The idea of raising a year’s worth of chickens with meat birds is compelling to many. We were on board the meat bird train for awhile. That is until this year. This year we are breeding dual purpose chickens for self sufficiency, harvesting chickens with an old idea of days gone by.
Switching to Dual Purpose Birds
For the past several years we have raised either Cornish cross or red ranger meat birds. We rotated them on fresh grass in a chicken tractor. We love the meat, but the fact is this is not a sustainable way to farm.
- Meat birds are bred to grow fast. In 9-12 weeks you can have many months’ worth of chicken in your freezer!
- Meatier birds that give more meat than the average heritage breed.
- The more you buy in a batch, the less they cost per bird.
- The meat birds are hybrid, so you cannot breed.
- If you’re wanting to be organic, the feed costs will eat into your cost per bird raising it to as high as $10 dollars per bird, maybe more depending on the feed you choose.
- Breeding your own heritage breeds equals less time and money than raising a hybrid meat bird. (Heritage breeds eat less.)
Self Sufficient Chickens – Dual Purpose
In order to be self sufficient, we’re wanting to raise our own meat chickens from our own stock. Since it is impossible to breed our own meat birds, we turn to the chickens our ancestors ate…heritage breed birds a.k.a. dual purpose chickens. These birds are meatier than hybrid egg layers.
Our goal is to breed not only a great egg layer, but a friendly bird, as well as a bird that gets to a good size for the table. We chose the Australorp. We will pull our Australorp rooster and hen from the flock and give them their own living space where they will fertilize the eggs and hatch them off. We’ll also use an incubator for some of the eggs.
Any roosters born into the Australorp family will be culled for freezer camp. This is how people had chicken dinners before modern times. As the hens get older we will cull them as well.
Breeding Chickens for Self Sufficiency
If you’re goal is to be self-sufficient in the area of chicken, you’ll want to choose from a heritage breed. Heritage breed birds are ones that existed before the mid 20th century. They are large dual purpose birds, meaning great as egg layers and meat chickens. Heritage breeds you may want to consider raising for sustainability are: Delaware, Rhode Island Red, and Barred Rock.
To breed, place a rooster and hen(s) in a pen away from the rest of the flock. Watch the hen for signs of being broody. If she shows no signs of trying to set on the eggs, pull the eggs to hatch from an incubator instead.
If pure bred chickens are not an issue for you, keep a mixed breed flock together and set aside an amount to incubate.
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