The Meatie Experiment Isn’t Going So Well

CourtneysDigiscrappin_YourLife_WA11Last night when we went out to close up the chickens in the shed we had an unpleasant surprise.    We lost a meatie chicken.   We had two females left, and now we are down to one.   We had planned to butcher her on Saturday, but it seems we had missed the deadline of life.

At this point after trying five Freedom Rangers I would have to say it was an experiment that gave me results I won’t need to verify a second time.   I no longer wonder if it would be worth it to do meat birds instead of heavy dual-purpose egg layers.   At 6,000 feet it isn’t worth it.

The roosters matured very quickly and became territorial worse than any other rooster we have ever had.   We butchered them early for safety’s sake.   They were smaller than we had planned or expected based on the internet.   The females initially grew quickly and then plateaued.   They reached what we wanted for finishing weigh much slower.   At 15 weeks one of the females was found dead in the coop one evening.   We have to assume that it is from heart failure.   Heart failure is common in Cornish Rock Cross, so much so that they are not recommended for altitudes at 5,000 and above.   Freedom Rangers are supposed to be less prone to this, but I suspect that 6,000 feet puts even the heartier Freedom Ranger at risk.

Meaties were suppose to be a quick easy way to put some meat in the freezer but it didn’t work out that way.  I have not butchered the last female meatie.   I plan to do that this weekend.  We will weigh her once we have dressed her.   I am sure she will weigh in heavier than our heavy dual-purpose birds when we butcher them.   But based on what has happened so far the little extra in weight doesn’t justify all that went into raising these meaties.      I plan to stick to what has worked for me so far heritage heavy dual-purpose layers.   Those same birds the could make breakfast for Grandma and then be Sunday dinner.

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10 comments on “The Meatie Experiment Isn’t Going So Well

  1. Just curious, as we are at about 80′, and I can understand how elevation plays into growth and health, were you allowing access to feed 24/7, or did you pull their feed for 10-12 hours through the night? From talking to other Cornish cross growers, that seems to be the little secret, that no one seems to talk about. But like I said, we are practically under water here, so elevation issues aren’t really on my radar.

    • Our coop has hanging feeders that they have access to 24/7, but when the sun goes down, and the doors are close, it is one dark place. You will find the hens in the same place the choose to roost at night, in the am when I open it the morning. So I suspect no eating goes on. I fill the feeder each am. They get last nights veggie scraps in the chicken run. Everyday they are allowed to free range from about 10 until 6 or 7. Free range is truly pastures of sage, juniper and lots of bunch grasses. The run out the gate when I open it and I don’t see them for hours. I will see a hen running back to the coop to lay an egg, but as soon as she is done off she goes again. (I treat my meaties in the same fashion, the door is open for them to come and go) You will see a couple of hens taking dust baths during the day when they kick it up. They start making their way back to the yard about 5ish. So they spend a significant amount of their day by choice

      • Maybe it’s the elevation then. I know it’s light enough for the chickens to be eating at 4:30am, and they will stay at the feeder till 9:30 if we don’t pull them. Their growth picked up for us, when we put them out on pasture at 3 weeks, and each tractor of 45 chicks is going through almost 20# of feed a day. They do all the other chicken stuff though, just like you mention. Maybe it’s ‘mob mentality’ and since you only had a few meat birds, mixed with egg birds, they meat birds aren’t as food oriented… Or it could be the hatchery you got them from (I know that can make a difference, one grower in our area had 45% loss in the first two days with one hatchery, tried them twice, and then switched back to the one that we use). It’s all an adventure isn’t it!?!? 🙂

      • It is an adventure! That is why I have tired so many of the egg laying breeds just to see what I would get. Since we do 10-20 chicks in a year, and butcher them in the fall taking 6-8 with us over the winter, the meat bird adventure was one I won’t likely repeat. I will likely go back to getting my spring egg layer chicks. Butchering each fall all but who I think will lay best, and tolerate the winter best. I was thinking that there might be a better formula out there for me, but it seems I have found my groove already.

  2. I am sad to hear of the troubles you had! I knew when I got our chicken that we would only raise heritage birds for meat for the exact reasons. Kinda like GMOs, better to stick with natural and not human modified. But now you know and don’t have to wonder. I have 11 white rocks that I plan on processing in a few weeks! Tried, trusted and true! Good luck with the last girl!

    • I was like you I knew heritage were best, but part of me said you can’t really say that if you don’t know. Now I can say it with authority. I’ve lived on both sides now and know the truth. Good luck with your processing. Saturday we plan to butcher our packing peanut males, and possibly cull a couple of our older hens.

    • p3farm- Just to be clear, Cornish cross are no different than hybrid tomatoes. And really, you could say aren’t any different than Brahma, Sex link, or Barred Rocks. They have been selectively bred (just like our golden retriever) to express specific traits (like eye color in people) over other traits. They are no more genetically modified than any pure bred dog or cat. That said, they are kind of the Maserati of the chicken world when it comes to growth and care, you have to be spot on with the environment, feed, water and timing for them to do well. 90% of the folks around us who have not had luck with them have unwittingly missed a small thing here or there in their husbandry resulting in losses, grossness or other issues. And I’ll add that they are kind of freakish, insane growth rate, insane about food, but they are chickens, and run and snags bugs when out on pasture.. ( you may already be aware of what I’m spouting on about, but I worry that other folks may not realize there is a massive gap between hybridization, and GMO.)

      • I fully realize the they are as a result of select breeding, and have gotten that way because of our choices. I have found it interesting that in spite of all of that when allowed to act more like chickens, the freakish growth isn’t so readily apparent. Once mine got to free range, instead of be around the feed trough all day in the brooder, the growth wasn’t there anymore.

  3. I am so sorry to hear of your troubles. But I am learning from it as we decide what we want to do in the meat bird department, so I appreciate you sharing it. We are at 8,000 feet and therefore were considering the Freedom Rangers, but now we are definitely having second thoughts. Thanks for sharing. Sorry it didn’t work out.

    • I was so sure Freedom Rangers were my answer as well. I had one roo who preferred to sit whenever possible, but he had foot deformities. he was the only “lazy” one. None of them had any of the leg problems that CRX are so prone too. My Freedom Rangers looked 100 times healthier than any Cornish Rock Cross ever did. They did not rub all the feathers off their chest because they laid around, though they clearly put all their energy into meat and their feathers were a sad display compared to the layers. They foraged well, but foraging really cut into their weight gain. Fast Growing meaties appears to be dependent on them having a diet primary of high protein chow. If you allow or encourage them to they seem to grow much more like the dual purpose chickens. Good luck when you venture in the meatie arena.

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