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GaryD

Broiler Chickens

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Hi,

Tonight, I ate a soup made from chicken stock and beans......and chicken feet. The soup, accompanied by some crusty bread, was both hearty and tasty.

No longer will I discard the feet when I process chickens.

The very least that should happen with the feet is that they be used in making stock. They add a silky, gelatinous texture to the stock which adds to its quality.

Gary

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Hi,

Our remaining six broilers are getting to be very large chickens indeed.

They will be processed in a couple of weeks (some people want to see them first). We'll then clean out the pen in readiness for the next batch.

Gary

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Hi,

Tonight, we dined on some of our broiler chicken pieces.

The chicken pieces were seasoned, sprinkled with some roughly diced tomatoes and placed in the oven until tender.

The chicken was served on a bed of silver beet.

......and lovely it was, too.

The meat was tasty and firm (without being tough).

Gary

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Another organic feed supplier is Country Heritage Feeds at Highfields. I have been using their feed for a number of years and can recommend it. The feed I use for my broilers is their Organic Starter/Grower (18% protein) , cost is around $800 a tonne in 25 kg bags plus GST and freight. They also have a broiler starter and broiler finisher but the combined starter/grower means you don't have to change feeds.

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My last posting is probably out of order (chronologically that is)! Was reading through some comments on organic feed and posted the response about Country Heritage, since realised the original comment about Kialla feed was quite some time ago!

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Hi,

We processed the last six of our broiler chickens today.

Our chicken harvest added up to 23.2kg......with a high end weight of 4.4kg and a low end of 3.3. The average weight across the batch was a tad under 3.9kg.

Our usual practice with large broilers is to cut them up into pieces. Several of the breasts tipped the scales at 500g each.

As a matter of interest, these chickens were 16.5 weeks old. By now, the meat is slightly darker than the chicken that comes from the supermarket and is considerably firmer, carries less fat and (in my humble opinion) tastes much better.

With this batch, I kept the gizzard (a powerful bluish brown organ) that enables the chicken, in the absence of any teeth, to grind up its food. The gizzard is cut in two and the uneaten food is flushed out before removing a thick membrane. It is used to add flavour to soups and stock and is very edible.

Gary

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Hi,

The broiler shed is quiet now that the last of our meat chickens is in the freezer.

This weekend, I get to clean out the shed and straw yard. It helps me to think of it as another harvest. All of that composted straw and chicken poop for the garden.......in return for the sweat that it will take to move it around.

Gary

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Hi Feywind,

In normal circumstances, the photos would be there but we had a mishap during the last forum software upgrade and we lost many images.

I've dug up some broiler images so you know what you can expect.

1 - They all end up looking like this (if you're lucky) so don't name them. Our most recent batch of broilers weighed up to 4.5kg dressed......at around 70 - 80 days.

2 - Our meat chickens free range - and the range doesn't get any freer than this.

3 - A group of healthy broiler chickens at about seven weeks of age.

4 - The end result.....mmm!

5 - A healthy broiler cockerel

Gary

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Here's a few more.....

1 - One of our two chicken houses.

2 - A bunch of broilers chowing down on BSF larvae.

3 - Our second chicken house.

4 - Day old broiler chicks

5 - Broilers at around 20 days.

Let me know if you'd specific images and I'll see what I can dig up for you.

Feel free to ask questions.

Make sure you've got some means of brooding your chicks (keeping them warm)......before you bring them home. They'll need to be kept under supplementary heat for about 3 weeks (as we go into summer).

Gary

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Thanks Gary,

That explains the lost pictures - I thought you might remove them to save hard drive space. 4.5kg is huge!!! I brought them home yesterday. I've had day olds before so I set up like last time - a large box with wire on the front, a bowl with a 1 litre bottle with holes in the bottom for water, a modified plastic pot (for potplants) in a dish for food and a 40W incandescent globe under a terracotta pot for a heat source. I tried 60W but that seems too hot for them.

I ended up with 2 week old chicks because someone hadn't picked up their order - they only charged me day-old price so that was great. Also found what seems to be a half made rabbit hutch or bantam cage on the kerb for throw out so scored something for when they go outside. Tomorrow I'll pick up a bigger box from a whitegoods shop (hopefully) as they are bigger (and the box smaller) than I anticipated.

Gee they eat lots don't they. The chicks are always eating, much more than any other chook I've seen. I now understand their huge growth rate.

FeyWind

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Hi FeyWind,

You got a good deal on the two week old "day olds".....that's a great headstart.

I use infrared heater globes (rather than incandescent globes) because they don't produce light. Too much light can result in feather picking and that leads to cannibalism. Keep an eye out for any sign of picking and isolate any victims immediately.

If you think they're putting away the feed now, waiting until they are about 5 or 6 weeks old.

Good luck with them.......and yell if you need a hand.

Gary

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Here are some pics of my set up. I had them in a smaller box when they first came home, but within a few days I picked up a fridge box from a shop and have it lying on it's side with a viewing hole and top access hole cut out.

The brooder lamp is just a canniballised desklamp inserted through a terracotta pot.

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Food and water containers are likewise simple to make (although the water one doesn't work properly and needs to be squeezed to fill the resevoir)

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The box sits where my kids can gaze at the chicks whenever they like - and show picture books to them in the case of my youngest. And yes..... I have told the kids that we will be eating these. It is a bit of an experiment with them as we haven't slaughtered any animals at home in their memory.

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Hi FeyWind,

That's a lovely chicken brooder arrangement......and I'm delighted that you have taken account of the essential requirement for them to access bedtime stories as part of your design.:)

If I could make one small suggestion......move feed and water closer to the brooder lamp......so that they can always access it without getting chilled.

I like the way that you are taking your kids on this journey.

While the broiler chicks' story will have an unhappy ending......it will be an important lesson for your children.....about life and death and how food gets to the dinner table.

Gary

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Processed 3 chickens on Wednesday at 9 weeks old. I'd forgotten what a smelly messy business it was - am resolving to try to make a chicken plucker out of an old electric mower motor and a blue barrel - surely I can work that out. The weights were 1.75, 1.75 and 1.8kg. A little disappointing considering the amount of food put into them (20kg bag + 1/2 a 30kg bag between 6 chickens = 6.8kg per bird) If I had a 2:1 feed to weight ratio, this should be 3.4kg birds. Now to work out what to do with livers and kidneys.

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Processed 3 chickens on Wednesday at 9 weeks old. I'd forgotten what a smelly messy business it was - am resolving to try to make a chicken plucker out of an old electric mower motor and a blue barrel - surely I can work that out. The weights were 1.75, 1.75 and 1.8kg. A little disappointing considering the amount of food put into them (20kg bag + 1/2 a 30kg bag between 6 chickens = 6.8kg per bird) If I had a 2:1 feed to weight ratio, this should be 3.4kg birds. Now to work out what to do with livers and kidneys.

Whoops - 5.8kg per bird = 2.9kg birds if feed to meat ratio is 2:1 and 1.93kg at a 3:1 ratio.

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Hi Feywind,

You will struggle to achieve a feed conversion ratio of 2:1. That's what a commercial shed might expect but they have absolute control over the conditions in their sheds and they can access feed formulations that you can't......and they will engage in some other husbandry practices that you wouldn't even want to know about.

You, however, will produce healthier birds (both the birds and for you) and a little over 3:1 is still a good outcome.

Did you scald your chickens prior to removing the feathers? If so, was it easy? Precise scald temperatures are fairly critical.

While you will have resolved the question by now, we cook the hearts and livers in a little butter and serve them on toast. If we have plenty of them, Jan makes a mean pate. At the very least, they can be chopped up and incorporated in the stuffing for roast chicken.

Gary

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Do you have the recipe for that pate?.... pate at christmas sounds good. I scalded the chickens, but for too long, the skin came away and ripped with the feathers. I returned the pot to the kitchen to reboil with each chicken so that it would be hot enough.

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Hi,

We have the water at 65 degrees C (148 degrees F) and dip the bird into the water.....agitating it to make sure that the hot water gets under the wings and every else. When the flight feathers (the ones right at the tip if the wings) come away easily, the scald is complete.

We use a 20 litre stainless steel bucket (a cheap one) and replace it (directly out of the hot water tap) once we've done each two or three birds. This ensures that the water is hot enough (it's the right temperature as it comes out of the tap) and so that we are working with clean water.......in the interests of clean meat.

I'll get Jan to give you the chicken liver pate recipe.

Gary

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Dispatched the last three chooks today - cut up into wings, drumsticks, thighs and breast. Carcasses put aside for stock. The weights were 1.4 (chook crippled early on in life), 1.95 and 2.0kg. Feed in this time was about 12kg. 4kg per chook. For a 100-200g difference, the time and money (about $1 per kg feed) seems excessive - I understand why the factories do them so early. I think next time 9 weeks may be the go for slaughter date. How do you keep them growing so well Gary?

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Hi Feywind

Gary is really busy on a special project at the moment, he should be just about finished by the end of next week hopefully.

We had kept our meat birds in their pen throughout their growing life in the past. We then started to do what my Grandmother used to do on the farm.

We opened the gate on the last 3 or 4 batches and let them go out in the back of our block to free range, it doesn`t matter how long it takes them to grow when you do this, they eat a lot less commercial food and lots more grass and bugs.

They build up muscle, and for some reason get over the walk and flop down stage very quickly. They actually run around.

We have very good animal husbandry practices, clean drinkers and plenty of clean water every day. Clean straw for bedding. The feeders are always full. Scratch grain fed every morning and soaked grain and pollard with vegetable scraps every night.

Of course once they get to the point where they weigh around 5kg live weight we have to process them.These chickens are not bred to have long lives and do eventually get too heavy for their legs to carry. Not to mention the cockerels start to crow, which is not condusive to good neighbourly relations. We have 3/4 acre but are still in the middle of the burbs.

The meat is totally different in texture, no more white soft meat, but more like game in colour.

Unfortunately the big broiler sheds pack so many chickens into a given space that the birds have no choice but to stand in the one spot and eat and drink all day every day, seems the market prefers size 10 or 12 chooks so they have to get them to that stage asap.Hence the crowding.

We are currently growing out Plymouth Rock cockerels to use for meat. They just live with the layers and get to roam at will every day.

I have resisted the urge to read stories to the chooks, I get into enough trouble for talking to them .

Jan

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