We have now raised and butchered 3 batches of meat chickens and have another batch in the brooder. I did an in-depth cost analysis for the first batch which I posted here: MEAT CHICKENS Unfortunately I did not keep quite as detailed records for the next 2 batches, but I’m going to use what I do have to compare them as best as I can.
Our 2nd batch was much like the first. We ordered Rainbow Ranger chicks from Meyer Hatchery, which are basically the same thing as the Red Ranger chicks from Murray McMurray hatchery. Since we saw a marked difference in carcass weight between the male and female Red Rangers, I bought just males this time. I ordered 25 at $2.56 each plus $14.99 shipping. I chose not to vaccinate them this time. It seemed like a waste to vaccinate chicks that were going to live in a fairly controlled environment and be in the freezer in just a few months. We did get 2 extra chicks with our order, so the total purchase was $78.99 for 27 chicks or $2.92 each. That’s a $.68 less per chick than our first batch.
With our first batch we used a 250-watt heat lamp which used a lot of energy. My estimated cost for energy for the heat lamp was $42 for 6 weeks, or $1.17 per chick for that batch. I was excited to discover an alternative to the heat lamp – the Premier One Heat plate shown here: https://www.premier1supplies.com/p/heating-plates-and-covers?cat_id=226 It was pricey, but uses about 1/3 of the power and is much safer! Heat lamps have been known to catch fire and burn down homes and barns, so it was well worth the price for the peace of mind and energy savings. We also did not have to have the heat on for the chicks full time since the weather was warmer. The heat plate was on constantly for only the first 2 weeks. After that we ran it only at night for another 3 weeks. So it only cost about $7.00 to keep the chicks warm, which is a $35 savings for this batch. We had our laying breed chicks and meat breed chicks all in the brooder together (total of 52!) and still used just one bag of shavings for bedding at $5. Price per meat chick for heat and bedding was only $.23!
Batch 1: $4.91/chick, Batch 2: $3.15/chick, savings of $1.76 per chick!
These chicks had the same crazy appetites as the first batch, and ate the same amount of food except that half of them had an extra week to grow just because we were crazy busy this Summer and didn’t get all the butchering done right on schedule. I’m estimating the number of bags of food we went through based on the numbers from the first batch. We did however use a combination of the natural feed from Tractor Supply at $17 per bag and non-GMO, non-Soy feed from our local co-op $18 per bag. Two chickens died at about 8 weeks old, so our feed price per chick that made it to butcher is for total of 26 chicks.
$90.00 for 5 bags non-gmo feed (18.00)
$154.00 for 8 bags all natural feed (17.99 + tax)
Total feed cost: $244/26 = $9.38 per chick
$3.15 starting cost plus $9.38 to feed = $12.53 per chicken
Divide that by an average weight of 4.33lbs and our price per pound of meat comes out to $2.89 per pound! That’s much better than the $3.45-4.05 per pound price for our first batch!!! We saved money on the chicks, the heat, the feed, and came out with more meat because we raised all males and didn’t butcher any early. It was a really successful batch.
For the 3rd batch, I wanted to try something different. I believe I wrote at some point about how the Ranger chicks are so different that the laying-breed chicks. All they do is eat desperately and they don’t seem to act like regular chickens. I felt bad for them. Part of the reason we are raising our own meat is to ensure that the animals have a decent life before they become our food. So I decided we would try some heavy-breed chickens that were traditionally raised as dual-purpose (meat and eggs) chickens before commercial meat chicken operations came into existence. We ordered what’s called the “Fry Pan Bargain” from Meyer Hatchery. It’s an assortment of heavy-breed roosters at a bargain price. They do not get as large as the Ranger chickens and they take longer to reach butchering size, but they consume a lot less food. Here are our costs for that batch:
The chicks themselves truly were a bargain at only $.60 each!!! Again I did not have them vaccinated. We ordered 26 chicks and received 28, and our price per chick including shipping was only $1.12!!! The heat cost and bedding cost were the same at $.23 each. We didn’t lose any chicks after losing one the first week. We used exclusively the Tractor Supply natural feed cause we missed the ordering deadline for the co-op. We butchered these chickens at about 18-19 weeks old. They did eat a lot less, they did act like real chickens, and they need longer to grow. Our assortment consisted of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Australorpe, and a single Blue Ameraucana.
Total starting costs $1.35
12 total bags of Tractor Supply natural feed $231 comes out to $8.55 per chick
Total cost per chicken $9.90!
They did butcher out at lower weights than the Rangers, even with the extra few weeks of growth. Our average weight per dressed-out chicken was only 2.5 pounds. That brings our price per pound to $3.96 which is at the higher end of what we paid the first time. However, these guys seemed like a lot more work because we had to feed them and water them and move their tractor daily for an extra 6 weeks. They also had a lower percentage of breast meat which is what our family would prefer to eat the most of. Plus butchering was just as much work, but for less meat. Labor “costs” were higher for this batch. And since they act like real chickens and grew up more they had started crowing and scrapping with each other a little in the last few weeks. Overall the Fry Pan Bargain was not a bargain for us. Perhaps if we raised them free-range and they were able to forage enough to cut down further on feed costs it would be worth it, but that’s not an option for us with our current set-up. However, one advantage to this batch was that we actually ended up with a few laying hens! We got 4 females by accident! One Australorpe, 2 Barred Rocks, and the single Blue Ameraucana are all hens. The Ranger females weren’t worth keeping because they ate so much food so they were really just a meat breed. But getting a few female dual-purpose chicks is like getting a bonus! We moved them to the barn to join the laying flock as soon as we started suspecting they were hens and they are now very close to laying age. If I were to sell them now I could probably get $15-20 each for them. Because we got those extra hens, I was able to sell more of our laying breed pullets than I initially had planned. If I take that into account as part of the value of the Fry Pan Bargain, it would bring the price per pound down enough to make this batch totally worth it. However, since I wouldn’t want to count on getting a “bonus” again, we will probably not order the Fry Pan Bargain again. It was just too much more work and didn’t save us any money. I can be okay with the not-quite-fully-chicken-acting Rangers.
We are now a couple of weeks into our 4th batch of meat chickens, this time the CornishX Franken-chickens! I am very curious to see how our numbers turn out with these fast-growing-eating-machines.