Advice for Raising Meat Chickens
6 Questions Before Starting a Backyard Poultry Farm
Are you considering raising chickens for meat in your backyard or on a family farm? Here are 6 questions you’ll want to think through before ordering your first flock of day-old meat chickens.
1. What are your plans for the chickens?
Why do you want to raise meat chickens? Is it to provide your family with your own supply of meat? Do you plan to sell the meat? You’ll need to consult USDA and state and local zoning regulations that govern poultry production.
2. Do you have the time to raise meat chickens?
Your meat chickens will require daily care for the 6-12 weeks before they are processed. This includes feeding them, watering them, and inspecting and maintaining their pen. You will need someone who is available every day, including weekends and holidays, to care for your flock.
3. Where do you plan to raise your chickens?
Your flock will need protection from predators and shelter from the elements their entire lives. For backyard and family farms, you may raise your meat birds in a permanent building or small, portable coop (with or without fenced outdoor access) or chicken tractor – a mobile pen for pastured production.
4. What will you feed your chickens?
Commercial poultry feeds are formulated to ensure healthy birds that grow to the desired weight in 6-12 weeks, depending upon the breed. Following a schedule of starter, grower, and finisher feeds helps you manage growth and produce delicious meat. See our Feeding Plan for basic guidelines for feeding your flock.
5. What’s the right breed for you?
For backyard and free-range farms, we suggest one of our specialty broiler breeds. You can choose from our Imperial, Royal, or Robust White Broilers. Each breed has its unique characteristics; different coloring and conformation (body shape), and all produce excellent meat.
6. When should you butcher your birds?
It normally takes 6-12 weeks for a meat bird to reach harvest weight, depending upon the breed. Broiler sized chickens (less than 5lbs processed weight) take 6 weeks for Conventional birds and 9 weeks for Specialty breeds, while roaster sized chickens (more than 5lbs. processed weight) take 8 weeks for Conventional birds and 12 weeks for Specialty breeds.
You can butcher and process the birds yourself, or you can opt to have a certified poultry processor handle it for you.
Ready to Start Raising Meat Chickens?
When you are ready to start raising chickens for meat, place your order of day-old chicks on our online store. You’ll also want to consult our Guide to Raising Day-Old Chicks for guidelines and helpful advice on starting your flock. For additional resources, we recommend Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.