Livestock

Poultry for meat

Raising table birds isn’t for everyone. If you have no desire to raise your own, please do the next best thing and make sure you buy poultry meat that has been ethically produced. Check the label carefully before you buy.

If you do decide to eat your own birds, all poultry is edible i.e. there is no reason why you can’t eat a spent layer, but the quality of the meat and carcase may be poor. We have a recipe for cooking a spent laying bird;

Put the cleaned carcase in a large pan; add onion, carrot, celery and some herbs. Cover with water, and weight down with a leather boot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 hours. Remove the boot and the carcase; discard the carcase and eat the boot.

If you hatch eggs or buy day-old chicks (unless they are sex-linked), you will almost inevitably get males. There is a limited demand for breeding cockerels, so the destination for most must be the table. You must be prepared to take responsibility for this at the outset.

You can eat any breed of poultry but some are better suited for this purpose than others. The utility traditional breeds – Light Sussex, Rhode Island Red – produce decent carcases compared to hybrid layers, but the increasingly common meat strains will produce a good 2kg carcase in 10 to 14 weeks.

There are a number of strains available – the most common for free-range production are Hubbard and Sasso.

Hubbard henWe favour the Hubbard, bought as day-old chicks and slaughtered at 10-12 weeks

From 6 – 8 weeks until slaughter, feed grower / finisher pellets, with mixed corn and grit. Increasing the proportion of mixed corn reduces the nutritional value of the diet, so slows the growth rate.

Mixed corn in the UK is mainly wheat, with a small percentage of maize. The yellow corn-fed chickens in the supermarket have been fed a diet of maize not wheat, so feeding mixed corn will not produce yellow skin.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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