Grill it, fry it, throw it in the oven! Over a dozen ways to prepare it and hundreds of recipes later, the chicken finally ends up on your plate, but if you’re here you’re probably starting at the first step of the process: actually raising the chicken. Fret not, because we’ll discuss the basics of raising poultry for meat and the best breeds you can choose.

 

The Basics

 

Grilled chicken pieces on a plate.

You may have heard of the term broiler before. Within the poultry industry, a broiler is any chicken that’s raised for meat,

and they’re processed at about six to eight weeks of age when they’ve reached around five pounds. You can raise poultry for meat in your backyard, but your small flock will most likely only be able to produce enough chicken for your house. What are some things you’ll want to make sure you have in order to successfully raise your chickens for meat?

 

  • Feeders, Waterers, and A Space for Chicks: Broilers are usually raised from when they are day-old chicks. You’ll want to make sure that these chicks have enough heat, feeders, waterers, and space. The same goes for when they transition outside of chicks.
  • Feed: In the first two weeks, a high protein grower diet is usually fed with less protein fed after. There are chick starter and developer feeds so broilers reach processing weight.
  • Processing: There may be regulations that don’t allow you to process poultry. In this case, you would have to take them to get processed at an approved facility. If you plan on processing yourself, you need to have the necessary equipment, skills, and freezer space.

 

Which Breeds are the Best?

 

For meat purposes, Cornish, Plymouth Rock, and New Hampshire breeds (along with crossbreeds of these) are the best. A popular cross for broilers is a Cornish male and Plymouth Rock female. When you purchase chicks from a hatchery, you can choose to purchase commercial broilers that grow faster, such as Cornish Cross. Otherwise, purchasing just New Hampshires or Plymouth Rocks allows you to still produce meat but in a slower timeline.

 

Conclusion

 

Broilers are any chickens that are raised for meat. There are commercial broilers with specific crosses that can be processed in six weeks, and there are breeds like New Hampshires that have a more gradual timeline. If you’re looking to raise your own poultry, and still have the meat end up on your plate, consider these breeds!

 

Written by Reena Grewal, University of California, Davis Student.

Edited by Joseph Gendreau at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

References