A Comparison and Evaluation of Heritage Breed Broiler Chickens on Pasture
I had originally intended on starting and completing this SARE project in 2012, but due to the timing of the grant approval and receipt of funds I felt it would be better to postpone the project until 2013 so that I could start earlier in the spring season than I could have had I begun in 2012, owing to the semi-seasonal nature of raising heritage broilers.
In the meantime I have been purchasing supplies for use in this project, including the feeders, waterers, and building materials for the chicken shelters. Unfortunately most of the items in my original budget have risen in price since I wrote the budget for my proposal, so I have had to do a little more leg work to attempt to keep costs in line with what I had planned. As a result I have changed to a smaller and slightly differently designed chicken waterer and a shorter feed trough. The lumber cost for my shelters went up considerably (totaling approximately $9.00 more per shelter than budgeted), but I was able to spend less than budgeted on tarps for the shelters and on a scale, so in the end it has more or less balanced. I have yet to finish gathering all of the supplies needed for this grant because of limited availability of certain items at my local suppliers, but I fully expect to acquire the remaining pieces before I need them in three to four weeks.
I have also begun building the shelters to be used when the chickens are moved from the brooder to the pasture in three to four weeks. I would estimate that the shelters are 70% complete.
Work Plan for Next Year
The chicks for my grant have been ordered and will be ready to pick up on April 30. I had hoped to start them two or three weeks earlier, but one of the eight breeds I had chosen wasn’t going to be available again until this later date, and I opted to take the later date rather than substitute another breed. This turned out to be rather fortunate, as we have had a fairly cool, wet spring this year, and I expect I may have had more problems with brooding chicks had they arrived earlier. I made two changes–one major–to the breeds I selected for this project. First, I opted for the White Plymouth Rock instead of the Barred Plymouth Rock, as a few sources I consulted suggested the former would grow a bit bigger and a bit faster than the latter. Second, I chose to go with Buff Orpingtons instead of a standard Cornish, because the former are a more common barnyard breed (and thus perhaps more likely to be selected as a non-hybrid broiler grower) and because my understanding is that the Cornish, though used in the production of the Cornish-Rock Cross hybrid, will grow fairly large but will do so slowly, and as such may not be well suited to a commercial enterprise. This decision was incidentally made easier by the fact that demand for the Cornish at my chosen hatchery is apparently fairly small, and they may have not been able to supply the amount of cockerels I needed for this project. Otherwise, I have no reason to believe the rest of the project will not go as expected.
I will share information from this project with others with a field day this summer, ideally near the end of the grow-out period for the heritage broilers so other farmers can accurately grasp the rate of growth and size of these birds compared to other breeds used for broiler production. When my project is finished, I intend to do a write-up to be sent to multiple farming publications, with the hopes that at least some of them will choose to print the article in a future issue.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
5147 Pleasant Hill Rd.
Seymour, MO 65746
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