Thinking of raising meat chickens on your small farm?
If so, you’ve made a fantastic choice!
Conventional poultry that is raised in a factory-farm setting is often loaded with chemicals and raised in an inhumane way.
Raising your own meat chickens allows you to gain complete control of every action of the process. It’s also amazingly pleasurable!
From performing your daily tasks to taking a seat and relishing that first bite of meat, there’s so much to appreciate about the lost art of raising meat chickens.
However, if you’re just starting, you may find yourself frightened by the sheer volume of decisions you should make.
What sort of cage do I require?
How do I fatten my meat chickens?
Which breeds of chickens are best to raise for meat?
Here are fifteen of the very best meat chickens you can raise– together with insider ideas on how to raise meat birds in the most productive, beneficial ways.
The 15 Best Meat Chickens
When you are preparing to choose the best breed of meat chickens for your farm, you will likely have a number of questions.
The most crucial details to focus on when you are researching your breeds are the approximate weight and the processing time of your selected chicken breed.
You should likewise focus on other aspects that might be necessary to you, such as whether the type can lay eggs or if it endures certain weather conditions better than others.
Some chicken farmers will likewise promote raising heritage breeds.
Heritage breeds are established by the American Poultry Association. These birds are typically slow-growing but have a long, productive outdoor life expectancy.
They are also naturally mating (no hybrids allowed). While heritage breeds provide many advantages, they can also be more expensive to raise, so you’ll need to consider whether this is a factor that matters to you.
Ready to begin?
Here is our list of the fifteen best meat chickens you can raise.
1. Cornish Cross
Approximate Weight: 12 lbs
Processing Time: 4-6 weeks
Cornish Cross chickens are some of the most popular meat birds you can raise, largely due to the fact that they are bred for commercial meat production.
These birds grow rapidly, reaching about twelve pounds in simply 6 weeks. They have great-tasting meat with large thighs, legs, and breasts. They also produce a good fat cap that serves as a great roast.
Cornish Cross birds are known in particular for having a ton of breast meat. They don’t have a great deal of muscle, either. This is the type of chicken you are probably consuming when you purchase your meat at the supermarket.
Sadly, Cornish Cross birds eat a lot in order to keep up with their quick growth– approximately fifty pounds every couple of days in an average-sized flock.
They also need to be butchered right at the age of maturity or they will grow so large that they can experience health problems like damaged legs or heart breakdowns.
Cornish Cross chickens will not go broody and you can’t truly breed them using an incubator, either, meaning you will need to acquire chicks every year.
2. Jersey Giant Meat Chickens
Approximate Weight: 13 pounds
Processing Time: 16-21 weeks
The Jersey Giant is another popular industrial breed, bred originally in the United States as a prospective replacement for the turkey.
These birds are purebred, meaning you can effectively reproduce them on your farm, and while they grow at a fairly sluggish pace, they produce quite a lot of meat.
These chickens aren’t raised as often in the commercial world as are Cornish Crosses, mostly since they have a really sluggish feed conversion rate– although they will end up growing larger, it will take them a lot more time to do so.
That stated, Jersey Giant’s aren’t prone to almost as many health issues as are Cornish Cross chickens, and they also lay eggs. This provides you with something to anticipate in addition to meat.
3. Freedom Rangers
Approximate Weight: 6 lbs
Processing Time: 9-11 weeks
If the name is insufficient to persuade you that the Freedom Ranger is among the coolest meat birds to raise, these stats will– this bird is ready for butchering in as low as 9 weeks.
Likewise referred to as the Red Ranger, this bird has yellow fat and skin and lays brown eggs if you wish to keep some birds around in the future.
Liberty Rangers are a favorite for natural farmers, bred specifically for the pesticide-free meat market and developed to be raised on pasture.
They can be fed low-protein feeds and are far better at fending for themselves than are Cornish Crosses. They can easily endure off bugs and yard and produce great-tasting meat.
Sadly, while they produce terrific tasting meat, they don’t produce quite as much of it. They are much easier to raise but have a smaller development pattern, with the roosters only reaching about 6 lbs typically.
4. Bresse Meat Chickens
Approximate Weight: 7 pounds
Processing Time: 16-20 weeks
Bresse chickens are appealing white birds that are also understood for meat production. With bright blue feet, these birds run on the more costly side. Nevertheless, due to the fact that you can effectively hatch the eggs of this chicken species, you can rapidly recover those costs throughout the years.
Some chicken keepers and cooking experts will argue that the Bresse meat bird is the most delicious tasting chicken in the world, providing exceptional texture and flavor. These birds are also easy to raise, providing a docile personality and a serene total attitude. You can discover this chicken in tones of white, gray, and black.
Approximate Weight: 10 pounds
Processing Time: 18-24 weeks
Another popular chicken breed is the Orpington. A heavy type, males of this type can grow as big as ten pounds. Orpingtons are dual-purpose birds, implying they can be raised for meat as well as for eggs. While they grow at a slightly slower rate, they are excellent layers, producing up to 200 eggs per year.
Orpingtons are docile meat chickens and can be found in a number of colors. You can see Orpingtons in black, white, blue, or buff shades. A heritage chicken breed, many individuals delight in raising Orpingtons out of tradition alone. These birds likewise do rather well when allowed to forage, and they do not need to be fed extremely high-protein feeds.
6. Buckeye Meat Chickens
Approximate Weight: 9 pounds
Processing Time: 16-21 weeks
Buckeye chickens are designed for winter and can hold up against just about any kind of swing in temperature level. They are resistant to illness and are perfect for people who live in northern climates.
They have a constant breeding pattern and while they can be somewhat aggressive towards other animals, they are a fantastic double purpose breed.
Buckeyes lay around 200 eggs each year, and are ready for butchering at about 16 weeks of age. Sporting an elegant mahogany body of feathers, this breed is one you’ve got to consider if you’re in the marketplace for a productive dual-purpose chicken that produces lots of delicious meat.
7. Brown Leghorn
Approximate Weight: 6 lbs
Processing Time: 16-21 weeks
The Brown Leghorn is merely a version of the White Leghorn, among the premier egg-laying chickens you might have become aware of. This type can lay up to 280 eggs per year, but it also makes a decent meat bird.
Bred specifically for prospering in hot climates, the Brown Leghorn likes to forage and seldom shows aggressive habits. While it won’t grow to enormous sizes, its capability to produce both meat and eggs– and to make it through extreme conditions– makes it a fantastic choice for a backyard meat bird flock.
8. Egyptian Fayoumi
Approximate Weight: 5 lbs
Processing Time: 14-18 weeks
If you are seeking a more unique type of meat chicken, think about raising the Egyptian Fayoumi. This dual-purpose chicken lays about 150 eggs each year and is also a quickly growing meat bird.
While it is on the smaller-sized side of things, with roosters reaching just about five pounds, these birds mature quickly when it comes to laying. You’ll most likely have eggs by the time your chickens are ready for a butcher!
Both the eggs and meat of this silver-colored bird are delicious, but they can be a bit flighty. Active foragers, Egyptian Fayoumis are hardly ever aggressive and are also resistant to a lot of diseases.
We will not sugarcoat things here– the Turken is certainly not the most appealing chicken you can raise. A typical mistaken belief is that Turkens are half chicken and half turkey. While this is not the case, it is true that Turkens appear like the result of a failed experiment in breeding the two types.
These birds are also referred to as Naked Necks, so as you might think, these birds have no plumes around their necks. They are terrific yard chickens and can be seen in several colors, including blue, white, black, gray, and buff.
This breed succeeds in both cold and hot climates. You can keep them no matter where you lie, as they are extremely versatile to any modifications. Considering that they are so stress-resistant, they gain weight quickly.
As active layers, you can expect about a hundred eggs per year from these birds. If you want to hatch your own eggs, it’s also essential to keep in mind that these birds are excellent moms.
Approximate Weight: 9 pounds.
Processing Time: 11-16 weeks.
The Chantecler type is another meat chicken that does well in cold climates. A fantastic dual-purpose bird, this chicken lays eggs earliest and also grows to butchering age rather rapidly. These birds appropriate totally free-ranging, choosing to forage in addition to consuming a high-protein feed supplement.
Chanteclers can lay up to 200 eggs each year. Due to the fact that they are a pure type, they are cheaper to raise in the long run. You can quickly reproduce multiple generations of this type without seeing a loss in production or heritage.
Approximate Weight: 8.5 pounds.
Processing Time: 12 weeks.
Delaware chickens are bulky double function chicken types, raised specifically for producing a decent amount of meat while also laying up to 280 eggs each year.
This cross-breed was developed from the Barred Plymouth Rock and the New Hampshire Red, largely to preserve the egg-laying ability and improve the meat quality of the two specific breeds. This type grows relatively quickly, reaching almost nine pounds in just 12 weeks.
12. Croad Langshan
Approximate Weight: 9 lbs.
Processing Time: 14-18 weeks.
This unique, somewhat unusual-looking bird has soft black plumes and a bizarre green lining. This chicken came from China and has feathered legs. While it can lay up to 150 eggs per year, it is just as commonly reared for its meat production capabilities.
This chicken can be discovered in a number of colors, including blue and black. Males mature to nine lbs while females are a little smaller sized. These birds grow quickly and are one of the most intelligent and quiet chicken breeds you can raise.
Approximate Weight: 9 pounds.
Processing Time: 16 weeks.
Dorking chickens are named after the English town of Dorking and mare best known for their tender, fine-textured white meat. These birds are likewise often raised for eggs, producing approximately 140 large white eggs each year.
They are calm and adapt quickly to a lot of settings, choosing to forage to find their food.
These chickens are not aggressive, but they need to not be kept with aggressive chickens as they aren’t terrific at protecting themselves. Due to the fact that they can be prone to frostbite, they aren’t the best chicken breed to raise in northern climates.
Hens can be sluggish to develop and typically don’t begin laying up until 26 weeks of age.
14. Kosher King
Approximate Weight: 5 lbs.
Processing Time: 12 weeks.
Kosher Kings are decent meat chickens with a beautiful look. These birds have black and white striped plumage and are similar in look to the popular Barred Rock.
Roosters of this breed tend to grow far more rapidly than the hens, but the women are good layers if you keep them to maturity.
Originating from heritage breeds, these birds can be a bit harder to find at hatcheries however they grow faster than most heritage types.
15. New Hampshire Red
Approximate Weight: 8.5 pounds.
Processing Time: 8-10 weeks.
A traditional American dual-purpose type, the New Hampshire Red is yet another chicken that produces respected amounts of eggs in addition to tasty meat. This bird matures relatively rapidly and is frequently utilized as a broiler breed.
There are both basic and bantam varieties of New Hampshire Red chickens, with both producing remarkable products for backyard chicken farmers.
These chickens endure challenging weather conditions and are known to be both broody and quiet. While roosters can be a bit aggressive, the flexibility and performance of this chicken breed can’t be neglected.
Raising Meat Chickens from Day-Old Chicks.
There aren’t a lot of differences associated with raising meat birds as day-old chicks versus raising egg layers at this phase.
You will likely buy your chicks from a hatchery or feed shop.
Acquiring chicks is much easier when you are raising meat birds, as you don’t need to worry about whether you’ve gotten young hens or roosters.
Since you will butcher most types of meat birds before they reach sexual maturity, the sex of your chickens is not an aspect.
Therefore, you can frequently acquire meat chicks at a much lower price than you can buy egg layers– they do not require to be sexed before they are delivered to you.
Housing Your Meat Chickens
The cage for your meat chickens will be essentially identical to the one you may currently have for your laying hens if you already raise chickens.
Nevertheless, what you need to bear in mind is that you will most likely be raising a greater volume of meat chickens than egg layers, so your cage size will require to increase significantly.
Sometimes, you might find that you need to raise 50, 100, or even 200 chickens in a season to satisfy the requirements of your household.
One of the benefits of raising meat chickens, nevertheless, is that you don’t need to keep these birds for a whole year– in fact, in many cases, this is dissuaded.
Therefore, you don’t need an insulated cage with security from winter. You simply require a short-lived shelter.
Many people construct hoop houses, tarp shelters, or chicken tractors.
You don’t require roosts, and you also don’t require nesting boxes, making a meat bird coop a much simpler structure to design, keep, and move.
How to Fatten Your Meat Chickens
Many individuals believe– mistakenly– that raising meat chickens on pasture will trigger the meat to be stringy, difficult, and inedible.
This is far from reality.
While you can quickly keep meat chickens in confinement or even in a coop with a small run attached, meat birds raised on pasture will be better and healthier.
Research studies have actually shown that birds raised on pasture produce meat that hurts and also greater in omega-3s and other nutrients.
To make certain the meat of your chickens has a proper fat to meat ratio, you ought to provide them with consistent feed and space to roam.
Many chicken farmers promote the 12/12 feeding schedule, in which you provide your birds with an open door to food for 12 hours a day, and after that pull it out throughout the other 12 hours.
While this produces an optimum ratio of meat to fat, it can be hard to preserve and keep an eye on.
Offering your chickens space to forage will permit them to consume enough to end up being plump however not so much that the tender meat turns to lumps of fat.
Provide your chickens with a lot of water, too. Ideally, this must be on the opposite of the pen or coop from the food so that they are forced to work out.
When Are Meat Chickens Ready to Eat?
Ensure you remember the complete weight capacity and ideal date of processing for your particular breed of meat chicken, as this will vary.
While some meat birds are ready to butcher in simply six weeks, others take a bit longer to grow.
Other breeds may grow incrementally past a certain date, but the feed conversion rate will be so bad that it makes more sense to butcher them at a somewhat smaller sized size.
You can process chickens in a number of ways. You can do this on-farm or you can bring the birds to a slaughterhouse.
Most people choose to butcher their own chickens, as the costs connected with slaughtering chickens offsite tend to be rather high.
Remember, however, that if you plan to offer your meat chickens, you will require to have them butchered at a USDA-inspected facility.
Should I Raise Meat Chickens?
Prior to you taking the leap and acquiring your meat chickens, you should initially choose whether this is the very best choice for you and your existing setup.
Raising chickens for meat instead of for eggs is a considerably diverse endeavor, and while the fundamental care standards won’t change, there are some intricacies you need to be familiar with.
In addition, raising meat chickens needs a fair bit more area (and often more work) than raising chickens for egg production.
You will require to ask yourself whether you can manage the needs of the extra space needed, feed required, and (sadly) poop produced.
You will likewise need to question whether you (and your household) can manage the truth of whether you will have the ability to emotionally deal with butchering them after a number of months.
If, after reading this article, raising meat chickens appears like the best choice for your family, congratulations.
You’ve made an exceptional choice!
Raising your own meat chickens is an excellent way to protect the environment, safeguard your health, and do your part in creating a more sustainable society.
Consider our pointers for raising the most productive meat chickens as you begin on this interesting brand-new adventure.
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- Damerow, G. 1995. A Guide to Raising Chickens. Storey Books. ISBN 0-88266-897-8
- “Compassion in World Farming – Meat chickens – Welfare issues”. CIWF.org.uk. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2011.