Black australorps as broilers

Bagged chickensI was bound and determined to
lower our
conversion rate
year, so I decided to think outside the box and try to raise
breed chickens
meat.  My hypothesis was that these avid foragers wouldn’t get as
big as heavy broiler breeds and would look leggier than a supermarket
chicken, but that their prowess at finding their own food would lower
the overall feed to meat ratio, saving us money and resulting in
healthier meat.

We killed our two
biggest cockerels on Monday, so I have the first set of results to
share with you.  I took the photo above after bagging both the
australorp and the golden comet cross, so it’s tough to see the
difference, but in person, the golden comet carcass (on the left in the
photo above) looked how I’d expect — not much breast meat and
sporting long, gangly legs.  On the other hand, I was surprised to
notice that the black australorp carcass (on
the right in the photo here) actually looked pretty much like a
supermarket chicken, only smaller.

Capture chicken at nightNext, I weighed both birds —
1.86 pounds for the australorp and 1.87 pounds for the golden
comet.  Here, the results were more in line with my expectations
— at 11.5 weeks, the laying breeds were considerably lighter than the
cornish at the same age
(2.25 pounds apiece) and
vastly lighter than a cornish cross would have been.  I feel
obliged to also mention that I did choose the
biggest cockerels, which means that
the average carcass weight of our laying breed chickens was probably
closer to 1.75 pounds at this point.

Finally, I crunched some
numbers.  At 11.5 weeks, our australorp flock had consumed about
8.3 pounds of feed per bird instead of 14 pounds for dark cornish
cockerels of the same age last year.  Divide that by the average
weight of this year’s cockerels, and you get a feed conversion rate of
4.5 : 1.  Suddenly, our little cockerels look like big winners,
cutting the amount of grain I had to buy per pound of meat by more than
a quarter.  In fact, the australorps even won out over the average
for slow broiler breeds on pasture.  I suspect that some judicious
breeding, combined with making the forest pasture an even more buggy
spot, might even raise our feed conversion rate up to the level
experienced by folks who raise cornish cross on pasture.

Black australorps on pastureThat said, we actually ended up
spending more money per pound of meat this year than
last year — $3.09 versus $2.91.  (I forgot to factor in brooder
costs last year, which is why this number is different from what you
see in a previous post.)  Over the last twelve months, chicken
feed costs have increased by
42%, from 24 cents per pound to 37 cents per pound, which in turn
increases our feed costs even though we gave the chickens less
food.  If we hadn’t needed to buy chicks and had just factored in
the cost of
Thrifty Chicken Breedsrunning the incubator and brooder (next year’s method, I hope!), we
would have spent a mere $2.11 per pound.  I think we’re
going to be more and more glad we’ve settled on good foragers as grain
costs continue to rise.

Our chicken waterer is the low work, clean water

Latest Comments

  1. Patrick Jonathan Mwale January 27, 2016

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