Have you ever done something that gets you excited, nervous and worried all at the same time? Well I did yesterday.
Yesterday, I placed my order with Rochester Hatchery for my meat birds, turkeys as well as a few Rhode Island layers. Yes, on March 16th we will be having 60 broilers, 25 turkeys and 10 Rhode Island Reds arriving in all of their cute fuzzy buttness. That's 95 of the little peepers.
This brings me to the question, What the heck am I going to do with that many chicks? Never have I had so many at once!
Here's the thing. Right now, we have about 4 feet of snow out there burying all the chicken tractors, and my Chicken House is really quite small. I'm thinking in March we will still have snow. Probably lots of it, and It will probably be around until at least April. At this point who knows, it could be late April (Pray to God it doesn't flood.)
So this leaves my basement in my house for an area to brood some chicks. Now, I've done this before many times. But never in such a large number. Normally the chicks go into a kiddie pool with cardboard sides so they can't jump out, shavings, food, water, and a heat light.
The plan is ordering this many that we are going to be raising 20 meat birds and 12 turkeys for my Sister and Brother in Law who are lucky enough to have solar power. Since they can't run a heat light off of soloar power, we will raise their meaties and turkeys past the heat light stage, and then send them on there way to Deb and Al's to live out the rest of their little lives.
Rob and I are also going to try doing up some Cornish Game Hens for the first time ever. Did you know that those little Cornish Game Hens that you buy all nicely packaged up in the grocery store are actually young Broiler hens butchered at the ripe old age of 5 weeks? Yes, they are basically baby meat birds.
So at the same time as Deb and Al get their birds we will be putting 20 cornish game hens into the freezer. So that will be 52 peepers gone about the same time. (About 5 weeks of age.)
So here's what I was thinking,
March 16th, (2 days old) Peepers arrive
April 20th, (5 weeks old) Deb & Al get their's, and we butcher Cornish Game Hens.
June 8th, (12 weeks old) Butcher the rest of the Broilers.
The Turkeys we will probably keep until Fall.
It's the question of what to do with that many birds for the first 5 weeks of their lives, since we will still have snow at that time. lol I suppose things will work out. Things always have a way of doing that, but still I'm worried about it. I think perhaps I am a little crazy for taking on so much. (These fuzzy butts don't include the ones that I want to hatch out myself, like my cochins, polish, silkies, wyandottes, and such).
Last year, we ordered meat birds for the first time. I have to tell you, that it wasn't as bad as I thought. I've heard so many bad stories of meat birds and turkeys with lots of problems. I don't know if we got a way lucky, but out of the 25 meat birds, only one died. It just never thrived, and when it was about 8 weeks old I went in one morning and there it was dead. So really we did quite well.
We got our chicks in May, and I brooded them in the house for a few weeks them moved them into my brooder out in the chicken house, as when you have quite a few chicks they can be smelly. (I find turkeys really smelly). When they were old enough they went into the 8 X 8 room in my chicken house. Both Meaties and Turkeys in the same room. Once they were old enough, I started letting them out in to the run, and then eventually, they had free range out in the yard.
I love free ranging them, where they could be real chickens, and find bugs, grass and stuff to eat. Being Meat Birds and quite lazy, they didn't really go far from their coop. Except the Turkeys. The turkeys went all over the yard.
We butchered some of our Meaties at around 9ish weeks old, some at 12ish weeks old and kept 2 until they were the very old age of 5 months old. One of the 5 months old started laying eggs, and when I cleaned them you could see the other one wasn't that far behind.
If you can do it. I would recommend raising your own meat birds. Not only is the chicken wonderful tasting. They have much better lives then being raised in the commercial industry. This is a big part of why we do it. Also is knowing where your food comes from and what went into it.
Here's Madeleine with one of our 5 month old Meatie Hens. She weighed over 11 pounds live weigh, and thought she was a regular chicken, even allowing roosters to mate with her.
And here are a few of our Tom Turkeys.