Raising Chickens for the Dinner Table
You Probably Won’t Save Money
Most 4-H leaders will tell you that raising chickens for meat is a break-even prospect, and you’re not going to spend less than you would at the grocery store. But what you will get is a freezer full of chickens you raised on your own land.
Chickens Take Time
Raising chickens, whether for the eggs or dinner time, requires daily care. That includes weekends and holidays. Check out our article Caring for Your Chickens When You’re Away for some hints on how to feed and care for your chickens when life happens.
Coastal Tip: Many cities, towns, and even rural areas have specific laws and guidelines on chickens. Be sure to check with your local government for rules in your area.
Choosing the Right Variety
When raising chickens for meat, you can choose to buy males and females mixed or just pullets. While females carry more meat on the back and breast, males can grow faster. The easiest to raise for meat is the commercial broiler. These are often slaughtered when they reach up to 5 pounds (usually between seven to nine weeks). Other birds to consider are the Rhode Island Red, Cornish Rocks, and New Hampshire.
Start with Chicks
Once you know what type of chicken you’re going to raise, be sure you have everything you need to raise happy and healthy chicks. You’ll find what you need with our Coastal 101: How to Get Set Up for Chicks video. Just remember, raising chicks for meat is a little different than raising them for egg production.
To reach their full potential in the least amount of time, give your meat-variety chicks about 2-inches of feeder space in the first two weeks. After that, double the space and be sure to provide plenty of clean water.
Coastal tip: Clean and refill waterers every day to avoid contamination.
It’s important to give your chicks the right food as well. Look for feed high in protein for the first two weeks. Talk to the folks at your nearly Coastal and go home with the right feed for your flock.
Give Them Room to Grow
Depending on the number of birds you raise, you can choose a coop or other enclosed, safe area for your chickens. Whatever you choose, be sure they are safe from predators and the elements. Raising chicks to maturity during the summer months can often make things easier for you and the chickens.
Processing Your Birds
When chickens reach the right weight, it’s time to process them and stick them in the freezer. As long as you’re not selling the meat, you don’t need to take them to a USDA-approved facility. You can even do it yourself. But there are plenty of poultry processors throughout the Northwest that can help if you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with this part. We’ve put together a great Coastal 101 on How to Break Down a Chicken once they’ve been slaughtered.
Coastal tip: If you have upwards of a dozen birds at a time, it can be easier and less time-consuming to stagger the times to slaughter so that a small number of birds reach maturity every few weeks.
Coastal Knows Chickens
From chicken coops to feed and everything in between, you’ll find what you need to raise happy and healthy chickens at Coastal. Stop by and tell us what you plan to do with your chickens and we’ll share some insights for your region. Be sure to visit our chicken headquarters page where you’ll find new videos, helpful articles, as well as time and money-saving ideas.