What type of infrastructure is needed?
Is it challenging to keep this animal confined?
Free Range Mama: We use an empty coop and run or chicken tractor. It is not hard to contain chickens.
Carmen: My husband and oldest boys (Noah, 15 and Isaac 10) built a chicken coop specifically for our meat birds. (We have a chicken house in part of our outbuilding for our egg layers.) It’s not too hard to keep them confined. The fence is tall enough. The boys do have to be careful when going into the coop so the chickens don’t make a run for it.
What is the greatest challenge in raising this particular type of animal?
Free Range Mama: The biggest challenge is to buy feed (they eat a lot), keep them safe from predators, and keep up with cleanup when in a chicken coop. You can’t do deep litter method with them because they are so messy!
Carmen: We buy roosters because they are so much cheaper, but man, are they ornery!
What is the greatest asset to raising this animal for meat?
Free Range Mama: The greatest asset to raising chickens for meat is knowing exactly what the chickens were fed, that they lived a healthy and were processed humanely.
Carmen: We eat a lot of chicken. With a family of 11 we can well consume two chickens at one meal. Like I said before, knowing where it came from is a big bonus.
How do you keep your food costs under control?
Do you grow your own hay or seeds for your animals?
Free Range Mama: We do not grow our own feed. We don’t have enough property for it. We buy organic feed and find it comes out marginally cheaper than store-bought. But we aren’t in it for cost. We hope to someday mix our own feed but haven’t been able to come up with the right recipe and a convenient method yet.
Carmen: We buy feed at the local mill, but we have a run for them that’s big enough that they can catch bugs and what-not. Some times the boys will let a few out to forage through the yard to get more bugs.
No. We don’t have enough land for that.
Do you process your own meat?
Free Range Mama: Yes we process the chickens ourselves.
Carmen: Yes! My husband and oldest son do the deed of chopping their heads off (sorry, no delicate way to put it!), my mom (who lives with us) helps my oldest daughter to gut the birds, three of our kiddos defeather them, the 6 and 4 year old, baby and I will stay out of site. Last year I was pregnant during butchering time so I was happy to stay inside with the little ones. Besides, I cook all our meals so I do something! : )
What else would you add for someone wanting to get started?
Free Range Mama: Raising your own food teaches children as well as adults about empathy, gratitude, appreciation for the work involved and the life given, and health. I wouldn’t do it any other way!