It was recently brought to my attention that, although I chronicled our journey raising meat chickens last year, I didn’t answer many of the burning questions people have about raising broilers. So between the comments on my previous posts and the questions people asked on our Facebook page, I’ve compiled a list of questions and answers regarding how we raised our meat chickens. (P.S. we loved the process and the meat so much that I have a new batch of birds chirping away in my basement as I write this!)
Questions & Answers
How many chickens should I start with? Of course this depends on your circumstances. We started with 25 because we could house them in a coop we already had, but weren’t using. Also, there was a slight price break at the hatchery if you ordered 25 or more.
Which hatchery did you buy your birds from? We ordered from Murray McMurray. I highly recommend choosing a hatchery that is at least vaguely near you. Our birds arrived in 1-2 days and were in great shape. (For layers, I prefer to source from local chicken keeping friends who like to hatch chicks, but no one seems to do this with broilers in my area.)
What do you feed them? I wish I could tell you that I had a great source for organic feed here in Alabama, but the truth is that it is hard to find and very expensive, so we stick with feed that is at least milled locally and sold at our nearby mom & pop feed store. I feed the chicks one 50 lb. bag of chick starter feed, and when that is gone, I switch them to a “grower developer” feed for the rest of their days. Since their only job is to grow, I keep the feeders full at all times. I also supplement them with grass, weeds and other greenery from early on so that they develop a taste for it early on.
What about water? I use a 1 gallon chicken waterer *affiliate link* in the brooder, and I fill twice a day (at minimum) they go through water fast and you never want them to run out! I like to add a splash of raw apple cider vinegar with the mother *affiliate link* to each jug of water, which is good for the chickens’ digestion and helps ward off worms. When they leave the brooder, I begin using a 5 gallon bucket fitted with chicken nipples *affiliate link*. (Yes, the term “chicken nipples” is funny. Go ahead and giggle!)
How do you set up a brooder for that many birds? With the first batch of broilers, I set them up in the large plastic tote that I usually use for brooding. They quickly outgrew it, however, so I went to the store and bought the largest plastic baby pool I could find. I filled it with pine shavings and topped it with chicken wire. It’s not fancy, but it works! I add the 1 gallon plastic waterer (mentioned above) and 2 of these long plastic chick feeders *affiliate link*. Yes, technically, one should do the job, since there is a hole for each chicken, but trust me, by the end of week 1, they eat so much you will need two feeder, or you will be filling your feeder non-stop.
Will I need a heat lamp? Well, you will need some way to keep the chicks warm. A heat lamp that is VERY securely attached is a good option, as is the Eco-Glow brooder. As for red vs. white heat lamp bulbs, I don’t really have a preference. I usually buy white ones because they are cheaper. It is my understanding that the red bulbs help to protect chicks in crowded conditions from pecking. As long as they have plenty of room, I think either is fine.
How long do they stay in the brooder? My first batch only stayed in for two weeks, however it was summer, so it was plenty warm for them. It is still very cold here in Alabama (off and on, at least) so my latest batch will probably stay in the basement for awhile still. They never really get “fully feathered,” so I can’t use the same metric that I would use with layers.
OK, it’s time for me to go milk Beulah! I’ll be back with more questions and answers soon. Until then, feel free to leave your questions in the comments! I’ll do my best to answer everything either there or in a future post! (Update! You can read part 2 here!)
If you like this post, you might also enjoy my “feathered friends” Pinterest board. And don’t forget to sign up for Beulah’s mooooooosletter so you don’t miss future installments of this series!
***This post contains affiliate links. A small percentage of the purchase price of items bought here will go toward keeping this blog up and running and food in Beulah’s bowl, so thanks!***