Red Broilers

Sometimes you can see something over and over again…..yet it still doesn’t seem right. This is how we felt about the Cornish Cross broilers…everyone says this is the only production meat bird to use if profit is your interest. Well, have you seen these birds? We see them at the county fair and they just don’t seem quite right. It also seems odd that the commercial confinement bird and the pastured bird of choice would be the same one.Well, as one to stare good advice in the face and promptly turn the other way…our first batch of birds were not Cornish Cross. We went with Red Broilers. We ordered through Phinney Hatchery and discussed the benefits of the Red Broiler; mainly, no leg problems or heart attacks. They take a couple more weeks to grow out but for a first run it sounded worth it. We ordered 75.

 

They arrived on schedule at the Post Office. The shipping case was split up into 4 compartments. One died in one of the compartments and the others certainly made of mess of him. All of them had a bloody beak and were clearly the most aggressive once we mixed them all together into one population. Another came in alive but crazy deformed- I’m sure if they would have noticed at the hatchery it would not have been shipped. We had to take care of this one the day it arrived. The rest were fine for the first couple of days. One developed curled toes and was walking around on his knuckles. We isolated this guy for a couple of days but continued to get worse until this one was put down as well.

 

One other chick; name SpecialT by the girls, had balance problems and huge feet. We isolated this one and the girls took great care of this chick. They took it for walks in the garden and gave it all the love it could handle. After about 5 days the chick started to get it’s body over it’s feet and was doing much better. The chick was returned to the general population and has been doing well – Good Job Girls!

 

After two weeks the brooder was way too small and pecking and fighting was getting out of hand. We moved the lot into the field pen and things got a bit better. We were not ready to move them out to pasture yet so they were mainly on pea gravel. There was plenty of room – and now entertainment that they started getting along better- save the fourth quadrant who remain aggressive (so we think- hard to keep track at this point). We lost one more – to heart trouble we assume. I checked on them in the morning before work and Anita checked them a bit after and found a goner. It was a large one and felt like a pounder. The flock in general looks great so we are not sure what happened.Broiler Pen

 

So, we lost 4 and saved 1 out of 75 in the first 3 1/2 weeks. We moved them out to pasture today and oh sweet grass….instantly, heads were down digging, chests were rubbing in the dirt, and worms were meeting their makers. Chickens on pasture….it is like butter dripping off a hot biscuit…it just looks right.

 

In general, we think we will try the Cornish Cross next time. The Red Broilers are very flighty and aggressive. If we move a bit too fast or come in from the top instead of the sides of the pen they go nuts. Pecking is a problem and there were bloody backs on several. All this and our losses were still higher than we have heard folk getting with the Cornish Cross. We still have a over half way to go so we will see what happens out on pasture.

Broiler Pens

Of the million broiler pens designs out there- we submit one more.After tearing up the lawn and installing a garden, and letting the two laying hens we brought from Bend free range in the backyard, we were the talk of the neighborhood once again as we built the movable coop in the front yard then carried it to the backyard to fill with the chicks. Those are the same chicks we have been brooding on the back deck. The grapevine is a buzzing.The pen is light, easy to move, and has a built in water reservoir that holds more than two gallons. After hours of searching, more ideas sketched and tossed, the J-man came up with this design that took about two hours to construct once all the pieces and parts were collected. The design is elegant and simple.

 

The walls are high as the original design was for turkeys. The horizontal supports are 1 1/2″ PVC with slip-T’s and vertical PVC’s of the same diameter for added stability. The reservoir is made of a 3″ PVC which is designed as a 10′ cross member. It is also slightly elevated providing a slant to the tarp that shades the chicks and will shed any rain or sprinkler moisture. The walls are plastic chicken netting that is lashed to the PVC pipes with Zipties at the top and bottom and vertical stays.It measures 10′X12′ and houses 70+ three-week-old chicks. Tomorrow we plan to box the chicks, trailer the coop and set it up once more on a friends pasture in Bend. The chicks are almost fully feathered and eagerly scratch through pulled weeds and grass clippings that we’ve added to the pen. They are going to love the pasture.The girls wanted to name all the chicks when we pulled them from the shipping box, but to remind them of the chicks’ purpose, we limited them to only chicken dish names. So there’s Fricassee, Wednesday Night, Thursday Night, Soup, Fajita, Fried, Hot Wings, and Honey Wings, and Buffalo Wings among the feathered masses.