If you have watched any YouTube-r, TikTok-er, or other social media influencer, you’ve probably seen them butcher and process 50-100 chickens in one shot. Maybe you tried that and it didn’t work. Or maybe you are currently doing that but it’s just not working well for you, your family and your schedule. You are not alone. So how do we raise meat chickens?
Before we bought our property, we researched like crazy. We wanted to be as prepared as possible. Also, we knew that there was going to be a ton of trial and error. That was okay. We were learning as we went and are still learning. But one of the biggest lessons we learned on the homestead was that raising meat chickens 50-100 at a time, simply doesn’t work for us.
I talked about a lot of the things we did in our post about Raising Meat Chickens Humanely. There were somethings that I didn’t mention in that post though. The first is that butchering out 50 chickens in one shot is freaking hard. We only had 25 that made it out of our first batch, and I’m not going to lie, I won’t do that again.
Another thing that we learned was that the space that 25, 50 or 100 chickens take up is a lot. If you don’t have that space, then this may not be a good option. And it’s not just freezer space. If you aren’t going to free range them, you have to have a ton of tractors which means moving them a lot. If you do free range them and put them up at night? It’s still a lot of space for you to find.
Processing them is another issue when it comes to space. You’ve got to have a ton of coolers or other ways to store the meat until it’s ready for the freezer. If you’re going to freeze them whole? That’s another huge space taker. Parting the chicken out is good and will save space, but not a lot.
So how do we raise meat chickens now?
Well, to start at the beginning, we hatch our own eggs. We’ve got a couple of different roosters and a ton of hens that lay us about 10-20 eggs a day…. When we can find them. We only raise dual purpose birds. This helps make sure that no matter what eggs hatch, we will have a meat chicken. Then we put them into this incubator. In 21 days we see what all hatched.
Then we brood them inside and once they are mostly feathered, we put them in our old chicken coop. They free range with the big chickens and get to do all the chicken sh
it stuff they want. Once they are big enough, usually a couple of months, we spend the day butchering and processing them. It is a much more relaxed and low stress day. In fact, Jared can usually do it on his own. This frees me up to do whatever else is needed.
Because we do it this way there are a lot of perks
- It’s a couple hour process vs a couple of days
- We don’t have to spend money ordering more chickens every year
- Zero leg issues (unless accidental)
- If we can’t get to it, the birds aren’t going to drop dead because of weight
- Lower stress on everyone
- Fits into our schedule a lot better
- They are healthier
- Smaller batches mean less space used in the freezers
- Less feed bought
- If we want to keep a chick we can replace our laying hens
- Have to process more often
- More feed, over a longer period due to slower growth
- If hens don’t lay eggs, or roos don’t fertilize, we don’t have chicks
- Predator loss is a bigger issue than if you are raising 50-100 instead of 10.
- Power goes out, we lose eggs
- Chicks in the house more often than I want.
Raise Meat Chickens The Way YOU Want To
Whether you raise a years worth of chickens in one shot, or you spread it out like we do, the most important thing is that you do it humanely and in a way this is right for you. The greatest thing about homesteading is that there is no right or wrong way. You can have livestock or not. You could love cattle and not chickens.
If you dread processing day because it’s a multi day affair? Try doing smaller batches with your own incubator.
Regardless of how you do it, just know that you are feeding your family the best possible chicken you can.