Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Frugal Tuesday - Costs to Raise Chicken for Meat
If any of you have raised chickens for meat you most likely are very well aware of some of the differences between home grown and "factory farm" grown chicken. For one thing, they don't taste anything like what you purchase in the stores and if you have raised them with the freedom to run all over the farm they can be a bit tough to eat and the flavor is much different. Of course this depends greatly on the breed as well. The beautiful guy you see in the photo is definitely not very tasty. He has been running around all over the farm having a great time with the ladies and as a result his muscles are very well developed so he would be very tough and require a lot marinading to make him remotely palatable. He is also too old. Oh well... Lucky for him he is not a meat bird. :)
But lets say you wanted to raise some chickens specifically for meat. Would it be cost effective? Is that a factor? or do you just want food you have raised yourself or maybe something organically or humanely raised?
The best and cheapest way to do this of course would be to have your own multipurpose hens raise or at least hatch the chicks for you but this isn't always possible especially if you want them to all be ready to butcher at the same time or want a meat bird that is.. well meaty! Another way to use your all purpose breeds is to save the eggs for a while and then using an incubator hatch them all at once. This way you can separate them from the rest of the flock and watch their diet much more carefully.
This is what I found in my area, but where you live prices might be quite a bit different, so it is always a good idea to do your research before taking on a project like this. My reasons for raising chickens for meat are a bit varied. Personally I don't want birds that have been fed antibiotics and kept in tiny little cages or even so called free range barns with no room to really move and never seeing sunshine or doing what chickens do. I want my food to be raised well and fed well. In short I guess I want to know where it is coming from. If butchering is something you have difficulty doing you might be able to find a butcher around who will do it for you but I would rather do it myself so I know it is done correctly and quickly. It's never a fun job but I always figured if I'm going to eat meat I should be able to do that part myself as well.
So, enough said! Lets count the cost so we can see if its doable. One of the most popular meat chickens here is the Cornish Giant. Many chickens breed specifically for meat can have problems with their legs as they grow very quickly, therefore they must be fed a proper and monitored diet so as to no over load them. The nice thing about them is they can be butchered anytime after 8 weeks although I prefer 10 or 12 weeks of age and the feed to meat average is two pounds of feed for one pound of meat. This is pretty reasonable especially if you can find a decent price for feed.
First of course you need the starter feed then the grower and they come in 50 pound bags. Roughly you can average about 4 to 5 chickens finished per bag of feed. So... Lets say we were going to raise 25 birds to start what would it cost? Remember these are my prices (I found a new feed place with GREAT prices!) check your area and see what they are for you.
Purchased chicks: $1.82 each. 25 x $1.77 = $44.25
Chick Starter: 50 lb. bag - $9.99 1 x $9.99 = $9.99 (they only need it for the first 3.5 weeks but 25 birds will probably eat a whole bag, especially if you mix it in with the grower feed for a bit)
Grower Feed: 50 lb. bags - $13.99 4 x $13.99 = $55.96
Total cost = $110.20
This works out to approximately $4.41 per chicken. Not to bad really when I consider in the store the cheapest chicken parts I've seen it lately is $2/lb and whole birds are usually about $8 on a real good sale.
But, is there a cheaper way? Of course! However, this depends on where you live and if you are able to acquire grains for cheap or free from nearby farmers. Meat or grower birds need on average 20 percent protein to start but once they are 3.5 weeks old the protein levels need to be lowered to 17% and at 7 weeks to 14%. By using a high protein mix (which has 35% protein) and mixing it with grains at about 3 to one for the 3.5 to 7 week range, and a bit less after that, I can save a bit of money. Depending of course on what type of grain I find. There is a great protein chart here which lists almost all types of feeds and their protein content.
So... Counting the cost this way.
Purchased chicks: $1.77 each. 25 x $1.77 = $44.25
Chick Starter: 50 lb. bag - $9.99 1 x $9.99 = $9.99
Grains from nearby farms - Varies (last time I had to purchase some I payed the farmer about $20 for about 420 lbs. and for these birds I would need about 150 lbs. Which would be about $7.14.
High Protein Feed: 50 lb. bags - $18.99, 1.5 x $18.99 = $28.48
Total cost = $91.11 or $3.59/each bird
Of course you may find another way to acquire feed. Perhaps you can grow it yourself or have other grains of higher protein content in the surrounding farms. Either way, despite the work involved its worth it. Besides, if you love chickens the way I do, the work is half the fun! (well, except for the butchering of course)
Money saved this year if I raise 25 of my own meat birds? $108.89 If I raise 50 (which is more likely) its $217.78. Piece of mind? Priceless!
Thank you to Frugally Sustainable, the Prairie Homestead and Common Sense Homesteading for their blog hops.