Bird in hand

We picked up our day-old chicks today from a True Value® Hardware store about an hour’s drive from here. We used to purchase our birds (mail order) from a large, nationally known, supplier but found these to be prone to respiratory and leg problems. A few years ago we switched suppliers; the new birds grow more slowly and are healthier at 7-8 weeks. Next week we’ll travel back to our supplier for both ducks and turkeys.

We have been raising our own meat birds and egg layers for more than 15 years now and have noticed, in the popular press, that doing so has become trendy. [Imagine that – we’re (finally) doing something trendy!] Raising birds is really pretty easy. All you need, initially, is a place free from drafts and predators. Peeps need to be shown to their first drink of water, and sprinkling a bit of their feed on the ground helps to get them started. You’ll need to add a heat lamp to keep the temperature in the immediate vicinity of the birds at 95ºF (the lamp is raised every week to reduce the temperature 5º until ambient is achieved). Young meat birds transition to pasture at about 4 week while egg layers do the same and have a few lessons about roosting in appropriate places overnight added to their regime.


3 thoughts on “Bird in hand

  1. How old do the meat birds have to be before they are ready to harvest? And about how old are the layers when they start laying?

    • Good questions. As far as meat birds go … time-to-butcher depends on the strain you’ve purchased, how you feed them, and how well they do for you in your particular situation. It also depends on what you’d like to put up. In our situation a big roaster will grow in 8-9 weeks. Something the size of what you might purchase at a local chicken barbecue (as a half) will grow in 5 weeks. We typically put birds in the freezer at 7 or 8 weeks at which time they weigh, dressed, approximately 5 pounds. Half of one of these makes a perfect dinner for us. Layers mature more slowly and date-of-first-production will depend on the breed, what you’re feeding, and how happy your birds are. Our brown-egg layers begin to produce in 5 or 6 months. I do hope you and Robb are beginning to think about raising your own birds – once you do, you’ll never, ever, buy another chicken from the store. D

      • Thanks for the information … yes, it is on our list of things we really want to do, and we would be so excited to never buy chicken from the store again! It is amazing how fast they grow – wow!

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