Poultry Tally

Dateline: 2 September 2015

Big meat birds, awaiting their fate.

The looming Y2k crisis was sufficient incentive to start raising our own meat birds some 17 years ago. The crisis never materialized, but we've farmed a couple of chicken tractors full of Cornish X birds on the lawn around our house every year since then, except for the last three years. 

We stopped raising meat birds because our boys were mostly grown up and not around to help. Besides that, a nearby friend was raising and selling chickens (thanks, Pat). And the Planet Whizbang home business was consuming enormous amounts of time. 

It's kind of ironic that raising our own chickens (or, more specifically, butchering them in the backyard) was pretty much the Genesis of my Whizbang business, and it prospered to the point that I didn't feel I had time to raise chickens any more. There is something wrong with that.

But this year, I'm pleased to report, two chicken tractors with Cornish X birds once again graced our lawn, and people once again drove by our house, rubbernecking at the spectacle.

We decided to get back into raising meat birds because we wanted our grandson, Futureman, to be exposed to and involved with the chickens, even if for a short time while visiting. Besides that, I actually enjoy raising and processing chickens. 

I know that many people who read this blog are familiar with, and experienced with, raising and processing their meat birds, and the internet is now chock full of useful chicken-raising information, so I won't discuss any of that here. Instead, I'd like to simply report on the cost of raising the birds, and the final crop tally for our larder. 

This is the sort of information that many who are looking at the prospect of raising their own meat birds like to know. And it's something that, if I post it here, I can refer back to in the future.


We purchased 50 day-old Cornish X chicks from Reich Poultry Farms in Marietta, Pennsylvania. Reich's is where we have almost always gotten our chicks. They came to us in the mail. 51 were in the box. One was dead on arrival. Total cost for the 50 chicks was $85.75.

Prior to the arrival of the chicks, I purchased 900 pounds of organic chicken feed from Lakeview Organic Grain in Penn Yan, New York. Specifically, I got 200 pounds of their chick starter ration and 700 pounds of their broiler mix. Total cost for this feed was $453.50, which is 50-cents a pound.

We already owned the chicken tractors, feeders and watering equipment, so there was no expense there. Once you have such things, they should last you many years.


We raised the chickens for seven weeks and a couple days and ended up with 45 birds. Five died. This is normal, though always disturbing. 

I butchered 15 chickens every afternoon for three days (by myself), using my Whizbang chicken plucker, and Whizbang chicken scalder, and Whizbang outdoor sink, with it's nifty Whizbang Toe-Tapper Faucet Switch.

One shrink-bagged chicken breast, with more parted chickens in the background (stock pot with backs & necks in upper left of picture).

My procedure was to kill, pluck, and eviscerate 15 birds in the afternoon and put the whole birds in a big ice chest of cold water overnight. Then, the next afternoon, before likewise processing another 15, I brought the previous day's birds in the kitchen and cut them up, as the above picture shows.

We no longer freeze whole birds, opting instead to part the meat and package in smaller portions. Legs, wings and breasts are packaged separately. Backs and necks are made into stock. Canning jars of chicken stock are highly valued by the cook (my wife, Marlene).

For those who are interested, I have written about parting and bagging chicken parts for the freezer at this link: Cutting & Bagging For Freezing.

And I have written about how Marlene makes and cans chicken stock at this link: Making Chicken Stock.

A photo tutorial explaining how we use a heat gun and poultry shrink bags to package the chicken parts is at this link: Shrink-Bagging Poultry Parts (scroll to the bottom for heat-gun shrinking information).

Shrink-bagged parts, ready for the freezer.

Our meat-in-the-freezer yield for this year's crop of chickens was 189 pounds. 90 pounds of that is breast meat. 99 pounds is legs and wings. 

The backs and necks that went into stock yielded 45 quarts.

We figure this amount of yield translates into at least 150 meals. Meat is rarely the main part of a meal in our home; it's more of a side dish, or "supporting player."

The per-pound cost for the meat comes out to $2.85

However, that cost is technically less because we ended up with about 100 pounds of feed left over. If I subtract that 100 pounds from the calculation, the per-pound price of the meat comes down to $2.59.

The extra 100 pounds of broiler mix went to our two pigs. They don't seem to mind that it was intended for poultry.

The best part of all this is, of course, that we know our chickens were well cared for. They had fresh grass to browse each day. Fresh air, sunshine, occasional bugs, and clean water too. And they were carefully processed with a keen eye towards cleanliness (no fecal soup bath). 

It has been awhile since I said it but.... This sort of thing is an excellent example of "the good life" that we have deliberately chosen to live here on our little section of God's created order.

And I'm very glad to be enjoying this aspect of the good life once again.


Marsh Creek Farmstead said...

Congradulations on your yeild. i had very similar results on a 75 bird run this year. You are the reason I started raising meat birds and I use the full lineup of planet whizbang products for processing.

My 3 year old Son and I raise them together and my Dad and I do the processing (with "help" from my 3 year old son). I do have to say that 75 birds at one time is too many. In previous years I had only raised 35 birds at a time.

Im thankful for the opportunity to be able to learn the chicken raising and processing skills and hope to be able to use them for many years. especially because i can no longer stand the look, smell of, or to eat store bought chicken!

Thanks for your inspiration!!

Becky said...

Thank you for posting your data! I am curious about the choice to grow Cornish X chickens. I "met" those birds for the first time this year and they are very strange birds. They don't fly or walk around very much. Do you think you'll ever try a different breed? I recently discovered a website that seems to be old, but full of great information. They even mention your Whizbang Plucker! Anyway, he has an opinion about the Cornish Cross: http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Cornish-Cross.html

I have been following your blog for a while now, and am so grateful for the ideas you post. I gardened with plastic covering the ground this year for the first time and it made all the difference in the world. A beautiful crop is coming in that I wouldn't have had without the ground covers.

I am working hard to break free from the system, one chicken at a time.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

If you wanted to make a bit of organic cat food, freezing raw chicken neck (including the bone) in 1-inch long pieces is an idea. You then give the cat the thawed 1-inch chunk. It is good for the cat's teeth to pull the meat off the bone, and safe for them to eat raw bones. (Cooked bones splinter, don't give them cooked bones.) An alternative holistic veterinarian recommended this to me years ago.

Another thing is, do you make bone broth from the bones after you have made a meal of the chicken? Basically, you cook down the bones to liquid (strain and discard part that floats up to top). It goes faster in a pressure cooker, but it is not be to able to discard the stuff that floats up to the top. Bone broth is pure gold for health. The Weston A Price Foundation has information on this.

Thanks for sharing how the dollars and cents worked out. Organic chicken is expensive when purchased and you don't really know what the chicken was fed.


Herrick Kimball said...

Marsh Creek Farmstead—
I inspired you to raise your own chickens and process them? That is really nice to hear. Thank you.

We raise the Cornish X because we started with them and have had good success, and most everyone raises them. But they are kind of freakish in that they grow so big in such short time, and they are prone to dying all of a sudden.

My friend, Pat, raised Freedom Rangers last year and had good success. They tasted the same to me. But they are, apparently, more "normal" chickens. I'd like to try them.

Thank you for the link. I will read it.

And I'm delighted to know that plastic in the garden has worked well for you. I have surely had more garden success using plastic for mulch and occultation covers.

Good idea on the necks. I'll file that bit of information away. My two shop cats must have really good teeth, as they catch mice and moles and birds every day, and eat them, or most of them. I wish I could somehow prevent them form getting birds. That is discouraging.

I have heard bone broth is really good for a body. I think Marlene has made it with beef bones in the past.

Thanks for the comment.

Sheila Gilbert said...

I think you just convinced me to finally start growing some chickens! I have always wanted to, however I could never get a "pat" answer to what the cost would be. Now that I see this, I'm convinced, and this will save me so much, that it's more than worth it. I purchased chicken from a local producer, and I'm so spoiled by the taste, and lack of chemicals and water that is NOT in them, that I just can't bring myself to buy "grocery stores chickens" anymore. It has gotten so bad, that I can't even bring it to my mouth most times. My local producer is VERY expensive now, and I can't pay $5.00 a pound anymore. I don't need 50 chickens right away, I'm still learning, but I can afford to start with about 25, and that should be right in the price range I can afford to start out. Now that chickens are processed in China, and shipped back to us, I can't get near them. They really are that bad. I can't thank you enough for this information, it was indeed a "God Send" to me. Bless, Sheila

Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

In hard times to come, my husband and I plan to raise rabbits for meat. I guess a person needs just a tiny place, a few square feet to raise them, compared to raising chickens for meat and using a tractor. Sure looks so neat. We live on top of a mountain, and make a few "benches" using our excavator. That is how we have flat places for our gardens, and orchards. Still everything 'bout growing and harvesting poultry seems so wholesome and wonderful. Well done.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Sheila—
Grocery store chicken is mystery chicken, for sure. There is a minimum number of birds that hatcheries will ship through the mail. 25 might be possible. But if you have a local ag store, they often have broiler chicks in the spring and you can buy less than 25. You might want to start with less, if possible, to start, especially if you are new to meat birds, and more especially if you happen to be raising them yourself.

Rabbits sound good. I helped a neighbor butcher rabbits once years ago. He killed them by whacking them in the head with a hammer.

In hard times to come, I don't suppose that I'll be raising the Cornish X meat birds. Being hybrids, needing a steady high-protein ration, and having little foraging instinct, they strike me as an industrial-system-dependent chicken.

I suppose it depends on how hard the hard times actually get. In a worse case scenario any kind of chicken will taste good and a small flock of egg layers that can pretty much fend for themselves (during the non-winter months) would be the thing to have. My first expereince butchering chickens was with some scrappy little bantams that a friend had. They ran loose and pretty much raised themselves. They were not fat, but they were edible. As I remember it, after plucking and cleaning the birds, he stuffed them in canning jars (one per jar fit just right) and canned them whole.