Back in April, we started raising chickens for eggs. They haven’t started laying yet, but I have realized that, overall, chickens are pretty easy to raise. As long as they have clean water, food and access to the outdoors, they’re pretty happy.
So, we decided to take the next step and get more chickens to raise for meat. Hoover’s Hatchery was kind enough to send us 32 of their Red Rangers (a red broiler) to support this experience.
According to the Hoover’s Hatchery website, the Red Ranger is bred in the United States. It has a good growth rate and feed conversion, great livability and a 70% live to dress weight yield. They are supposed to be excellent foragers that are well suited for any environment (important for us since we have snowy winters).
Since we like to allow our chickens to free range, the fact that they are good foragers was a big selling point for me. The more they can forage on their own, the less I have to spend on chicken feed.
If you haven’t heard of Hoover’s Hatchery before, they are a small hatchery based in Iowa. They are a family oriented business, which is also important to me. You can read more about their story here – it’s a good read.
Our chicks were hatched on July 31 and shipped promptly to us via USPS. I got a call from the Post Office at 8 am on August 2 that they had arrived, and we rushed down to pick them up.
I really forgot how adorable new chicks are – so cute.
We lost 3 chicks in the first week and 1 in the second week. That is never easy, but it happens with baby chicks.
They’re now 3 weeks old and the 28 we have left are doing great. They’re starting to get their feathers and they’re in that phase where they look pretty funny – almost like little dinosaurs with feathers.
I have really approached raising this batch of chickens very differently than we did the egg layers:
- The girls are not allowed to name the chickens
- I try to avoid having the girls hold the chickens as much as possible
- I only go out to check on them to make sure they have food and water and try not to get attached myself
- I always try to remember that these chickens are for meat (and the meat will only be as good as their care)
The girls have held the chicks, just not as often as they did with the egg layers.
One factor that has made this much easier is that they’re all the same breed. We have 5 different breeds in our egg laying group. Since they are much more identifiable, it’s easier to get attached. If you’re going to raise chickens for meat, I definitely recommend going with all the same breed – especially if you have children.
Check out the various breeds that Hoover’s Hatchery offers. They have both broilers and egg layers.
I’ll give you an update on how things are going with our meat birds in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’m curious, have you ever raised chickens for meat or would you like to?