Learn about the basics of feeding and caring for meatbirds.
With the help of Nutrena and Blain’s Farm & Fleet, you can learn how to feed and care for your meatbirds. You’ll know which birds are best for meat production and what they need to have a successful growth rate. In addition to the meatbirds listed below, you can also find out which chickens are best for meat production with our poultry guide.
Caring for Meatbird Chicks
Raising meatbirds is quite similar to raising layers or non-meatbirds. The most important part to remember is giving them enough space to grow. Their growth rate is more substantial than laying birds, and they’ll become too big for a brooder that might seem like the right size. With meatbirds, you need to plan to expand your brooder to allow the chicks enough space to get bigger. It’s essential to keep your brooder dry and clean–it keeps the birds comfortable, helps prevent disease and discourages the development of flies.
Types of Meatbird Breeds
Dual purpose breeds can be raised for meat or eggs. Traditional dual purpose breeds include Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks. They’re the slowest to the finish and are usually harvested around 22 weeks of age. They have less developmental problems than hybrid meat birds and typically yield less meat.
Red Rangers are a happy medium between Cornish Cross and dual purpose breeds. They’re typically harvested between 12 – 14 weeks. They have less developmental problems than Cornish Cross, and aren’t as delicate. They’re also better foragers than Cornish Cross. Their meat yield is in between dual purpose and Cornish Cross.
Cornish Cross are hybrid birds, and they’re the most common meatbird. They’re economical when it comes to feed-to-meat conversion, as they’re typically ready for harvest around eight weeks. If you choose to raise Cornish Cross, it’s important to know they can have problems with organ failure and leg issues because of their rapid growth rate. It’s best to keep Cornish separate from other species in your flock. They’re only suitable for meat production.
Dual purpose chicks can be fed a meatbird ration from the start. If you have straight run chicks and you’re not sure yet which ones are males, you can use chick starter. Once you know which ones will be harvested, you can switch them to a meatbird feed.
For hybrid birds, you’ll want to give them a meatbird ration from the start because of their quick growth rate. With a meatbird ration, the birds will get the right protein amounts and amino acid levels to promote muscle development and growth. Meatbirds have been developed to quickly put on muscle mass, which means the feed ration must be balanced to ensure the right nutrients are there for internal organ and skeletal development. Without the right feed ration, leg issues and organ failure can occur. For more tips on selecting the right chicken feed, read through our chicken feed buyer’s guide.
At Blain’s Farm & Fleet, we know farm animals, big and small. Whether you want to raise chickens for meat or egg production, you can trust the animal experts to have everything you need to take care of your flock. During Chick Days you can even order chicks and pick them up at your local Blain’s Farm & Fleet. Learn more about the care and keeping of your birds with our chicken blog articles.