This year instead of raising Cornish cross for meat we decided to try the Freedom Ranger meat chicks. Our first order of 25 chicks arrived yesterday from Freedom Ranger Hatchery in Pennsylvania. They all survived the journey and appear to be in good health. They’re on the back porch in our custom built brooder.
In only a few minutes after being moved into the brooder they were using the chicken nipple waterer to get their first drink. It took them about an hour before they started eating.
Why the Freedom Ranger meat chicks?
We have raised and butchered lots of the Cornish cross meat chicks over the years. They’re a great bird and grow to butcher size quickly. They don’t do much foraging and rely entirely on the chick grower we provide.
I’ve read and seen videos claiming that chicken breeds like these Freedom Rangers have a better feed conversion rate and are great foragers. When provided with fresh grass each day with the aide of a chicken tractor they should hunt for insects and browse in the grass. I’d like to see for myself how they do in a chicken tractor.
Freedom Rangers in a chicken tractor
When these Freedom Rangers are ready to be moved out of the brooder, they will go into a modified John Suscovich stress free chicken tractor. Ours is being built one foot taller than the plans indicate in the book. I’m making it a little taller to help avoid smashing my forehead.
The chicks will be moved to a fresh patch of grass in the yard at least once a day. As the get larger they will possibly be moved twice a day as they eat all the grass. It is our hope that by supplementing their diet with grass and insects that the amount of grower they consume will drop. We hope that the supplemented diet in our chicken tractor will reduce our cost.
Tracking cost of raising Freedom Ranger meat chicks
To track our total cost of the butchered chickens we are using a simple spreadsheet to keep a running tally of our costs. We do our own butchering, we will not have that added cost. The only cost I am not going to track will be electricity for the heat lamps and for the rural water. Both are relatively inexpensive when compared to feed and won’t great affect our final cost. We are more interested in the food cost for rearing these chicks. That is why we ultimately decided to not bother tracking electricity usage or total gallons of water.
Eventually we will raise another batch of Cornish cross broilers to have something to compare to these Freedom Ranger meat chicks. To be perfectly honest, I like the idea of the chickens diet being comprised of grass and insects. If they forage well there is a possibility that we stick with the Rangers. Time will tell.
I wanted to talk about raising chicks with less mess. Our Freedom Ranger chicks arrived in the mail today and went into our brooder. It was our special built brooder that gave me the idea for this topic.
Chicks are messy
As a young boy, I helped my parents to raise and butcher hundreds of meat birds over the years. When we first brought them home they were cute and easy to clean after. As they got bigger everything turned into a big mess. Those big waterers full of nasty water were my least favorite job.
A few decades later when I started raising meat birds for my family I was quickly reminded how messy those birds are when they get big. I grumbled about it and started thinking about ways to cut down on the mess and waste of food and water.
Chicken nipples to reduce wasted water
A blog on the internet about mess free waterers provided the first gem on raising chicks with less mess. Chicken nipples. They’re wonderful and you need some.Chicken nipples provide the chicks and full grown birds with a clean source of water. They cant get into the water to poop in it or spill it out into the brooder.
This Turbo Feeder from Rite Farm Products is another great way to cut down on the mess from the chicks. The design of the feeder discourages the chicks from getting into the feeder to scratch out the feed or to poop in it.
See our brooder and setup on YouTube
Watch our video on raising chicks with less mess on YouTube. You can see the brooder, turbo feeder, and our chicken nipple waterer.
Last fall we had something kill all of our silver laced Wyandotte chickens when they were locked outside over night. After some thought I’ve decided to switch to sexlinks. Each spring I will alternate buying a few of either red or black. This will make it easy to identify which hens are two years old and need butchered. My second year buying reds will give me black sexlinks,that are a year old and reds that are approaching 2 years and ready for making chicken stock.
Our local farm supply store didn’t have any sexlinks the week we were ready for chicks so we ended up mail ordering them. Some guy wasn’t paying attention during the ordering process and ordered straight run instead of pullets. So while these cockerels in the picture with Sid are white they are indeed red sexlinks. The cockerels will all be butchered in a few weeks
I’ve had the reds in years past and really like their temperament and brown eggs. Two years ago I decided to try something new and went with the Wyandotte. I liked them and thought they were a beautiful bird but feel egg production was better with the sexlinks.
The disadvantage to the sexlinks is that they don’t breed back true. The only way to keep sexlinks around for me will be to buy some each year. This is why we decided to butcher cockerels instead of keeping them to propagate the flock.
i came out to look in the garden to see if rabbits were getting past the electric fence that just went in. As I came out the door I saw the eyes of 4 raccoons down at the chicken house in the beam of my flash light. There was an adult and 3 young ones. I was able to walk to about 15 feet from them before they began to scatter. This little guy bumped into the bucket while trying to escape and fell into it when trying to jump over the obstacle.
They were eating some corn that got spilled on the ground (you can see it in the picture) and not eating any of our animals. After showing the girls this young of the year raccoon I trumped over the bucket and sent it on its way.
So long as they’re not breaking into the coop and killing our critters they’ll not be shot but may be trapped this fall.
Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden