77 birds and lost two, one within hours of receipt, and one a week later when I stepped on him. Ouch. He ran off, but was dead the next morning. Looking at the figures above my birds cost approximately $8.00 each to raise. More than the Fred Meyer version and less than if I had to buy them. By the time I get my husband's lunch meat for the week, 2 more meals at least, and 5 quarts of broth, plus dog food I have gotten my moneys worth. Most of the birds weighed in the 5 and 6 pound range with a few outliers at 4.5 pounds and 7.5 pounds. I used 1500 of feed for the Cornish and pullets in the 8.5 weeks, which works out to about a 3:1 feed conversion rate. The leftover feed from the ton will be used for my pullets and with some cutting of protein my adult hens can eat it too.

Another factor that you have to take into consideration is processing costs. I butchered at a friends house, and will help them butcher when their chickens are ready. Processing at a state facility in my area starts at $3.50 per bird. Which is worth it if you're squeamish.

As for feed, I co-oped with a neighbor who needed pig feed. I did the ordering and delivered the minerals, and when the feed was done, they picked it up. Still we had some costs involved in time, and fuel. I also raised my replacement pullets for eggs with this flock and it would be hard to track what they ate in the 8 weeks.

And certainly with some ingenuity and attention to detail you can really gather some good chicken manure for your garden in the time you are raising these birds. I have some good material from the brooding stage and used the birds to renovate a small pasture that needed some help.

So while not for everyone, raising chickens for meat is certainly a good place to start. Chickens are small and easy to handle and in two months plus, you have a product to eat. Much quicker than any other type of meat animal.

And it is delicious!


becky3086 said...

I agree with almost everything you said, however, I started mine on chick starter for about the first 3-4 weeks, then switched to laying mash and they are all doing fine. If you don't try it, and just follow what you have read, you'll never know if other things work.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I feed mine starter (19%)all the way through, which we have discovered through trial and error (we used to sell pastured poultry) works the best for us. My neighbor has a sad outcome with his not tolerating the lower protein of 16% grower after switching at 5 weeks or so. But that's not to say it won't work. And it sounds like it has for you :)

My only caution would be that layer mash has more calcium in it for egg laying than a grower ration has for young birds.

Lindsey said...

I love this idea and wish I had the space to do it. We use every part of every bird that we consume and it's annoying to buy it from the store when I know I could do this myself.
I would love to see a post on butchering!

The Younger Rachael said...

I only buy whole chickens at $0.87/lb or less (then I buy 4 or 5, they go on sale that often). So, that's for meat and bones.

What do you use the heart/liver, gizzard and feet for? I know the Chinese love chicken feet, but I don't. I'm having a hard time thinking up good uses, other than stock.

Good thoughts on breed of birds and what works with what. Honestly, I think that a bird bred for what you want is the best way to go -- Glad to hear someone else say it.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Lindsey, it's pretty easy, but space is definitely a factor. And (whispering here) these chicks never make any (or very little) noise in the short time it takes to raise them, and no one would be none the wiser. I had a friend who raised them in a chicken tractor in his urban backyard, he deep bedded over new garden beds and moved the tractor once a week and at the end of 8 weeks he had amended all his new garden spots and filled his freezer. To make sure his neighbors were on his side he gifted a few of the finished birds and garnered their support for future chicken endeavors ;)

Here is a post about turkey butchering from a couple of years ago, chickens are about the same, only smaller!

The Younger Rachel, my ND wants the liver and hearts so I barter with her on that, and I feed gizzards to our cats in the winter for a little supplement when hunting is a little scarce. Our dogs won't eat any chicken guts unless they're cooked. But they do like the feet raw, so I freeze them on a cookie sheet before bagging, so I can get them out individually for treats or for stock. I like beef organ meats but I don't care for chicken. But they do add to the value and help defray the costs.

Anonymous said...

How long did it take you to butcher all the birds? And how old are meat chickens when you butcher them?

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Anon, it took 5 adults (2 couples and one teen) about 3 hours. We went at a leisurely pace and visited while we worked.

Depending on breed, anywhere from 8 weeks to 16 weeks to butchering.

Diane@Peaceful Acres Farm said...

You forgot to add that the taste is out of this world!!!

After this batch of Freedom Rangers, I'll be doing 2 small batches of CornishX. Processing them myself will take a week at doing a few a day. I've seen good results with your birds and my friend who's raised CornishX using a good 19% broiler mix. There are plenty of horror stories that seem to exist with those that don't put as much into the animal husbandry end of their work and making sure that their feed is a top priority. Your article I think last year on time, really made me think and I realized that for the window of time I have from April to November, CornishX are the way to go from now on. And as far as flavor....well, I just had the most delicious CornishX that could match the Freedom Rangers! Good Work Nita! Thanks for breaking it down for us.

Rachel said...

We were raising heritage breeds for meat and then I realized that the cost to do so just wasn't sustainable. Their feed to meat ratio is abysmal - ending up costing us about $9/lb to produce. So now we're going to do Cornish Cross from now on.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Interesting to see your experience on this. We tried a few of these a year ago, and I thought they were totally gross. They never feathered out properly, and they wouldn't forage. They just sat and ate and pooped, sometimes not even moving enough to make sure that they didn't sit in their own poop. Many folks have told me that they like the freedom rangers for this, but we sort of decided against eating much chicken meat. The lives cornish cross chickens seem so inhumane to me, with all of their health problems of growing so fast and many dying quickly. Sounds like you've really got yours figured out, but to those of us who've raised egg chickens, we don't realize that they are nearly a different animal!

And I did butcher a couple of our dual-purpose Delaware chickens, but even though they are dual-purpose, they hardly had any meat on them. Lots of broth, but not much else.

We raised a pig this year, and after six months we had 170 pounds of meat to put in the freezer, not including the organs. Final cost for us was around $3/pound, including mobile slaughter and cut and wrap fee.

We don't eat much meat, and that will last us a very long time. We would have to butcher a lot of chickens to get that much meat! For us, I think we've decided that slaughtering one animal versus so many birds is a little more humane.

To the person concerned about the sounds of raising meat chickens, they don't make that much noise, but you could also consider raising a meat breed of rabbit. We've got some American Chinchilla rabbits that we haven't had the heart to butcher, but they grow big very fast. We've got a couple for sale, if you live near Portland, OR.

Chris said...

Great to see the numbers out. For your use of meat chickens however, you also didn't have to pay extra to fertilise your pasture - and I know how you need healthy pasture for raising beef and milkers too.

Very dual purpose, economical and responsible to the rest of the supply chain.

If people are going to raise their own meat, they have to start somewhere. That beginning process IS gross (it was for us) but that's your starting point.

I'd hate to think of the chickens I wouldn't have raised or killed, for the few I started off with in my inexperience, which suffered.

We got better with practice and always sort advice when we felt out of our depth.

While we've only raised layers to date, and eaten excess roosters, we'd like to move into meat chickens on a more permanent basis.

We're going to try commercial meat chickens, and maybe large Orpingtons to see how they compare, as I've heard Orpingtons are quite large and can be killed early for a decent carcus.

Limette said...

Our CX are out on pasture. I didn't think they'd move around but they do.

Joanne Rigutto said...

I grew cornish cross last year on layer pellets. I was letting them run with my layers. Didn't notice any problems with the extra calcium in the layer pellets and I raised one batch to 4 months and a second batch to 6 months. At 6 months the cockerels were having a hard time moving around. But I think that had more to do with the fact that the birds were so big, not a calcium problem.

I grew them for so long as I was looking for an alternative to raising capons.

One thing about mine last year is that the layer pellets were almost a supplement to the foraging. I don't think I went through much extra feed, although I only raised 10 broilers last year.

Mine were very active, probably because they were raised with layers, and probalby because I had the water pan and feeders seperated by 70 or 80 feet.

bugsboysandbooboos said...

This is my first year raising CX. I'm interested to see your feed recipe...I tried looking on the Fertrell website, but couldn't find the source. We're processing ours tomorrow...ourselves...yikes! I love that your birds are beautiful. We weren't that responsible with our flock of CX. I'd like to learn more to ensure a better experience next time around. Any advice would be appreciated. :)

Kate said...

Good to see this, even if I'm late getting to it. I'm raising my first batch of broilers, just six of them, since we have such a small property. They're Cornish crosses, and it's amazing to see how fast they put on weight. From your accounting, it looks like I'll need about half of another 80# bag of feed to finish them. Our local feed mill just sells "broiler feed" and my farming friend tells me that's what she feeds hers on from arrival to slaughter. So that's what I'm doing.

I'm shocked at how much processing would cost per bird. We do it ourselves on principle. It would certainly change the bottom line if one paid for processing for each bird.