Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Meat Chickens

We are pleasantly surprised with our broilers who are now about six weeks old.  All the talk of how freakish the Cornish X are does not really seem to hold true.  Yes, they are ravenous at times and will eat, eat, eat continuously.  And yes, they will plop themselves down in front of the food to just sit, or really lie and eat.  But they are far from the frankenbirds we heard and read about.
They have definitely grown at an alarming rate and are now approximately three times the size of the layer chicks of the same age. And they do start out looking a bit different but once fully feathered they have grown to be pretty normal looking.  Otherwise,  the Cornish X seem to behave just like all the rest of our chickens, exploring and foraging around for food and enjoying dust baths in the sun.  Since we transferred them to the run (which is left open all day to give the flock access to the hillside) the meat chickens are free ranging with the rest of the birds.  There has not been much bullying by the layers either.

We have picked up a couple of tips to give them a better start and to help keep them healthy as they grow.  While they were still in the brooder we started adding apple cider vinegar to their water.  Their energy immediately increased and their stool went from watery yellow to normal looking chicken droppings.  Second, we tried to give them a variety of foods.  In addition to their chick starter we offered them mashed boiled eggs, greens, seaweed, kitchen scraps, and bits of grass.  At first they were only interested in the starter but after a few days they began eating all the different foods including pumpkin, which appears to be a favorite.  Fermenting the feed by soaking overnight and letting sit for a day or so is another tip we are eager to try out soon.

Sunshine Chicken is a website we stumbled across about free ranging, holistically raised meat chickens in the Philippines.  It is loaded with amazing information, videos, and great ideas for fermented supplements and super foods (for livestock) that are easy to make.

It has been interesting so far to learn about the Cornish X birds.  We have been discussing that it would be fun to try out some Freedom Rangers in the spring when the grass is high and there is more wild food to eat. We are also hoping to keep a couple of roosters and some hens to try breeding our own meat stock, therefore avoiding having to order from the hatcheries.  There is no doubt that raising our own meat birds is NOT cheaper than buying from the stores but there is satisfaction in knowing that they grew here from start to finish and that we had our hands in the process them.  (Not to mention that we are on a mission around here to find more sustainable -aka free- ways to feed these animals of ours.)

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