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Raising Chickens for Meat

The days are gone when most people had a backyard flock of chickens to provide their meat and eggs.  As more families are becoming interested in keeping chickens, they often wonder if they can raise meat birds with the laying hens. The answer is yes, and it can be done economically and safely in the same structure. Once you have decided on the breeds of chickens you want to raise, the rest is relatively simple.

Chicken house

Choose a dual purpose breed to simplify the process. Dual purpose breeds such as Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks both are ideal for both meat and eggs.

Insure that your chicken house or structure is secure. A fenced yard will contain the chickens and keep the predators out. Consider fencing over the top of the yard to deter owls and other predator birds.

Provide dry bedding in the chicken house. Since you are raising meat birds, roosts are not necessary and nests do not need to be provided until the meat birds are in the freezer.

Start the chickens in a small enclosed area, with food and water, where you can maintain a temperature of at least 95 degrees F for the first week. A brooder or brooder light will accomplish this easily. Lower the temperature 5 degrees every week until the birds are fully feathered.

Begin culling the flock at approximately 6 weeks of age. These birds will serve well as a 'Cornish hen" type of poultry.

Continue to feed and water the remainder of the flock until the birds reach approximately 10 to 12 weeks of age. At this point, it will be easy to differentiate between the hens and the roosters. Cull the roosters for meat. If you want to raise your own chicks from your stock, keep back 1 rooster for every twelve hens in the flock for fertilization of the eggs.

Place nest boxes in the chicken house for the hens. They should begin laying between 12 and 16 weeks depending on the breed. 

Words to the Wise:

Collect eggs daily to preserve freshness and prevent embryo growth if you've kept a rooster for the purpose.

If you have kept a rooster, allow one or two hens to go "broody" and hatch the eggs to perpetuate your flock. A hen can sit eighteen to twenty eggs in a nest.

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Kat and Kevin Yares

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