Thursday 8 August, 2013
Last weekend, we killed and cleaned this year’s batch of meat poultry. We bought 20 Ross Cobbs as day olds, raised them under a heat lamp for about four / five weeks then kept them on pasture until slaughter.
We fed Marriages chick crumbs then grower pellets, with some mixed corn. At nine weeks old, they were an average of 3kg in weight dressed, ranging from 2.5kg to 4kg.
Unfortunately, only 14 of the original 20 remained by slaughter day. This is really quite disappointing, as I would only expect to lose maybe one in a batch. I don’t know if we can put this down to the strain – we usually have Hubbards, which are bred for outdoor rearing.
Of the six we lost, two were culled and the rest were just dead in the morning, with no sign of any illness previously. Dan opened up two and they were full of fluid (ascites or waterbelly), which is apparently a a type of congestive heart failure and a weakness in the strain of birds.
We got a total of 42kg of poultry meat and it cost us £4.18 per kg to raise; had we had 60kg (i.e. all birds surviving and averaging 3kg), the cost per kg would have been £2.88 per kg.
Consequently, any thoughts of doing this on a semi-commercial footing are on hold. Tesco is currently selling British corn fed, free-range chicken at £6/kg; its Value chicken is £2.48/kg. Their chickens are smaller than ours – maximum 2.4kg – so it’s not a true like for like comparison, because we’d be able to kill a week earlier and still make these weights.
We’re considering trying rabbits as a protein source – no feathers, see – so watch this space. :-)