Kelly Liston

How to Raise Meat Chickens

The meat chickens are here!!  A week ago, I got a call from my friend announcing that the chicks have arrived!!  Woohoo!  Wait, is the coop ready?  Do we have everything?  Do we know everything we need to know about how to raise meat chickens?  My husband put some last minute touches on the coop while I put together our portable brooder and I was off to Gilbert, AZ to grab 15 of the cutest baby chicks.  And, boy are they cute!!!  So much peeping, so much cuteness.  As you may remember from Part 1, this is our first adventure in raising meat chickens.  And while I know how this story ends, I am very curious about the journey!  

The Chicks

As I said before, they are CUTE!  When my middle son saw them he said, “I wish we didn't have to harvest these chicks.  They are so cute!”  I reminded him that they won't look like this when it comes time to butcher them.  And besides, all chicken that we eat looks like this at one point!  And then there is my daughter, who upon being asked by her friend why we have so many, responded with, “Oh, we are going to eat these.”  I admired her blunt honesty, but also reminded her that not everyone kills the chicken that they eat and that it might be a little shocking to little friends.  

So, back to the meat chickens.  I mentioned in my previous post that due to the warm evenings that we have this time of year, a heat lamp might not be necessary.  I have used it every night on them.  It is starting to get down into the 70s and they need it to be in the upper 80s!  It is really easy to tell if the chicks are cold.  They basically pile on top of each other and huddle together to stay warm.  It looks like a chicken dog pile.  I am really ready to get them out of the brooder that they are in and into the awesome coop!  But I can't rig up a lamp in that coop, so they will stay put until they grow some feathers and can handle the cooler temps.

Can I just say that I am amazed at how much food they go through?  It is insane!  I fill their 4 cup feeder probably 4 times a day.  It is all they do.  Now that I have had them a little over a week, I am becoming aware at just how different these meat chickens are from my egg layers.  Yes, my little egg layer chicks eat a lot.  But it is nothing like this.  Another thing I have noticed is that these chicks don't really scratch.  They just stand around, flap their wings, stretch their legs A LOT, lay down, and eat.  But the best part is they actually lay down while they are eating.  It is the weirdest thing.  It is as if they are too lazy to stand up.  Turning food into meat is tough work.  I feel like every time I go out there, they look at me and wonder why I don't have a fan to fan them with and some grapes to dangle for them.  Seriously.  

And the POOP!  Oh Lardy!  This is the main reason I am ready to get these birds into the coop.  They can poop all over the yard (within the coop) and then the next day we will move them to a new spot!  15 birds in that brooder means that I am changing the pine shavings a lot more frequently than I would like to.  Why do they like to lay down in it?  

A fun little twist

Initially I had a tiny freak out moment when I learned that my friend will not be able to help us with harvesting our meat chickens.  I mean, the only reason I agreed to do this was because I knew I would have her help and tutelage.  But, I have chilled out a bit.  I mean, one of the best ways to learn is to just do it.  It will all be fine – we will have You Tube.  Remember when I mentioned how my husband said that this was something he didn't want to have to You Tube?  Ha!  The Universe is funny that way.  I have time, PLENTY of time to research this topic – about 7 more weeks.  And then it is game time.  

But for now, we will play with the chicks because they are still cute.  Besides, our goal is to raise happy and healthy birds that we can feed our family.  The chicks love hopping on the kids and exploring them.  Not sure they like to be pet, but they are just so SOFT!!!!  

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How to Raise Meat Chickens

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