Meat Chicken Myths (the difference diet makes)

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As you may already know, a few weeks ago we ventured into raising meat chickens. On Friday, June 28th, 52 cornish rock cross or white broilers arrived from Meyer Hatchery. You can read about their arrival and 4 week updates.

Now we are 8 weeks in and about to butcher soon. We were planning to do it at 7 and half weeks of age to avoid health problems, but have decided to push it back a week because they are doing so well and a scheduling conflict that has popped up. Before we ordered our chickens we did some research and we have happily found some of it not to be true. Of course it could be beginners luck and the fact the we only feed them about a 1.5-2 lbs per a week per bird right now instead the recommended 2-3 lbs.

Here’s is what we read and heard…
They aren’t good at free ranging. Our chickens love to hunt for food, eat grass and peck for bugs. The have escaped their chicken tractor numerous times scattering themselves around the yard and having a good ole time.

freerangingmeatchickens
Our Chickens Free Ranging in our front yard after escaping from the tractor

They are fat and dead are fat and nearly dead by 8 weeks. At 7 weeks we have decide to wait until 8.5 weeks to butcher because they are so alive and active. Now we have had an exceptionally cool Tennessee summer and we know that plays a roll.

Their breasts are so heavy that they can barely stand up and walk by 8 weeks. At 7 weeks, not only are they still walking, roaming, jumping and chest butting each other. We open the chicken tractor at the back some of them can literally jump the 2ft. sides and get out.

Expect to lose about 30% of your birds. We have lost 5, one baby chick in the first days and 4 because we accidentally pinched them while moving the chicken tractor. We did butcher and eat the 4th one. The first 3 caught us off-guard and unprepared.

They are a genetically modified to grow super fast. Maybe you have seen this picture talking about the GMO meat chicken.

genetically-modified-chickens
image courtesy of Food Inc. http://www.takepart.com/foodinc

It is very misleading.

Here’s Our Version of that Comparison…

meatchickendiagram

Yes, they are bred to grow fast and have more meat in less time, but it is a matter of cross-breeding chickens with certain traits to make a hybrid chicken with a specific purpose.

Most meat chickens currently sold now are cross between a cornish hen and a plymouth rock. There genetics coming together create a chicken that grows fast. As far as we understand their DNA has not been genetically altered in a lab to make a mutant chickens.

Commercial growers mays still use growth hormones and medications to make their growth even more rapid, but that’s a separate thing all together.

Here’s our take on it…

This may be a hybrid chicken that is bred to get big fast. In a commercial setting with unlimited amounts of food most of those myths most certainly may be true, but given access to the right diet of grass and bugs, given pasture and fresh air, these chickens are a much healthy bunch than we expected!

This is an encouraging reminder to me that we are not a slave to our genetics. Yes, certain things may be more likely or true about us, our body type or our health, but the right nutrition and exercise are powerful tools to alter our health despite our genetics.

So it is hugely encouraging to me! If butchering goes well, I can imagine we will be ordering another batch of these kind and gentle birds either this fall or next spring.

meatchickens

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