If you want good tasting homegrown chicken meat but don't want to spend a fortune feeding, buying and housing those big white franken-birds, you should consider investing in the following:
A) Hens that tend to go broody, save quite a bit by not having to buy the TSC birds (or if you wanted fall birds TSC doesn’t have them and you would have to order them to be shipped to you) This actually could mean a handful of broody silkies and then giving them the eggs of your “better” girls. Letting mom’s raise the chicks saves you tons in time, work and electricity. Once it warms up and if you follow D) below the costs to feed up these momma raised meat birds are nominal!!
B) birds that have good egg laying capabilities (quantity as well as regularly laying during cold months- if you live in a colder climate) Easter Eggers are pretty bad (for us anyway) at laying throughout the cold months, but my New Hampshire Reds lay very regularly (as long as I have the light on). In my opinion if you are an egg eater, why give up the eggs to produce meat? It can cost as much to feed a hen that lays an egg every 7 days as it does to feed one that lays every other day.
C) large size birds – this means the rooster too!! If your rooster is a silkie, a bantam or some other less meaty type rooster he’ll do nothing much to contribute towards meat on the table. HOWEVER you want to consider one of the more dual purpose so that you can keep some of your new pullets to replace your older hens and keep the progression going. As long as you have enough broody hens to incubate and hatch enough chicks for you (and maybe keep a few of their eggs now and again to keep the broody hen stock up) this “larger” bird doesn’t necessarily have to be a broody type.
D) some sort of chicken tractor or garden fencing. I know some of your gardens are "huge" but fencing can be one of the best investments ever......and help the chickens(ducks, turkeys) be more "self sufficient” by allowing them to free range....think feed costs vs. fence costs. I do NOT feed my chickens for at least 4 months of the year without loss of growth OR egg laying. I also use the fenced in area to house the pigs fall through spring. I know people use most of their livestock “poo” to go into the gardens, but flies can still be a PITB and free range chickens sure do help with that issue. Once my ratio on “larger” livestock when up without raising the amount of chickens I had I could SEE the negative impact it caused. I did raise the amount of chickens up and saw a huge improvement!! This benefit I don’t technically put into the financial equation myself as I figure only on a profit/loss system. BUT it is a benefit none the less. It could, I suppose, even be given a monetary value if you would otherwise be using fly repelling or killing methods? Also, some schools of thought beg to differ on the point that free-range saves money. For example it is said that the extra work that a chicken does scratching for feed, running around, etc. uses far more calories so that the “free-range” idea becomes a wash. Of course the research behind that reflects more on production type Fraken-birds not good hardy heritage type breeds. Take this how you will, I think the benefits are well worth it.
Some of the above is “generic” in nature. For example, D) depends on what type of fencing you use of course – you can go as elaborate as you want or as minimal as will suffice. Did you know my berries and my herbs are in a fence that is only 18-24” high and my birds stay out? With plenty of room to roam they tend to not attempt the fly-over. However not saying that is always going to suffice where a garden full of just about ripe veggies is concerned!! C) Do your research on the breeds, you may find that some birds do better than others when it comes to YOUR management practices vs. somebody else’s. It might (it did for me) take a bit of trial and error to find the right match or matches for you.
With all that said have I mentioned I HATE my chickens from a financial standpoint? If perhaps I was willing to butcher our extra roos myself then maybe they would start to be more cost efficient? When you add the price of having somebody else butcher and dress your chickens the “profit” on the meat goes down the pipes. Me butchering chickens again is probably not going to happen though! Worst most tedious chore ever! But that meat sure is tasty!! Of course that isn’t to say that I haven’t made my birds profitable by taking the above steps, because I have. Besides if I upped the price on my eggs from $1/dozen I could increase that margin by quite a bit. For every cent I would increase the price, I would increase my income by about $3.20 a year. (I'll probably never get rich at farming.)
We are trying to establish the genotype for our ducks regarding color/markings so forgive the partial attempts near each picture. (information taken from Ugly Duck Farm for patterning our genotypes)
The handsome fellow in the front of this picture is our drake, Elvis. Behind him is one of our hens, Lisa Marie. (I have found that Elvis is a common name of Muscovy drakes......once you own one you will know why!)
Elvis: a_ - _ _ - c_ - _ _
Another shot of Lisa Marie.
Priscilla on the right.
Some interesting facts about the Muscovy Duck: