What’s a place in the country without some chickens? I planned to get some egg layers and built an A-frame mobile chicken coop last winter to house them, then had second thoughts. I want to do some traveling this fall and with a flock of hens to take care of that will be impossible. Besides there’s a farm just down the road that sells nice big eggs for $1.50 a dozen. Then I hit on what seems the perfect solution – meat birds. Raise them for 10 weeks, butcher and put in the freezer.
A week ago I picked up eight Cornish Cross chicks at Tractor Supply, brought them home and put them in a brooder I made from a box. They were in pretty bad shape when I put them in the brooder, just laid there and trembled, probably stressed from the trip. I had some doubts that all of them would make it through the night, but the next morning they were all active and chirping.
The clerk at the store said they were about 10 days old when I bought them, so they should be about 2 ½ weeks old now. I really don’t know, since I haven’t been around chickens enough to judge their age, but I suspect they are a bit older. It’s amazing how fast they have grown in one week. It won’t be long before they go outdoors into the movable pen (chicken tractor).
The Cornish X chickens are bred for efficient fast conversion of feed to meat in a confined setting. The downside to this is they don’t forage as well as older breeds or have much chicken sense. They also develop leg and heart problems because they grow so fast. One way to slow the growth rate is to give the chicks a feed with a little less protein content. This may add a week or two for them to reach finished size, but will allow their systems to develop in sync with their meat. The chickens will also be able to forage. I’m building them a chicken tractor, essentially a 4’x7’ cage with a metal roof and no floor that can be moved every day. In a future post I’ll describe how the pen was built.