Let’s look at the basic expenses involved in raising meat chickens; without much effort, you can have significant effects on your overall budget.
Why We Raise Meat Chickens
We raise egg-laying hens and meat chickens using the permaculture approach. This approach allows us to use chickens in garden spaces to till and fertilize and take advantage of how chickens reduce pests and disease in orchards.
We work hard towards the goal of maintaining a self-sufficient farm. Raising our own meat chickens allows us to fill our freezer and sell meat for profit.
While Freedom Ranger meat chickens are a popular choice, we raise Cornish Cross meat chickens because they, too, produce a lot of meat, but Cornish Cross birds grow faster.
Instead of buying organic chicken from the store (which can be expensive), we prefer to raise them ourselves.
Raising chickens organically is more costly than just buying conventional chicken meat from the store, but it’s less than buying organic chicken, and this way, we can control the environment and the feed sources.
Building a chicken tractor allows for free-range birds that eat organic feed. Combining this quality of life with a humane approach to butchering chickens, the quality of meat produced couldn’t be better.
Why Organic is Better
While it’s true that raising organic meat chickens cost more than GMO meat chickens, we have found that organic meat is healthier and tastes better.
In addition to quality and flavor, we value the sacrifice our farm animals make to sustain us and strive to give them the best possible life. Although meat chickens live a relatively short life, they are not meant to be cooped up in dark cages eating grain all day.
Free-ranging chickens allow them to move, scratch, and forage in natural light, mimicking their natural environment.
It’s no secret that there are health concerns related to conventional meat production. This knowledge begs us to ask how much you are saving in the long run by purchasing commercial meat.
Investing in quality food for our bodies undeniably impacts our long-term health.
Duration of Raising Meat Chickens
The best part about raising Cornish Cross meat chickens is that they are ready to be butchered within eight weeks of hatching. So the time and work commitment are minimal when compared to other breeds.
Cornish Cross chickens will have 4 to 6 pounds of meat ready to be harvested at eight weeks.
Cost of Setup
There is an upfront investment when raising chickens. You will typically need a brooder, a chicken coop, and a chicken tractor. Do your research to learn the basic needs of a chicken coop, and check out these 5 methods of chicken coops that I recommend.
Build a chick shaw to combine your coop and chicken tractor, which helps cut costs and allows you to move your chickens to any part of your farm. Using leftover materials that you already have around the farm is an excellent way to save money on a coop.
The setup investment will be less significant on the wallet if you already have egg-laying chickens.
Where to Buy Baby Meat Chicks
Once you take the leap to raise organic meat chickens, you will need to purchase your baby chicks. We buy Cornish Cross chicks from McMurray Hatchery and have them shipped to us.
You can purchase chicks from other hatcheries or your local tractor supply store.
We buy our feed in bulk because it keeps the cost of raising meat chickens down. We buy a pallet of feed and minerals. A pallet carries up to 45 bags of feed or minerals. Our pallet came from Virginia, so there was no sales tax.
Pro-Tip: Before purchasing chicken feed, it’s essential to learn the nutritional needs of chickens. This understanding will help you determine the amount of feed you need depending on other foods you use to supplement your chickens’ diet.
If you do not need 45 bags of feed and still want the price of pallet feed, you can consider splitting the cost with friends, neighbors or a local co-op.
We purchased 31 bags of organic chick starter feed, six bags of layer feed, and five bags of organic chicken minerals. The shipping cost for those 42 bags was $163 ($3.80 per bag).
When we buy in bulk, the feed cost is approximately $33.38. Individual feed bags can cost upwards of $40 per bag plus tax.
Cost to Raise Meat Chickens
Here is the basic cost of raising meat chickens, assuming the initial setup investment has already been covered. Over eight weeks, our total to raise and butcher 57 meat chickens came to approximately $900.
Our 57 meat chickens had 261 pounds at butcher weight to process. On average, each chicken weighed 4 ½ pounds.
- Baby Chicks – 57 baby chicks delivered to our home were $184.
- Shavings/Bedding – We bought two bags of shavings from a local tractor supply store. Each bag costs $12.82.
- Feed and Minerals – We bought 31 bags of feed and minerals. We used 18 bags for our meat chickens. Each bag came to approximately $33.38.
- Shipping – Shipping a pallet of feed was $163 and came to approximately $3.80 a bag.
- Freezer Bags or Seal Bags – We used 57 seal bags which cost $22.42.
Our cost analysis looks like this: ($184) chicks + (2 x$12.82) shavings + (18 x $33.38) feed and minerals + (18 x $3.80) shipping + ($22.42) sealable bags = Total costs $901.22 / 261lbs of chicken = $3.45 cost per pound.
Our cost to raise meat chickens was $3.45 per pound. Whole Foods’ price was $3.99 per pound for organic chicken. If you want to buy local organic farm-raised chickens, the cost can be up to $6 per pound. With the way the cost of groceries has been rising, I think it’s time to invest in some meat chickens for your family!
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