Oh. My. Word. I wish you were here for dinner last week…
Why? I’m glad you asked. We had the most delicious chicken that we have ever eaten. Where did it come from? Well- I’m glad you asked that too.
It came from our backyard. Yep. From our hard work. Family work. Homesteading efforts. And boy, were we rewarded. Let me just say that this was the third time that we have tried meat chickens and the first two “batches” were barely edible. Yep. We failed- two times before succeeding. But, that’s all for another post.
When we first wanted to get into raising meat chickens for our family we were super confused when looking up the various options for buying meat chickens. However, you are in luck! Since we are total chicken experts now (hey- successful batch baby!), I will share all of our buying meat chickens secrets! Booya.
Your Guide to Buying Meat Chickens
You first need to buy them from a hatchery. We have bought from three different hatcheries in the past. The delicious chickens we just butchered came from Hoover’s Hatchery. This is by far the best hatchery that we have worked with/bought from. You can ‘bet your bottom dollar’ that when we start raising meat chickens for-profit on our new homestead (read about it here) that this is where we will buy them from. Hoover’s Hatchery is also family owned and operated and has been for over 70 years! You can read their story HERE. Anything that is family owned and operated makes my skirt fly up, baby! Oh- they seriously have the best customer service too- like ever. And I’m a sucker for good communication between the supplier and consumer.
Types of Meat Chickens
Now, I know that there are different kinds of meat chickens you can buy, but today we are just going to chat about the four most popular types meat chickens!
1. Cornish Cross
This is the most popular breed of meat chicken. These meat chickens are bred for their fast-growing abilities. Because of this, it is usually best to provide unlimited feed to them for the first 1-2 weeks, and after that only provide feed during the day. They are not known to forage a lot (although some do). When we tried these chickens, they liked to just sit around all day and get fat- they weren’t really inclined to forage. The Cornish Cross also grow faster than their feathers, so they are fabulously known to have “bald” spots until the feathers can catch up (and some never do).
Although we did not succeed with these we are willing to try them again.
Ready In: 6-8 weeks
Live Weight at Time of Butchering: 5-6ish pounds
Freedom Rangers and Red Rangers are becoming increasingly popular among homesteaders and farmers. They are mine and Mountain Man’s favorite. We bought the Red Rangers and they are the best tasting chicken we have ever had. They have nice breast and leg meat, yellow skin, and turn out absolutely delicious (and big too!). They don’t grow as fast as the Cornish Cross. These chickens love to forage- like normal chickens. We fed ours every morning and afternoon. The rest of the time they were frolicking on the homestead and foraging with the laying hens.
We will raise these multiple times a year.
Ready In: 10-12 weeks
Live Weight at Time of Butchering: 6ish pounds
3. Cornish Game Hens
You know those tiny little Cornish Game Hens that you see in the grocery store? Oh lordy- these are some of my favorite chickens to eat. Seriously. They are so tender. I never thought to raise them myself. Um- hello Jen!!! So, as you guessed it, Mountain Man and I will be raising some of these on our new homestead this year. Booya- just like that.
Ready In: 3 weeks
Live Weight at Time of Butchering: 2-2.5 pounds
4. Dual Purpose
There are many, many, many, many (get my drift?) different breeds of chickens that fall under the dual purpose category. This means that they can be used for meat and eggs. Most meat chickens (above) are not very good egg layers so they are primarily used for meat. We butchered some dual-purpose breeds and we were not fans. However, it was totally our fault the way we processed them- remember- it took us three batches and the best chicks to get them perfectly delicious!
Some of these breeds are:
Ready In: 16-24 weeks +
Live Weight at Time of Butchering: 4-6ish pounds (depending on breed)
More Info on Meat Chickens:
How Chicks are Shipped
The hatchery ships chicks at a day old. They usually arrive two days later to your local post office really early in the morning. The post office will call you (mine calls around 530-6am) for you to come pick them up ASAP.
Preparing for Chickens/Raising Baby Chicks
Preparing to Bring Home Baby Chicks by Sunny Simple Life
Raising Baby Chicks – A Beginner’s Guide by Weed ’em & Reap
Raising/Butchering Meat Chickens
How to Raise Meat Chickens : Part One by Weed ’em & Reap
Raising Cornish Cross Chickens (Week by Week) by Queen of the Red Doublewide
Butchering Chickens- Our Style by The Flip Flop Barnyard
How to Butcher a Chicken by The Elliott Homestead (warning: very graphic!)
Order Meat Chickens:
Have Fun with Your Meat Chickens and ”GET YOU SOME!’- They are Delish!
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