Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Do you keep livestock? Having any problems? Want to talk about it, whether it be sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, bees or llamas, here is your place to discuss.
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carolinew
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Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179468Post carolinew
Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:17 am

We've spent the last few years concentrating on growing veg, then fruit, and then adding hens for eggs. We're now starting to look at providing some of our own meat.

We live in a semi with a relatively small garden, and have an allotment. At the moment we have a hidden corner of the garden which we've turned into 'the farmyard' - a big aviary with a corrugated plastic roof and deep litter - in which we keep our pet hen and rabbit. We started off with 2 of each animal, hens separated from rabbits, but a visit from a fox climbing all over the aviary resulted in one hen and one rabbit dying of shock. The remaining hen and rabbit were gradually introduced to each other, and are now firm friends. The rabbit thinks she's a hen now, bless her - and even went broody sitting on eggs at one point during the summer! They roost together at night on top of the rabbit hutch, as the hen no longer uses the hen coop.

There is plenty of space left in there to comfortably house more rabbits or hens or quail, as it was built to comfortably house and exercise 15 hens, just in case, with an eye to the future.

On the half allotment we have next to our vegetable allotment we keep 4 hens for eggs in a tractor which is easily suitable for 10 hens.

All of our hens are let out to free range whenever we're around to protect them - there are far too many foxes around (day and night) to just leave them to it.

There is a reasonable amount of space left both in our garden and at the allotment to keep more livestock. The advantages of having them at home, of course, is that we're able to care for them more intensively. But there is plenty of space for lower maintenance livestock at the allotment, and there is a pretty positive response to poultry there - both from the committee and the plot holders.

We would like to branch out into something to raise for meat next year, and so are beginning to fact find now to give us plenty of time to learn, train and prepare.

Can anyone advise us as to what would be best for our circumstances? We'd love to get some chicks in and raise them. But as we're in a semi, completely surrounded by neighbours in a very urban setting, we couldn't risk any cockerel crowing! And presumably by definition one has no idea what sex chicks are when you get them. As we'd be looking at them being about 16 weeks old before they met their destiny :salute: , would crowing be an issue?

If so, perhaps ducks would be a better option for us? I find the idea of ducks more intimidating, but I'm probably being silly.

Another possibility we've played with is a couple of geese at the allotment, in a reinforced fruit cage along with the hens on the half allotment we have which is grass and orchard, but with separate housing. In my teens my family had a smallholding, and one of my chores was to feed and shut in the geese and hens. My favourites were always the geese - I loved them. But I didn't have to kill or pluck them, or do anything complicated with them which would involve handling them, so I strongly suspect I didn't see the 'darker side' :iconbiggrin: Although they thought about being aggressive to me on occasion, so long as I wasn't frightened and didn't back off there was never a problem, and I got on very well with them.
They co-existed very happily free ranging with our hens and ducks - but then they had a big field and pond to live in. So I was wondering if a half allotment would be too little space for them to get on happily together?

As you can see, we're very much at the 'dreaming' stage at the moment, but are wanting to find out some facts to give our various dreams a reality check, and begin to see what would be a viable route forward. Hopefully someone can give us some good advice to set us on the right track.
Last edited by carolinew on Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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red
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Re: Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179470Post red
Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:25 am

chickens for meat - you would probably be looking at more like 20 weeks old - and they definitely start crowing early.. one of mine started at 8 weeks! but 12 weeks is more normal. they are nto loud at first.. but soon, with too many boys all trying to be top boy... there is way too much crowing.

certain breeds do give away their gender as little chicks..b ut you would have to harden yourself to killing off the boys as littlies.

obviously without your own cockerel you would have to buy in either eggs or day old chicks, so you would have to add that expense to the equation

ducks can be very noisy too - but you could consider muscovy ducks.. they dont quack.
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Re: Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179473Post Gert
Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:34 pm

I can only agree with Red

Ducks would be too noisy, they are much more vocal than hens.

Your best bet is a cross that can be sexed as day olds, but then you have to kill chicks :pale: or buy in sexed chicks which would prove expensive.

Maybe think of the alternative meats you could rear.

best of luck with it

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Re: Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179660Post alec-ish
Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:40 pm

if you were to keep ducks you would need to consider some water i have met people who keep ducks without water but i do really think this is unfair they dont need much water only enough to have a paddle and a wash about the size of a small bath is ideal ...have you thought about goats they dont need too much space just a very secure encolsure as they will eat anythink your growing given half a chance i love goat meat its very tastey and of corse you have the added bonus of milk......and have you though about breeding your rabbits for meat?

carolinew
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Re: Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179678Post carolinew
Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:26 pm

It sounds from your advice that our best bet would be muscovy ducks (with a paddling pool or similar) or rabbits.

I don't think we're ready for a goat as yet, although we love the idea. We sometimes have to go away for a few days and rely on a neighbour to look after the animals, so we have them set up so they're very easy to care for.

It would be interesting to know what sexed chicks cost, though. Does anyone have any idea? I strongly suspect they would be too expensive to be viable, though.

Thanks so much, everyone, for your tips and advice.

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Re: Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179684Post JulieSherris
Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:24 pm

Muscovies don't need a lot of water, they like a little splash here & there, but nothing more.
And no, they don't quack, they hiss!! They also roost like hens, and the eggs are very low in cholesterol. But they do like to be in a little 'gang' - we keep losing our girl muscovy to the farm next door, so I shall be getting some more ducks in next week!

There are some breeds of hens that grow a lot quicker than the usual 20ish weeks, why not have a look & see if you can get hold of some of those?

And then there's rabbits - and you get to do neat things with the furs as well :iconbiggrin:
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carolinew
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Re: Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179692Post carolinew
Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:53 pm

JulieSherris wrote:Muscovies don't need a lot of water, they like a little splash here & there, but nothing more.
And no, they don't quack, they hiss!! They also roost like hens, and the eggs are very low in cholesterol. But they do like to be in a little 'gang' - we keep losing our girl muscovy to the farm next door, so I shall be getting some more ducks in next week!

There are some breeds of hens that grow a lot quicker than the usual 20ish weeks, why not have a look & see if you can get hold of some of those?

And then there's rabbits - and you get to do neat things with the furs as well :iconbiggrin:
:iconbiggrin: I saw your thread on rabbit furs a few days ago. I think we definitely will go the rabbit route, but I'd like some kind of poultry as well.

Thanks for the info on the Muscovies - they sound increasingly like they'd work well for us. Do you have any idea whether they could be carefully introduced into the 'Farmyard' to co-exist with the hen and rabbit? Or would we need to partition it if we put them there? There are lots of high up places to roost in there (including the hen coop, actually, which is currently abandoned!). We put lots of different levels and interesting things around for the hens when we built it, so that they'd have more fun when we weren't around to let them out in the garden.

I suspect the faster growing chicken breeds are where I got my 16 weeks from? I definitely came across that in several places when I was having a mooch around the net at chickens for meat, which is why I put it on my original post. I was a bit surprised when I read Red's comment that they actually need to be 20 weeks, although not astonished. I know we know very little at the moment and have stacks to learn.

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Re: Raising chickens / ducks for meat

Post: # 179695Post JulieSherris
Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:07 pm

Caroline, I've only had the muscovies in for the last 3 weeks, but they live quite happily alongside the hens, no bother. They are very quiet birds, but just so cute!

Where my roosters & the male guinea fowl will sometimes still have a bit of a peck at each other every now & again, it's as though the ducks don't/can't see the hens & vice versa!! They just totally ignore one another out there - kinda funny to watch though.

When I was researching muscovies, I came across this snippet which made the decision to get them in a no-brainer!
Quote from the feathersite:
The meat of the Muscovy is unlike that of the other domestic ducks. It is not greasy and is much more like veal than like poultry. In Taiwan and Europe they often use the Mule Duck, a hybrid of the Muscovy with Mallard-derivatives, as a meat bird.

The resulting hybrid from a mallard/muscovy cross will be infertile as well, so that makes them perfect for the table!
So we're looking forward to our duck dinners next year - can't wait! :iconbiggrin:
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