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Consider raising meat chickens

By Stephanie Dayle via The American Preppers Network  (I wrote this originally for the American Preppers Network - and have since moved it here to my personal site with updated information)

I would like to take a stab at convincing anyone who can, to raise meat chickens. Not so much for the sake of prepping, but for the sake of self-reliance, although, you can never go wrong learning to raise your own food as an emergency preparedness skill. If you are a meat eater, like me, raising meat chickens reconnects you to your food supply and increases your level of self-reliance.

All Photos (c) Stephanie Dayle 2014
It makes you fully realize the work, the love, and the effort that goes into your food. I understand a lot of you live in the city and are only allowed to have a limited number of chickens, if any at all, so I respect your decision to keep only laying hens. But, if you do live where it is allowed and you have the space please consider giving it a try. All things are connected and you can fully appreciate it, when you see it, do it, and smell it first-hand.

Raising one batch of your own meat chickens will make you think twice about reaching for that hormone enriched wrapped chicken meat on the shelf. Not because you feel sorry for it, but because for the first time you truly know that your chicken tastes like real chicken, and you may begin to wonder why that chicken on the shelf does not. You may start to compare the life your chickens lived to those of commercially raised ones.

My meat chickens live a pampered happy life; and are not 'easy' to care for. When asked by my friend, "How can you work so hard for something you are just going to kill in the end?" My answer is, "I live in service to my animals as they will die in service to me."

How to Begin:

Start with a small group of meat chickens - don't worry about ordering anything fancy. When your local feed store gets some Cornish cross chicks in go get a handful of those, if you want five chickens to put in your freezer get six or seven of them because a chick or two may die despite your best efforts that's just the way it goes. If they all live, you can sell extras at market price to your friends or family and recover some of your costs.

               All Photos (c) Stephanie Dayle 2014
Cornish cross chicks are one of the most popular breeds to get for meat chickens, are widely available and usually inexpensive. Try to keep costs under $10 per bird (that includes the chicks, shipping, AND feed). The cost of the chick matters; think of this not as a hobby, but providing for yourself on a very limited budget.

There is so much negative information on the internet on this type of chicken that I often see first time meat chicken buyers skip over them. The truth is, they are probably the easiest and cheapest to raise. Most problems with Cornish Cross Chickens (technically they are a hybrid not a real breed, and therefore cannot reproduce) are caused by people waiting too long to butcher them, and/or over feeding them. An easy way to avoid overfeeding them is after they are several weeks old, to give them food during the day and remove it at night. When to butcher them is purely up to you. So if you can avoid those two pitfalls you should do really well with them.

Cornish cross birds grow fast, so it costs less to feed them - most Cornish cross birds are ready for butchering at around 8-10 weeks. This is usually a good couple weeks before other meat breeds are ready, and several months earlier (if not more) than most "dual purpose" breed birds (click here for a side by side cost comparison of Cornish Cross chicken to Dual Purpose breed chickens). After you've raised a batch and decided that you can handle the process - then explore other meat breeds, cornish cross is just the tip of the iceberg.


There is very little that you will need to purchase for your birds besides plenty of food, a heat light and maybe some bedding. You can make feeders and waterers from repurposed materials - to see an article on that click here. You can keep your chicks in old stock tanks, or kiddie pools, and you can make a makeshift chicken pen or chicken tractor fairly cheaply for them when they are full grown. However, in my honest opinion, free ranging these birds is over rated - these chickens are bred to grow fast off of store-bought food, not grass and bugs.

It seems to me free ranging Cornish X birds make the owners far more happy than the chickens. When I turn mine out they don't seem nearly as interested in scratching or hunting for bugs as my layer hens and they usually follow me around in hopes I will give them food, it's not going to hurt them or make them "less healthy" to keep them in a pen. Just make sure their food is of good quality and that they always have lots of clean fresh water. This breed is designed for that.

All Photos (c) Stephanie Dayle 2014

Many different Uses:

When I butcher the birds I do so quickly to minimize stress. I use a block, or a cone and I don't make the others watch. You can catch the blood in a bucket and add it to your garden. You can save all the random parts, if not for you (I so love chicken hearts, livers, and gizzards - even the feet are eatable) then for your dog or cat's food (click here for a homemade dog food recipe). Their manure is scraped from the pen and composted, then later added back into the garden which will produce some of the garden scraps I will feed to the chickens the following year.

When you cook one of your birds, you turn the carcass into chicken broth that will make lovely homemade soups and stock. The only thing left of them will be a pile of bones which you can dry in your oven or BBQ and turn into bone meal - that can also go back in the garden. Hardly anything is wasted with each part of the process supporting something else.

Long Lasting Value:

Raising your own food teaches children AND adults many lessons, some that would be invaluable during a long-term emergency. It teaches you nothing ever works right the first try and it teaches you humility and how to adapt. It teaches you responsibility and the true value of a meal. It also teaches you compassion and to be thankful for even little things, and it teaches you that even the most trusted dog can benefit from a good fence.

Meat chickens are time-consuming and just like anything else, nothing is free, and good things come with hard work. My Hubby and I both work full-time jobs and we are still able to raise a small batch of 25 and get them butchered, so maybe you can too. Start thinking about what you may need to accommodate a small batch of meat chickens in the spring. Acquire and make things slowly so you get best prices on materials, then, when March comes around and that familiar peeping sound is heard in your local feed and farm supply stores, you'll be ready.

All Photos (c) Stephanie Dayle 2014


  1. I was just planning on getting my brooder ready when your posting appeared. I also need replacement layers but from what I hear the two shouldn't be raised together.
    The meat birds are just too different to be around real chickens it seems. I had thought that I would have a fairly small pen for the meat birds under shade as one guy had a bunch die in a hot area as they were too clueless to walk over and drink while his other birds did fine in the same situation. Do you skin your birds rather than doing the plucking routine? We prefer skinless chicken anyway.

  2. Sunny - we pluck the birds we want to roast whole, or fry. SO it ends up being half and half. We usually use a plucker though so it only takes seconds.

    Shade is important they don't handle heat well - which is why we do ours in the spring. If you follow me on FB - I have a picture of the chicken tractor we use for the them in my "chickens" album.

    1. I haven't built a chicken tractor yet though they would probably work here after I cut hay at least. I got my mobile brooder out today and have photos on my blog.

  3. find, buy or build a chicken plucker PLEASE. We processed chickens last year with a whiz bang plucker that I built myself and even if you are only doing small batches it is worth it to have one and you may even be able to find like minded people to share in the cost of building one.

  4. Steph, evidently we were typing at the same time, sorry!

  5. I disagree here. I've raised meat birds and layers together successfully. Just be aware the meat birds will get bigger much faster. But, I've never had a problem having them all together. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken. Meat birds just aren't as active.

    1. Well, again (just copied and pasted my thoughts from FB) if that's all you disagreed with - that's not too bad. Conditions are everything. Never had any "breast blisters" or "broken legs" or any of that stuff at my place using the program I wrote about, and I would like to point out that I didn't say they "wouldn't" scratch and peck at all - I said they weren't as interested in doing it as much as my laying hens. Which is true. So you may disagree - but what I wrote was my exact experience. As you know I also raise a good sized flock of dual purpose laying hens and meat birds every year.

      What has also been my experience is that letting them range much more than getting a new patch of grass every so many days in the tractor (which i feel is more than adequate for group of meat birds) Will slow their there growth and increase my costs. Free range livestock will put on less weight versus those fed a high protein/fat base chicken feed. Harsh has as it sounds the longer they live the more it costs me. Also when they range alot (in comparison) and by default let them live longer they ended up stringy and I was not as happy with the meat.

      Perhaps with a meat breed more suited to ranging like with a red ranger which I think is a knock off Freedom Ranger? Or something like that, the results would be better. Not last year but the year before I ran two groups of CC birds - letting a small group live as my laying hens basically. That was the result.

      I have found the best and cost efficient way for me to do them is in the tractor. They get a new patch of grass every couple of days that they can peck at and eat - and all the food they could possible want. The pen is of ample size and yet not huge. They are protected, they don't cost me much and taste FANTASTIC. It all depends on what you want to get out of the experience.

      I want low cost, healthy birds, and good meat. That's that what I get. When I butcher my meat birds they are healthy, fully featured, big, and they didn't cost a whole alot. I don't think feel free ranging them provides any benefits - to me - perhaps for others in different situations it would.


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