Meat Chickens Myths
I’m getting ready to place the meat chicken order, 30 Cornish-Rock broilers. They’re a cross of two breeds – Cornish and Rock. There’s so much misinformation passed on as fact that people shy away from raising them. And just as bad, they perpetuate the misinformation by repeating it over and over and over. We really need to do better when it comes to this aspect of food. Meat chickens aren’t lazy or dirty unless they’re provided the means to be so, and then you need to make a few changes in your methods raising them. I can help you with that.
Myth #1: You have to teach chicks how to eat and drink.
Don’t underestimate instinct and curiosity. They’ll peck at food and water. Give them 60 seconds and they’ll have it figured out.
You’re going to have these birds at least six weeks, maybe ten or 12. Don’t make more work for yourself than necessary. Trust instinct. Instinct and curiosity will lead them to scratch, chase bugs, and eat natural foods.
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Myth #2: Meat chickens are genetically engineered.
Go back to the name. Cornish Rock Cross. They’re a hybrid, a cross between two breeds. If you cross a beagle with a husky you get a hybrid, not a genetically engineered dog, right? Same thing.
Do you feed your dog or cat in a small, confined area where it also poops, never letting it move to clean space? Of course not, right? So why would you do that to your chickens (or anything else)? Raise them in a clean, dry space with enough room to run around. If they are dirty you’re not doing it right. You need to move them more often and/or give them more room if they dirty.
I move the chicken tractor once a day for the first two or three weeks, twice a day after that.
Myth #4: Meat chickens do nothing but lay around, eating and pooping.
Partially, kind of, could be true, but you can do better for the birds. They’ll lay around and do nothing but eat if you allow it. They can’t eat commercial food you don’t give them so don’t over feed. I give my meat chickens commercial food only in the morning and evening. They spend the rest of the day on grass or in an unused section of the garden chasing insects, eating weeds and weed seeds, and taking dust baths, just like non-meat breeds. They’ll run around to find food if they’re hungry. If they’re picking at eat other or not growing they’re probably not finding enough to eat. They will behave like chickens if you allow them to. They aren’t fat when we butcher. They’re slower growing without the excess commercial food so I keep them an extra week to make up the difference.
Our electro net fence is 160 feet long. I move that around every two or three days if necessary for 25-30 chickens.
Myth #5: Mortality is high because they have leg problems and heart attacks.
So do we if we eat too much and don’t move. See #4. Space to roam, natural food, exercise, just like us. We lose maybe .25% to leg problems and have never lost one to heart attack. Keep them up and moving for food and acting like chickens and you’ll minimize problems.
Myth #6: Meat chickens are injected with hormones.
They’re not. Hormones were tried for a short period of time decades ago. Hormones don’t make poultry grow faster so it was discontinued. It’s illegal to give hormones to chickens and turkeys. If a producer is using “hormone free” on its label or advertising it’s trying to take advantage of a lack of knowledge. I don’t see that as often anymore because consumers called producers like Tyson out on the label.
Meat chickens are easy, clean, healthy, fast growing but not unhealthy, and when fed a mostly or all natural diet they’re delicious to eat. If you don’t have pasture, grass or empty garden space for the birds you can still move them around in a tractor, feed them commercial food, and have better tasting, better raised chicken.