I knew nothing about Pastured Poultry until I decided to raise a few meat birds for us to put in the freezer. I mean, I got them for $1 marked down at TSC, so why wouldn’t I grab a few? 😉 Jeff was not impressed with my decision, but I was able to hide them from him for about a week before I told him that more chicks just appeared. Chicken math is a real thing, and I am not sure how it happens, but they multiply so quickly (LOL).
To be completely honest, I knew nothing about meat chickens. Of course, I knew that they were bred for meat consumption, but I didn’t pay much attention to anything else. Boy, did I learn a lot quickly! Like how fast they grow and how heavy they get (especially when you raise them in your basement and you carry them up the stairs and back down each day so they can spend time outside). Eight weeks rolled around, and they were huge but very healthy. Since these meat birds are bred for fast growth for meat consumption, it puts a lot of strain on their bodies. Carrying all that weight around is a lot of work, and they get tired easily.
Eight weeks is about the cutoff date for these birds. When they start getting older than that, your risk for developing issues increases. I wanted to learn how to butcher my own chickens, but I didn’t have anyone willing to teach me that had all the proper equipment. I started making phone calls to chicken processing facilities, but I had such a hard time getting them a processing date. Finally, I was able to get them in, but they were way over eight weeks old by this time. I dropped them off and warned them that they were slightly larger than average due to having trouble getting a processing date. Needless to say, they informed me (again, I had no idea what they were supposed to look like…first-time meat chicken mom here) that they were not slightly large, but they were HUGE, like turkey size!
On average, an eight-week-old Cornish Cross will be about 4.5 pounds dressed (after processing). My biggest was 14 POUNDS!!! All the others averaged 9 pounds. However, that being said, I was told they were worried about how the birds would look once they started processing them, but they were surprised by how healthy and good the meat looked. At that moment, I realized how care and nutrition really have an impact on the chicken. I mean, look at how well these birds performed for me, and if they were in your typical poultry house, they probably would have been dead by week 9. These birds are not bred for longevity and can have a long list of health issues including, heart attacks and broken legs.
After this experience, I never wanted to buy chicken from the store again. I started researching right away and finding new local friends with more experience than me. I wanted to try my hands in the processing world before I jumped into this venture. A new friend about an hour away invited me to help process their Thanksgiving turkeys, and I jumped at the opportunity. I was so excited to learn and made the trip on my own to a stranger’s home in the middle of nowhere to make this happen. I had a blast! Not in the sense of killing turkeys. I thank God daily for the food on my plate, and I do not take this process lightly. That said, I made new friends and learned a skill that my ancestors would consider second nature to them.
Learning this skill put me leaps closer to my dream. Providing pastured poultry to my community is a dream worth working for. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the same nutritious and healthy meat that I enjoy from these chickens. So I jumped headfirst into my research. I started watching poultry processing and pastured poultry videos on youtube and found several with Joel Salatin in them. After watching one of his videos, I was completely hooked. This guy spoke my language, and we believe a lot of the same things. He is super knowledgeable and has written numerous books on farming.
The next thing I knew, I caught myself watching and listening to him any chance I got. I wanted to do what he was doing! So my next step was to buy his book, Pastured Poultry Profit$, and learn everything he knew about raising these birds as healthy as possible. I read all 420 pages of his book in just a couple of days.
The planning has begun, and I have a big whiteboard full of notes and ideas. In 2022 I cannot wait to offer pastured poultry to my community and offer them a bird that is leaps and bounds better than what they can buy in the store.