Saturday, 24 July 2010

Meaties - The Final Chapter

After 3 years of having layer hens I made my first foray into meat birds this year. Disregarding all of the negative things I have heard and read about the Cornish Rock X, I ordered 30 of them for May delivery. Now, when I order from McClelland Feed Store, they order from Frey’s Hatchery in Southern Ontario. There are two choices for a meat bird: Frey’s hybrid meat bird, and the Cornish X.

The negatives I mentioned will turn up if you Google 'Cornish X': They grow so fast that they are prone to leg problems, they are subject to “flip over” or sudden heart failure, they die easily during hot, humid weather, they aren’t active enough, they eat too much, they won’t join the Chicken Marketing Board... okay, I made up the last one.

A friend of mine raised the Frey’s hybrid meat birds, and told me he wasn’t impressed. None of the above happened to his chickens, he just didn’t think the resulting birds tasted as good as supermarket chicken, and they cost more. He elected not to repeat the experience this year.

So Cornish X it was. They sent me 32, and I lost two chicks during the first two weeks. Par for the course, and they occurred a week apart, so no sign of illness. And in nine weeks (yes, nine weeks!) I had 30 very large chickens.

We have eaten two, one on the barbecue and one roasted in the oven, and both were superb. The first, a hen, had a fair bit of fat to be trimmed before cooking. The second was a cockerel and the dark meat was especially good. The oysters were the size of their namesake shellfish, the biggest I have ever seen.

Just for fun I took a picture of the chickens next to the box that held 30 of them 9 weeks ago.

Nine weeks ago this box held 30 of these behemoths!
Here’s the cost breakdown:

30 Chicks + 1 sack starter feed, 3 sacks grower feed $99.00
Delivery $16.50
2 sacks grower feed $25.90
Feeders and waterer $60.00
2 sacks grower feed $25.90
2 sacks grower feed $25.90
2 sacks grower feed $25.90
2 sacks grower feed $25.90
Shavings (5 bales) $29.00
Processing $110.74
Total cost $444.74
Cost per bird $14.82

I had chick waterers and feeders, but I bought two feeders and a waterer when they got bigger. These costs are reflected in the list; arguably I could have amortized that cost over several years.

They really will go outside and forage a bit 
Some notes, in no particular order.

• Thanks to a great local feed store that has good connections at the feed mill and is not afraid to experiment, I was able to use GMO free (no corn, no soy), vegetable protein only feed at no extra cost.
• All feed sacks were 25 kg or 55 lbs.
• I didn’t get the run constructed until the birds were 5 weeks old. I think if I had it ready earlier, more of the chickens would have used it. As it was, after a little chicken whispering, about half of them used the run every day to forage and snap at mosquitoes. And sit.
• For the last three weeks, they consumed two sacks of feed per week.
• I only sent 28 birds for processing. Two weeks earlier I took two hens to a friend’s and learned to butcher a chicken, and gave her one for her trouble. The one I brought home weighed 6 pounds, dressed, at seven weeks.
• I did have one hen that developed a bad leg. That was the reason I decided to butcher two at seven weeks.
• My scale was broken when I had the chickens processed, so I don’t have total weight. I doubt very much that any are smaller than the six pounder; the one that had the bad leg was definitely smaller. The cockerels look to be eight pounds or so. When i get the scale fixed I might weigh some.
• I ordered straight-run, day-old chicks, which was cheapest.
• I stressed a lot during a two-week heat spell during which the meaties were panting a lot and in some distress. They came through it just fine though. I gave them fresh, cold water as often as possible.
• Here’s a fun fact: during the last week and a half, the cockerels started learning to crow. It started as more of a goose honk, and ended up something like honkle-donkle-doooo. I could just imagine them thinking, another couple of weeks and I’ll get it. Little did they know.
• Norm Hughes at Rose Valley Farms loaned me eight chicken cages for free so I could haul the chickens to Northern Quality Meats. If you are ever heading east from Sault Ste Marie on the Trans-Canada highway, stop at Rydall Mill Road and buy some of Norm and Judy’s amber maple syrup. Tell him I sent you.

Would I consider Cornish X chickens again for meat? You bet!


Jesi said...

Thank you so much for including the price breakdown! Very helpful.

Goat-ama said...

You're welcome; I thought it might be.

The bottom line is that you are not going to raise chickens on my scale of operation to save money. But the quality of life of the birds and the quality of the product are superior.