Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another Meat Bird Cost Analysis

Mama Tea over at A Farmish Kind of Life just put up a post, How much does it cost to raise a meat bird?

Which reminded me that I never did my cost analysis for our last batch of Creepy Meats.

I purchased 2 week old Cornish Cross meat birds from the local feed store in March.  I purposely waited as long as I could to buy them, figuring the longer I waited, the less time we had to spend caring / feeding / watering them.  We really didn't need any meat birds in the freezer and normally we don't grow out our birds until the Fall, but I figured if I went into the feed store and there were still a handful left, I'd buy them.  So buy them I did.

I left the feed store with seven birds (at $1.69 each) a bag of chick starter (at $11.95 for 40#'s) and a toddler peeping back at the box of chicks.   As usual, Paul wasn't too keen on the idea (don't we already have a freezer full of chicken?) but he was slightly interested in trying some Cornish Game Hens.

For those not familiar with the nuances of meat bird linguistics, a Cornish Game Hen is just a small Cornish Cross chicken having a dressed weight (i.e. ready to pop in the oven) of 2 pounds or less.  A Cornish Cross refers to a meat type bird that is the love child from a Cornish Game and Plymouth or White Rock chicken breeds.  You may hear them called Cornish Crosses, Cornish X's or, as Ohio Farm Gal so eloquently coined, "Creepy Meats".

The birds were of "game sized" in just a few weeks, but I kept putting off the butchering, because, well, I'm not sure why.  Probably because I wanted a bigger bird.  Yes, the would have looked soooo cute on the supper plate, each with their own tiny chicken next to some new potatoes and green beans.  But I just didn't do it.  Then I had to get another bag of feed.  Which they were out of at the store, so I ended up having to buy Game Bird Grower (i.e. more expensive).  But I figured once this bag of food ran out, it would be butchering time.

Well, that time came and went and at approximately eight weeks of age, they went under the butcher cleaver.  We'd cared for them for six weeks though (remember, they were already two weeks old when I bought them).  It was much, much easier butchering seven birds as opposed to the twenty-five and fifty we normally get.  And there wasn't as much poop, although there weren't as many birds either.

The dressed birds weighed in very small, the lightest at 3 lbs. 4 oz., the heaviest just an ounce under 4 pounds.  I attribute this to the fact that I only feed them the store bought feed and only fed them twice a day.  By all means, they were not starved, but obviously they could have been fed more.  The two years when we had huge birds (6-7 lbs.), they were getting store bought feed, extra milk and even scraps from the fire department annual pork roast.  They were also purchased from McMurry Hatchery whereas the others came from a local hatchery up in Missouri.  I'm not sure if the hatchery made a difference or not, but I may just buy some from one hatchery, some from the other and do an experiment to see if one hatchery's chicks grow out better than another.  Or maybe that would be a good science fair project for Rhiannon down the road.

Anyways, here are the numbers for our Spring 2013 Cornish Cross birds:

7 chicks @ $1.69 each = $11.83
40# bag Chick Starter @ = $11.95
40# bag Game Bird Grower @ = $14.50
Total Cost = $38.38

Total Weight of Dressed Birds = 25 lb. 4 oz.

Total Cost per Pound = $1.51 (although it should have been $1.41 if the feed store wasn't out of chick starter)

So, what did I learn from all of this, besides the monetary cost?  (Remember, there's no labor or infrastructure costs included in this.) Well, that I should have given them food every daylight hour and let them cram their gizzards with as much food as they could get down their beaks.  And that even though I wanted to see what it would cost to feed them strictly store bought feed, I most definitely will supplement future batches with our milk, whey, kitchen scraps and maybe even get them on pasture in order to reduce the feed bill and to plump them up.

But we'll probably have to wait until next Spring or Fall for that, because after I pulled out the birds to weigh them, I noticed several with the date 11-2011 on them at the bottom of the freezer.

Can you guess what we'll be having for supper tonight (and tomorrow, and the next)?


  1. Nice! Was good to read your cost analysis as well. We gave ours food for 12 hours and took away for 12 hours - it is amazing to me how much they could cram down their gullets. We were told if we didn't take the food away at some point in the day, they would literally eat themselves to death. Hmm.

  2. Where else could you find a home-grown, fresh chicken for $1.51 a pound? I am thinking about doing a comparison of Red Rangers and CornishX this year. Waiting until the rain stops so they don't drown. Maybe you could make roast chicken stuffed with strawberries... No?

  3. Good number crunching. Sounds like a good plan to plump them up more next time...

  4. Amy, I was glad you "reminded" me about the meat bird costs. And I'm VERY jealous of your finished weights...8 lbs?! Wow, that's a lotta bird! Next time I'm just gonn'a keep feeding them all day.

    Susan, I have no idea if it's "worth" it financially. I'm going to check the Walmart chicken prices (no comparison really, but just to see) when I get out there. I think it would be an AWESOME idea to do a Cornish X vs. Ranger comparison. You know, so I won't have to do it!

    Nancy, most definitely shoveling more food into them next time. Gotta love leftovers!

  5. Too bad you can't place a dollar value on the taste! I hadn't thought about trying the fall thing...what a good idea. I am so busy in the spring that I didn't do any but fall should be a slower time. I plan to try that place in Aurora that charges around $2 per bird to process....raises the cost but still makes them cheaper than store birds.

    I kept feed out full time when I raised them last and they were huge at butcher time.

  6. gld, we try for a butcher date in early November so we normally order our chicks in early September. It's warm enough when we first get them that they don't need a heat lamp much (mainly at night, if at all), yet cool enough eight weeks later so we're not butchering in the sweltering heat.

  7. Interesting to compare your experience and Amy's. I wish some of you 'chicken girls' lived closer 'cause I would buy dressed out chickens from you at $2.50 or even $3.00 a pound! :)

  8. Carolyn, thanks so much for posting the costs of raising birds to eat, we do learn a lot from you! The cost is surprising.