How to Raise Chickens for Meat
Yup! You read that right! Half of Oh Lardy is venturing into the world of raising chickens for meat! Well, we have always enjoyed having chicken at our dinner table, but we have never been the ones to harvest them. Until now. Well, not until December. It's cooler then.
When I began my journey into real food, it became very important for me to know where my food came from. I started small, with farmers markets, and growing my own tomatoes. But then I wanted eggs from my very own backyard – so we started raising chickens for eggs. It has been my mission, during this journey, to really connect my family to our food. I want my children to know that the beef they are eating came from a real animal – one from a happy farm. When I was small, I understood that my food came from the store. Beyond that, I didn't care – or desire to care.
Not long after we started raising chickens for eggs, my husband expressed his desire to start raising chickens for meat. Early on in our journey, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of raising animals that I would eventually have to kill so that they could feed us. I didn't want to do it! But this is how it is. Animals are raised or hunted or fished to sustain us. And, generally, as a modern culture, we are completely disconnected from it. We make a sad face, or shed a tear, when we learn of a friend raising chickens for meat in their own backyard, but happily serve chicken to our own families for dinner the same night.
It is my desire for my children to have a deep respect for the food that they eat and appreciate the sacrifice these animals make so we can be nourished by them. I want them to know that it is okay to harvest an animal with their own hands with the purpose of feeding themselves and their families. That is how it has always been done in history, until somewhat recently.
Another reason we are interested in raising chickens for meat is because we will have complete control over how they are raised. We will be able to choose the food they eat and the pasture (backyard) they graze on. We will also get to control how they die, ensuring that it is as stress free and painless as possible.
So what is our plan?
Our 15 Cornish Cross birds arrive at the end of September. We decided a chicken tractor is going to be best for raising these birds. My husband constructed his version (pictured above) with 2x4s, plywood, and hardware cloth. It is 4×8 and shaded/covered on one side. The nice thing about getting these chicks in September is that the nights are warm, eliminating the need for a brooding lamp. We plan on keeping the meat chickens separated from the egg-laying hens. Keeping them in the chicken tractor will ensure that these chickens don't make an epic mess in my backyard. It will also keep them safe when they are tiny.
When it comes time to harvest these birds, my sweet friend Danelle from Weed 'em and Reap agreed to let us bring our birds over to their house and they will help us with the harvest. We want to be sure we are doing this correctly. As my husband said, “This is not something I want to YouTube.”
I plan on sharing the cost breakdown after harvest based on price per pound. I know I am curious as to how much a bird grown in my backyard compares to the ones I buy from the farmers market!
Are you interested in raising chickens for meat? Have you already done it? Any words of wisdom? Now that the chicken tractor has been built and the birds have been ordered, I feel like I am on a roller coaster that I can't get off. Heres to learning new skills!!!