We butchered the birds ten weeks after we got them. They ate six hundred and fifty pounds of feed. Unfortunately I didn't have much milk to spare so they ate the commercial 16% crumbles almost exclusively.
We froze the birds whole. Our family enjoys roast chicken best and if I really wanted a cut-up chicken I figured I could do it after it was defrosted and go from there. There's wasted freezer space by freezing them whole, but we'll live with that. A few years ago I canned some of the chicken to save on freezer space. The canned breast chunks were fine, but the canned bone-in thighs and legs were pretty much icky. Not icky tasting, but icky looking. And you had to pick the meat off and it was pretty much like shredded mushy chicken. So no more canning chicken unless it's just breast meat.
Even though we let the birds go for ten weeks (as opposed to the standard eight weeks), they weren't as large as I had hoped. I'm still striving to get a six or seven pound dressed bird again. We only got those weights when we had lots of pork scraps (from the local pork roast at the fire department) and since the pork roast doesn't happen anymore, we're going to have to find another source of free protein to supplement their feed with. The commercial feed costs are just getting too high at twenty-four cents a pound. Yeah, that doesn't sound like much until you figure that I went through six hundred and fifty pounds of it this time.
And some of the birds just didn't thrive. There were two birds that were just tiny; one weighing in at a mere 2 lbs. 9 oz. and the other at 2 lbs. 10 oz., and they weren't even the hens. The largest bird weighed in at 5 lbs. 5 oz. Those were dressed (butchered and ready to go in the oven) weights. I didn't take live weights.
|Big difference. But why?|
I wish I knew. They were both cockerels.
There is absolutely no way we could compete with grocery store prices. There are times when you can get a ten pound bag of frozen chicken leg quarters for sixty-nine cents a pound. The boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Walmart is consistently $1.99 a pound. And I think you can occasionally get a "Smart Chicken" whole fryer for $1.69 a pound.
So, unlike the Pork (which we did save money on vs. grocery store prices), we did not save a single dime by growing out our own meat birds. We lost money.
Now, I know that there's a non-monetary value to knowing where our chicken supper comes from. I know that Rhiannon is learning exactly how food gets to her plate. And that's worth something.