I made one of my famous spur-of-the-moment decisions (with the encouragement of friends and relatives) to raise a small batch of Cornish Cross meat birds this fall. I thought you might be interested in how it all turned out and what it cost.
I’ve always said I would keep track of costs … and this time I did. I’ll admit, there were places I could have saved, but this is how it was. Total time from chick to butcher was 7 weeks exactly – which was why I chose these birds. (It was late in the year when I started.)
After raising the free-ranging broilers last year, I never intended to raise Cornish Crosses again, as I find them a pain to keep. And they were! Endless barn cleaning. We had a 15% bird loss – about what we’ve found raising these birds in the past, and one of the reasons I’m not crazy about them. However … they DID turn out great – and delicious!
$12: Mileage to pick up birds (138 miles). Because I get about 30 miles per gallon, and fuel was $2.98/gallon, I rounded this to $12. A bit less than if I’d had them shipped.
$45: Cost of birds (26). If I had bought more birds they would have been much cheaper per bird, but I only wanted a small batch.
$3.17: New infrared bulb. I always buy a new one to start out.
$28.41: Cost of 100 pounds of starter feed.
$2.75: Half a bag of wood pellets for initial bedding. (Yes, I bought the whole bag, and I used the other half on some other babies.)
Total first day costs: $91.33 or about $3.50 per bird.
$22.20: Electricity. 6 Kw/day for 27 days, 3 Kw/day for 10 days. This would have been FAR less if I had gotten the birds earlier and hadn’t had to use the heat lamp so much – but I didn’t.
$83.56: 350 pounds of grower feed. At least some of this was eaten by my greedy hens – who would sneak in their barn and nosh when I wasn’t looking.
$4.23: 1 bag of wood shavings for initial bedding after the birds were out of the brooder.
$6: 3 bales of straw for bedding. It seemed like all I did was clean their barn – ICK!
$67: Butchering, mileage for butcher and bags for birds. Again, if I had raised more birds, the mileage would have been less per bird.
Total ongoing costs: $182.99
Total costs: $274.32
We lost four birds over time – three in the first week or two, one just a few days before butchering (bummer!). So, we butchered 22 birds.
Cost per bird: $12.46
Weight of dressed birds was approx 130 pounds, so the meat cost was $2.11/lb.
So … this was not a huge bargain. However, the birds were fed an all-natural feed with herbal supplements and they were allowed to free range (although they were so lazy they never went far). They had fresh air every day and sunshine as soon as they were out of the brooder. They had a good (if short) life, and that’s important to me.
The carcasses were – in a word – beautiful. They dressed out to lovely plump birds, and although they don’t have the deep flavor of my retired hens, or quite the flavor of the free-ranging French bloodline broiler I grew last year, they are tasty, far better than what I could buy at the store.
There were lots of things I could have done to lower my cost per pound. If I had gotten the birds when it was warmer it would have at least halved my electricity costs. If I had taken the time to find someone else in the area that wanted birds and purchased at least 100 chicks, the cost per chick and the mileage per bird would have been less.
I could have used an old heat lamp and hoped it didn’t burn out, but that struck me as false economy. Straw and newspapers could have been used for the initial beddings, but these birds historically have such weak legs I stuck to the wood pellets and shavings. And it worked: We had no bad legs that kept the birds from walking and growing.
If I had butchered the birds myself that would have saved a lot, but I’m not up for that. I do butcher my old hens, but since I can them, I just skin them, as I don’t have an automatic plucker. If I had done more birds, or shared butchering mileage with someone, that would have saved, too. So, there are plenty of places to cut costs if you decide to raise similar birds.
Will I raise these birds again? Maybe – but I’d rather raise another batch of the free-ranging, slower-growing French bloodline broilers and keep careful track of expenses for them. It would be interesting to compare the cost per pound between the two kinds of broilers. I hadn’t intended to raise meat birds this year, as I was culling out most of my old hens, but friends and relatives kept asking and asking, and by the time I started I only had time to raise these very fast birds before snow flew (which it did – 3 days after we butchered!).