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GaryD

Broiler Chickens

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Guest Jimmie

Gary D,

I can't believe how quickly those chickens have grown. Is that the 25 day figure added to the 44 days = 69 days old chickens ?

That is fantastic. What do you feed them on, and what do you estimate the costs to be per chicken?

How heavy is that dressed chicken in the photo ?

Are they hard to look after ?

Sorry , I have so many questions. I had no idea that this could be done in such a time frame with such apparently great results.

Jimmie.

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Hi Jimmie,

Perhaps I should have been a little clearer with my post.

The chickens that we processed yesterday were 44 days old....in total.

We had originally bought 25 of them at one day old - we lost one at about 14 days.

The 8 chickens that we processed yielded a total of 11kg.....with a top end weight of 1.7kg and a low end weight of 1.7kg.....for an average of $1.37kg.

We'll probably process another eight of the birds in a couple of weeks and the final eight a week or two after that.

We start the chickens on a proprietary broiler starter diet and, at three weeks we change them to a broiler finisher ration. From this point on, we also feed them cracked corn.

Based on our last batch, they work at to about $4.00kg dressed weight. While this is about the same price as you'd pay for ordinary chicken in the supermarket, you have to remember that these are free range, corn-fed chickens......a premium product.

In future, we plan to experiment with home-made rations.....to reduce the cost and so that we can take total control of their diet.

Gary

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Hi Gary,

Congrats on your batch of chickens. You will find that chickens brought up on your own mix of food will not grow as quickly as those on bought rations, but will taste a lot better. We have found over the years that chickens grown on commercial rations grow incredibly quickly but don't have good muscle tone and have a sickly white fat layer. Our chickens, hatched by ourselves and grown on our own rations take longer to grow but taste better, don't have black bones and are a lovely golden colour including the fat. If you are interested in organic food for your chickens or yourself, get in touch with Kialla foods, they are at Greenmount near Toowoomba and have a range of grains and flours.

We have grown our own (free range) meat and most of our veges for years and my children would rather eat home cooked meals than take aways. I haven't bought chicken or pork for years and loathe eating either when eating out. I reckon I can taste the chemicals they have been grown on. I don't think I'm a nut but like good food, and believe most of the health problems today are caused by eating "bad" food. Food that is grown far removed from the way nature intended. Oh dear, starting to preach to the converted, sorry about that.

Good luck with your chickens, Ann.

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Keep on prechin sister !!!

I have not raised my own meat chickens but am very interested now that I have seen what Gary has done. I will have to build a decent chook house first. I tried 4 x laying hens a few months ago but my dogs got them...love my dogs, but the mungrel things got the chooks. I can't tell you how mad I was.....

Anyway, I must duck over to Gary's place and take a look at his chooks.

How about some pix of your chooks etc annefish ?

The supplier you speak of "Kialla foods" do they have pre mixed chook food, or do you buy the various ingredients and mix your own ?

Muzza.

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Hi Ann,

Like you, we've been rearing meat chickens for some time.

This batch (and a couple of others that preceded it) are part of a data-gathering exercise that will contribute to a long-term writing project that I have underway.

I'd like to follow up that organic grain supplier in Toowoomba. Do you have any contact details?

Gary

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Perhaps I should have been a little clearer with my post.The 8 chickens that we processed yielded a total of 11kg.....with a top end weight of 1.7kg and a low end weight of 1.7kg.....for an average of $1.37kg.

Gary

Can you clarify those fiugures please Gary:confused:

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Hi Gary,

Kialla is at www.kiallafoods.com, they have a good range of grains and flours as well as poultry foods. Will send photos when I replace my camera. It died during one of our adventures. I will relate the story, as I think many of you will appreciate it.

We had a pen of chooks to be dispatched but between my husband working nights and me working days, they were getting on a bit. So one morning I cracked a wobbly and nicely asked my husband:D to do the deed and I would finish the rest with the kids. All was going nicely, 3 chooks were in the freezer, when my mother rang to say a cow was in the dam. So off I went asking the kids to keep cleaning while I went to see how bad she was.

It was my favourite cow up to her belly in mud at the edge of the dam. I dug and pushed for a while then ran the kids to come and help. I told them to put the chooks in the fridge or freezer wherever they whould fit and I would finish them later. Much digging and pushing later I decided to ring friends of ours who have a towing business to bring their tilt tray truck and try to get her out with it.

While waiiting I thought I'd get some of the chooks done. My darling children had put 8 chooks into the freezer in assorted states of undress mostly fully feathered and with legs still attached. The sky turned blue with me praising my darling children. I thougt how to get feathers off partly frozen chickens - in the end I skinned them (not to gently) and processed them all in record time. We had crumbed chicken for dinner.

We did get the cow out but haad to lift her for two weeks before she could get up by herself. Happily she is now fully recovered. Welcome to my world, you never know what is going to happen. Ann.

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Hi Damien

The 8 chickens that we processed yielded a total of 11kg.....with a top end weight of 1.7kg and a low end weight of 1.7kg.....for an average of $1.37kg.

The low end weight should have read 1.2kg. When the individual weights were totalled, the average weight was 1.37kg. Sorry 'bout the typo.

Ann......thanks for the Kialla Foods link. I've emailed them to determine if they have a Brisbane distributor for their poultry feeds.....otherwise it looks like we'll be doing a run to Toowoomba in the not-too-distant future.

Gary

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Hi,

For those who are interested:

We buy the meat bird chicks as day olds. They are housed in the Quail Palace.....a two tier pen which we built to house our Quail breeders until they are four week old. We then move them into an outside pen where they have access to a large run during the day......and, at night, they are housed in a tiny hut.

For the first three weeks, they have to be provided with supplementary heat. We use these spun aluminium brooders fitted with a UV heater lamp.

Gary

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Guest Miki

Hi Gary & Co., I've just joined up and am fascinated by your information. We have just moved to acreage and are looking for this kind of info to get us going. We have added 5 pullets to the rooster and chook left behind (we started with 8 pullets but 3 didn't make it). We are setting up a simple AC system - we eat so much fish and chicken - and now BC's (Broiler Chickens) are on the long ToDo list..... as this is all totally new to me even though we have wanted to do this for a long time I am not looking forward to my first slaughter (chooks) and then preparing it.... Any tips?

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Hi Miki,

Welcome to the Aquaponics HQ Forum.

I'd be happy to induct you into the Royal Order of the Chicken Raiser.

As the celebrated cook and author Mrs Beeton used to say at the commencement of many of her recipes, "First, get yourself some chickens."

You should be paying something in the $1.60 - $2.00 range for day old chicks. They might be available from your local fodder store or (preferably) perhaps you have a commercial hatchery nearby.

You'll need to prepare somewhere protected (from predators and cold draughts) for the chickens to live for their first four weeks. We use a nice 2 tier pen for ours but they will still be quite comfortable in simpler circumstances.

Day old chicks will need supplementary heat for at least three weeks. I suggest that you invest in a small hover brooder like the one in one of my photos. These accommodate a UV heater globe which produces heat but no light. I wouldn't bother with ordinary incandescent light globes - they produce too much light (which encourages cannibalism) and not enough heat.

You should be able to buy chick waterers and feeders from your local fodder store. You can adapt other containers but remember that day old chicks will drown in any container large enough for them to climb into.

I'll post some photos of everything I've spoken about.....later today. In the meantime, you can get busy with the phone and source the chicks, brooder, feeders and waterers........and some broiler starter and finisher/grower (the feed).

Gary

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Guest Miki

Thanks Gary, much appreciated and looking forward to the pictures and info. My aim is to first to get the AP started and keep an eye out for the BC gear in the meantime. As luck has it we have a chook breeding farm just down the road so I will call them soon to find out if I can get some day olds from them otherwise the Rural store will have to do. I guess we'll be eating home grown chicken before the fish! but then, hopefully, the veggies will grow to feed the chooks.... and that is the aim in the end:):D

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Guest Miki

ps. what about feeding chooks cracked barley? we also have a couple of horses and bought the wrong barley (according to my daughter) just as we were moving. We couldn't return the bag because the mice had a chew on it. We are using bits at a time, soaked in boiling water, to feed up some of the horses and trying it out on the chooks and young ducklings.

Any tips for the final hand in the BC - as in the slaughter - we have read up on most details but still have to put theory into practice:eek:

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Hi Miki,

You can certainly feed your chickens cracked barley.

If you soak the barley in boiling water and leave it overnight, it will soften to the point where the chickens can make the most of it.....otherwise it passes out of the back of the chicken without having been completely digested.

Ensure that your chickens have access to hardgrit.......finely crushed granite (or similar rock). If you can't buy hardgrit from your feed store, go to your local landscaping supplier and buy a few shovelsful of crusher dust. That will have lots of tiny stones in it.

The chickens eat the tiny stones which gather in their gizzard..a specialized stomach with a thick, muscular wall used for grinding up food

The only issue that is likely to arise with wet grain is that of mould......do not feed grain (or any other food) that has gone mouldy.

When you get closer to having to slaughter and process your own broiler chickens, I'll get into more detail. For the moment, however, the important details include:

  • The best way to kill a chicken for processing is to cut its throat - by drawing a sharp knife across either side of its neck. If you are uncertain about this, you can simply chop its head off with a clean axe. While some might argue that this method may not allow for complete bleeding out of the bird, I've never had it happen.
  • Once you remove the bird's head (or cut its throat) the bird is, for all intents and purposes) dead. The violent struggling that ensues is post mortem and is caused by muscle spasm.
  • To ensure optimum food quality, process your chickens as quickly as possible after they are dead. Scald them immediately they stop struggling.
  • 65 degreesC - is the optimum temperature for scalding your dead birds for easy feather removal - much lower than this and the feathers will be hard to remove and much higher and the skin will tear and the bird won't keep quite as well.
  • The feathers should be easy to remove by hand. Work quickly and rinse the carcase in chilled water to remove any loose feathers.
  • Evisceration (removal of the internal organs) is easy enough but you'll benefit from seeing it first hand (or from some photos) before you attempt it yourself.
  • The two things to avoid when removing the guts is knicking the digestive system and spilling undigested food/chicken poop on the meat.....and breaking a little green sac (the bile duct) attached to the liver. If you spill bile on the meat it will become very bitter and inedible.

That's probably the key things to remember about killing and processing chickens.

I'll take some photos of the whole process as I do the remaining broilers during the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions that you may have.

Gary

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Hi,

We processed another 8 chickens this morning.

They were 58 days old and dressed out at a total weight of 14.9kg.

The heaviest bird was 2.1kgs and the lightest was 1.6kg...for an average of 1.86kg.

Over the years, we've discovered that, when processing chickens you have good days and bad days. Today was the latter.

Having said that, we probably had a better day than the chickens.

Annie.....I followed up the Kialla Foods lead you provided. I think we'll feed the next batch on Kialla feed for the entire growing period.....so that we can determine the difference in growth between their organic product and the stuff we've just used.

I agree with everything that you say about the insipid fat that is to be found in chickens fed on proprietary rations. The birds are so much harder to process when they are full of that fat.

Gary

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Guest Jimmie

Do you have any idea what you have spent on food for the chickens Gary.

I guess it doesn't matter really, because you have grown them yourself you know they are not full of chemicals etc.

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Hi Gary,

I'm looking forward to see how you go with the new rations. In regards to killing the chooks - we made up a funnel out of a shet of steel which tapers from about the size of a dinner plate to approx 3-4 inches at the bottom. We hang this up and simply put the bird in head first, it's head pops out the bottom, we just hold the head in one hand and the knife in the other. One swift cut and the deed is done. The bird still moves but doesn't flap about and can bleed out really well. If we have more birds to do we wait till the most energetic flapping is over then lay the bird on the grass (or a clean surface with the drought). We have found this to be the easiest way for us and the birds.

Best wishes, Ann

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Hi Annie,

This is what we use.....this is a killing funnel that we purchased from a poultry supply business in Brisbane.

You can buy these in a variety of sizes.....for all types of poultry from chickens to turkeys.

Jimmie......I've recorded all of the outgoings for this batch (and the two that preceded it) and I'll post the figures once we've processed the last 8 birds.

Gary

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Guest Miki

Gary, your last results are fantastic, have you been feeding the BC's anything other than the last batch? how many 'batches' do you currently have - as in how many groups and how many in each group?

Thanks for the tip with the slaughter 'aid'.

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Hi Miki,

Our current batch of broilers is the third one we've done over the past year or so.

The first batch and our current one (both starting with 25 chicks) were the most useful in a data-gathering context.

The second batch (of 12 chicks) was problematic.......the day old chicks were of questionable quality or had been chilled before we got them. Their growth was slower and less consistent.

Our short term goal (other than to produce chicken meat for our own table) is to gather data for a writing project. We need to establish the costs and other production information for chickens fed largely on proprietary rations.

The differences between our chickens and those that are reared in a shed include:

  • they live in smaller social groups.
  • they get to roam in a yard eating whatever they can catch
  • they are exposed to normal climatic conditions.
  • they get to eat some cracked corn in addition to their normal broiler finisher diet.

Our medium term goal is to produce organic chicken meat using a high proportion of home-grown food.....but first we have to have a datum....something to measure against.

Our long term goal is to breed our own broiler chicken and to produce everything it eats (except a little grain).

Gary

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gary have you looked at a cross between indian game fowl and say an australorp or leghorn. The indian game fowl have the best breast meat of any of the birds. I beleive the indians to be an average layer but that will probably not mean a lot if you have six or so.

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Hi Nick,

We have considered breeding a crossbred involving Indian Game fowl but, as you've acknowledged, the number of eggs that they lay is an issue.

We'll probably go for a utility line of Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds or Light Sussex where we can exploit their auto-sexing feature.....using the males for meat and the females for eggs

At this stage, we'll stick witht the chicks we're getting and focus on home-produced rations.

Gary

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Guest Jimmie

The whole meat chicken thing is very interesting Gary. I went and purchased some small sized chicken wire the other day to build a small chicken run. Reading what you have done I think I will get just 10 chicks to start. How many square metre of small chicken run do you think I need for 10 at a time.

I figure I can start them off in a plywood box I am making 600 x 600 x 600 with bird wire on the front and a small door. I have looked at the local produce agency for one of those heater lights. They don't know exactly what it is I am trying to get. maybe that is because I don't know what I want :)

What is the type of heater light you use?

Jim

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