Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fall 2104 Cornish Meat Bird Costs

I bought thirty Cornish Cross cockerels from Estes Hatchery up in Missouri.  Figured I'd give a local hatchery a try.  They arrived just days after I ordered them and they even threw in two extra chicks.

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.
This post has been "in progress" for over a week now.  I thought I had everything in order, but it seems I have misplaced the worksheet that had the total weights of the birds.  All I remember though, and this is what counts, is that our cost came to $1.99 per pound for a whole chicken (minus the insides, neck & livers).

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.


  1. We had 6 lb dressed birds after 8 weeks during the hottest summer in years. We had to put them in front of fans and spray them with water several times a day. Poor things. We got our Cornish X from Murry McMurry in Iowa. At the same time, we also bought barred rock pullets for a laying flock. They all turned out puny and small. They were separated from the meat birds so they did not have to compete for food. This was the first year that Murry's did not satisfy us. Next year I think I will just go down to the feed store and get some chicks.

  2. I guess the upside of raising your own birds is you know what they have been fed or drugged with so the family is eating healthier. That to me would be worth the cost and all the work behind the scenes. :-)

  3. check this thread
    I started fermenting my girls layer feed and it cut my feed bill in half. This thread is about doing the same for meat birds.

  4. Now that so much of our chicken comes from China, and they are SO lax with health laws, I'd rather pay more, enjoy the birds for awhile and have the family eat something that won't hurt them. I think you made the right decision.

  5. My Cornish X also came from MMcM and the smallest dressed out at 5 lbs. The average was closer to 6. There was one big, mean sucker that dressed out at 7.5 lbs! I processed them right at 8 weeks. However, two of them developed leg problems early on and had to be culled. They did give me two extras, though, so it evened out. I fed them 18% meat bird crumble twice a day and they had access to a fenced yard (small). I will have to say that the one I tried was amazing, as far as tenderness and flavor.

  6. Your feed numbers really jumped out at me. 650# of feed for thirty birds? That seems very high to me. I've found that with the cornish cross that a game bird feed with a higher protein and fat content will advance your birds rate of gain. We will feed six weeks with the game bird pellets and chopped corn. The last week I finish with corn. It is also very important to keep a wormer on them the first two weeks.