Well, the time has finally come to process our first round of meat chickens. The timing couldn't be more perfect seeing as how we just ate our last scrap of chicken out of the freezer last week for dinner. This year certainly overall was very different than last year's experience in terms of growth and overall behavior. This year I also tracked all costs and weights down to the penny to allow me to get a better grasp on how much I am paying in the end per pound. It was a successful season, and as I expected, I am beyond pleased with the quantity and quality of the birds. We will process the second round in two-three weeks but we are looking at an overly stuffed freezer full of pastured raise poultry to get us through the next year.
Overall, the Rangers behavior seemed to be roughly the same as last year's birds, and the Rolin S were pretty much on par with them. This year however, I did notice that they were not as active and didn't forage quite as much as last year's batch. This could be because of many different reasons. Last year's batch was raised in the cooler months of September-December, whereas this year's were raised in the spring into mid summer. Temperatures have reached into the 90's, and on those days even my layers were seeking cover in the shade. I also got this year's batch from a different feed store, so they could have come from different hatcheries. It's possible that this year's just genetically weren't as driven to forage as last year's. They certainly did their fair share of foraging, but I am comparing this to last year's which stripped the pasture clean of anything green, while this year's have left plenty behind. This year's round however did reach much larger sizes, giving us more meat in the end. I 100% attribute this to raising them in the warmer temperatures, which I mentioned last year that we were constantly battling the cold in trying to get them to gain weight. Foraging aside, they were frequently spotted dust bathing and scratching at the ground, and at night they were up on their roosts.
This year I have been meticulous about tracking costs for the meat chickens in addition to the turkeys and pigs. I personally do not consider infrastructure or things like feeders and waterers in my cost breakdown, because I look at it as an investment that will be used several years down the line. I do consider the initial cost of the chick, all feed, and of course processing (if there is a cost). I broke it down to how much I am paying per bird as well as per pound, because I like to see it both ways.
This first round we processed seventeen out of sixty two of our eleven week old meat birds. We were initially going to do about half, but as we were separating them and weighed the first few, we decided that we wanted to hold off and wait a few weeks to let them get bigger. The breakdown is our cost for the 17 that we did, and I will be curious to see how the numbers work out for the second round. We will have more into feed costs, but we will also have larger dressed birds.
BREAKDOWN FOR FIRST ROUND: 17 PROCESSED:
Cost per chick: $2.05
Feed cost per bird: $4.46
Total Cost Per Bird $6.51
Total Cost (17) Birds $110.67
Total Dressed Weight 99 pounds
Average Dress Weight 5.8 pounds
Total Cost Per Pound $1.11
For the first round, the smallest dressed weight was 5 pounds, and the largest was 6.5 pounds with an average of 5.8 pounds. We had $6.51 into each bird for cost between the price of the chick, and the feed. We did the processing ourselves, so that saved us $3 per bird! That $6.51 cost multiplied by the 17 birds we processed gave us a total cost of $110.67. That cost, divided by the 99 pounds of total dressed meat we put in our freezer gave us an average of $1.11 per pound!! That is an incredible price, and not only is it over $6 less per pound than grocery store "organic" chicken, and $2-$3 less than "regular/not organic " in the different cuts (breast, tenderloin, etc) but it's homegrown, home processed, and superior meat for a fraction of the cost. This doesn't even factor in the gallons chicken stock that will come from these bird's bones as well.
Overall, I am beyond thrilled with these birds, and when you breakdown the numbers - they don't lie! I am always up for trying something new, so I am considering giving the Freedom Rangers a go around next year to see how they measure up. I will report back with the cost breakdown for the second round of birds in a few weeks.
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