Baby Chicks and Broiler Hens

See, I told you we had a lot of things going on that we want to share with you!  The baby chicks that will grow into our broiler hens arrived this week!

A few weeks back, after getting past the hurdle of all of our garden preparations and finally getting a better grasp on what all lays ahead  of us for homesteading for the year, Scott and I decided that there was no good reason for us not to take the plunge and get meat birds.

Aren’t they cute and fluffy?

This is a pretty big deal for us, because besides Scott learning how to plow a field, this is new to us.  We’ve gardened before and we had two fruit trees at the old house, and it turns out that actually raising chickens for eggs is really, really easy.  Maybe I will prove myself wrong, but I don’t think raising meat birds will be any harder.  The difference is that instead of raising them for eggs, they are for meat, and so, we will be butchering the birds ourselves, and that we have never done before.  I’m kind of nervous!  I’m sure I will get involved in the process, but it’s not something I am looking forward to.  I am excited about raising our own meat though!

For a brooder, we got a fairly large shipping crate from Scott’s work that has a removable lid.  We lined it with hay, put in a waterer and feeder, and got a heat lamp from a friend who is moving.  On Wednesday our friend, who happens to work at the local feed mill, delivered 30 adorable little chicks.  The bill was only $44.10, that was $1.47/ chick!  We will still have to feed them and we need to have the heat lamp on for a time, so it’s not like there isn’t more investment cost involved, but even so, I think we will make out close to, or better than, we would have buying our whole chickens from the store.

Som cute, happy campers!  Looking at the chicks in the brooder box.

We decided to go halves on a tumbling plucker, with the friend who delivered the chicks, which takes the task of plucking from approximately 10-15 minutes to just 1, and that does two birds at once.  That means the job of plucking 30 chickens goes from 5-7.5 hours down to about 15-30 minutes.  For us and all we have going on, that time is valuable, and something we are willing to invest in.  Sure, it will take us some time to pay that investment back, but it will help us get closer to being that much more self-sufficient.

We are big fans of Justin Rohdes, the permaculture chicken guy, and want to build a chickshaw for the broiler hens so that they can get out and forage without falling captive to predators or children.  So we will be following some of Justin’s examples, and hopefully we have great sucess!  Now we just need to make time to build the chickshaw…  (If you are wondering what a chickshaw is, it’s like a rickshaw for chickens.)

The kids were so excited, and I fear for the chicks a little because the kids like them so much.  It’s one of those things where the kids might not understand their own strength, especially when they are excited or if they get startled. Like the time our second stomped on a toad…We were all checking a toad on our sidewalk when he was maybe just three, when out of the blue, he stomped on it!  He wasn’t being mean or vicious, I think he just got scared, but the toad didn’t make it.  So I think you can understand my concern for the chicks 😉

We will keep you updated as we watch them grow and get ready to butcher!

In other news, one of our hens hatched a chick!  We had 4 broody hens this year, and only three nesting boxes, so we had to take one of the hens out, and we ran into a few other issues… let’s just say we learned a few things!

Miss Pecky and her baby return to her nest.

Have you ever raised chickens for meat?  Did you butcher them yourself?  What are your thoughts?  Let us know in the comments!


P.S.  Check out Justin’s YouTube channel, Justin Rohdes.  His family is fun to watch, and they share a lot of great info on raising chickens, homesteading with children, and just homesteading in general.




    • Spring Lake Homestead

      Hi JoAnne,
      The general answer to that question is no. Technically they can lay eggs, though these birds grow quickly and are bred for meat. Their lifespan is short, only 9-12 weeks. They are typically butchered before they reach laying age, and from what I read, if we kept any around, they would not produce the exact same type of chicken (less meat on the body).
      Basically you can butcher any chicken for its meat, but the older the bird, the tougher the meat. Most people refer to them as “stew” chickens, because they need to be boiled or cooked in a crock pot to make the meat more tender.
      There are other varieties of chickens that are “dual purpose,” that have more meat than the average chicken, and can live a longer, healthy life and still produce eggs.

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