Raising meat birds in your backyard is another great way of taking your urban farming experience to the next level. Like anything else with backyard homesteading, the quality of food you grow yourself is vastly superior to most supermarket offerings.
We carry both Red Broilers and Cornish Cross meat birds.
The benefit of the Red Broiler is that they mature much more slowly then the Cornish Cross. At the store we raised six Red Broilers. The roosters were butchered at 14 weeks and the hens at 16 weeks. The roosters dressed out to five pounds and the hens were a bit smaller. Since they grow at a rate that can be sustained by their bodies, they are healthier and have a more normal life. The quality of meat is generally outstanding.
The disadvantage to raising slow-growing broilers is the cost. We fed them an 18% protein GMO free grower as well as plenty of kitchen scraps. They eat a pound of feed per bird per week which works out to about $8 worth of feed. Our six Red Broilers ate a total of 100 pounds of feed. If you calculate feed plus the cost of the bird plus any scratch, it works out to be between $10 and $12 per bird as a total cost. They lived a very healthy life, were treated well and were butchered with dignity.
The Cornish Cross is bred specifically as a fast growing meat bird. The advantage is that they mature so quickly that they can be ready for butcher at six to eight weeks. This means that your feed costs could be half as much as the Red Broilers. The Cornish Cross’ biggest asset is also it’s biggest liability. They often grow so fast that their hearts and legs can’t keep up with the weight gain. They tend to be a bit more lethargic and sometimes do not forage well for food. They also do not do well in extreme heat (this is why we are bringing them in during August. By the time heat is an issue with them, it will be mid-September and probably much cooler.)
If you keep your feed to around 18% protein and give them plenty of ranging space, you should be able to grow a healthy Cornish Cross. The key to raising a healthy Cornish Cross is to avoid filling it up with high protein rations with lots of filler grains. Raise a Cornish Cross with the same respect as you would any other chicken, and you will be rewarded with a fine home-raised meal.