Author Topic: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein  (Read 2120 times)

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« on: January 13, 2018, 06:44:20 AM »
We raise a large amount of our produce and meat on a small urban property. Our lot is 5700 square feet, and our house occupies about 750 of that. We also take advantage of the sidewalk strips for extra growing space.

My challenge this year is to increase production of meat and eggs, hopefully to 75% of our dietary needs. We have tried low meat diets but I am keto now, and the family in general is happier and healthier with a large amount of animal protein. Cheese and other dairy products supply some of our protein, but obviously a dairy animal is out on such a small property, so I bracket that out.

We can have a limited number of chickens for eggs and essentially unlimited rabbits. I began tracking in November 2017 and we are averaging 49% currently.

The next couple months the numbers will probably look worse. The extreme cold snap put even my youngest hens into molt and our egg numbers are way down. I have also had difficulties getting some of my rabbits to take during breeding, so our meat production will be down until I have some successful litters again. (It's been 9 weeks since we last had a litter.)

I think this will be a fun challenge for myself, and maybe I'll inspire some of y'all to raise your own meat - even if you're in a small space.

The attached satellite image is a couple years old but gives a sense of the property.

A longish (15min) tour of the property can be seen here if anyone's interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPMPBzVUlg8
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

lexde

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1178
  • Age: 28
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2018, 07:35:00 AM »
Ah! Your username makes so much more sense now! This was a very cool tour, I loved seeing the creative use of urban space. I have a few questions if you don’t mind — Are you intending to stay in that same house forever, or eventually move somewhere with a little more room?

How did you get started with this?

Did you grow up around farms or is this something you picked up later?

Do you have any pets in the house?

I am seriously considering starting my own (much smaller) garden, likely tomatoes and peppers to start, and once we get a privacy fence up I’d be willing to consider chickens (I love rabbits but am afraid my dog would kill them and/or I don’t have it in me to slaughter them). Do you have any advice you’d give to newbies?

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2018, 08:09:10 AM »
Ah! Your username makes so much more sense now! This was a very cool tour, I loved seeing the creative use of urban space. I have a few questions if you don’t mind — Are you intending to stay in that same house forever, or eventually move somewhere with a little more room?

I would like to move somewhere with at least a couple acres (though to avoid restrictions on agricultural use in my area, usually you need 5+ acres). A lot will depend on my wife's career (she is the sole earner) and how long she wants to work, on whether any of my kids would want to farm as a career, etc.

I could be happy paying off this property and staying put forever unless crime gets considerably worse but it's not my first choice.

Quote
How did you get started with this?

I built a single raised garden bed the year we started homeschooling. I thought it would be fun as part of science for them, then I got hooked and rapidly expanded.

Quote
Did you grow up around farms or is this something you picked up later?

My Dad grew up on a dairy farm but I grew up in the city. My parents had a big veg garden for many years but never animals. I think the farming gene skipped a generation, though my grandfather was dead for several years before I got hooked.

Philosophically/ethically I'm also really drawn to being participatory in growing food and taking life. I love reading folks like Joel Salatin.

Quote
Do you have any pets in the house?

I am seriously considering starting my own (much smaller) garden, likely tomatoes and peppers to start, and once we get a privacy fence up I’d be willing to consider chickens (I love rabbits but am afraid my dog would kill them and/or I don’t have it in me to slaughter them). Do you have any advice you’d give to newbies?

We have an indoor cat. We'll soon be putting one of our bunnies that's just a pet indoors. Not sure how the two will get along, so we may regret that! Plenty of dog owners raise rabbits. In fact, many of them do it for raw feeding of their dogs.

With gardening, be open to failure. There's a learning curve to everything. I've killed lots of plants in my attempts to learn. Plants want to grow if you give them the right conditions. Gardens typically fail either because of neglect or because of over-intervention. I try to do a garden walk every day.

If you know any gardeners in your area, they may be able to help. If you're willing to share approximate location/climate, I may be able to recommend some additional resources, etc.

With animals, the big thing to remember is that they're a 24/7/365 job, so travel requires arranging someone to care for them. Travel isn't a huge thing for us, though my wife's family is all 800 miles away, so we do have to be away from the homestead for a week or so a year. Thankfully we have a reliable friend that's happy to work for some cash, beer, and whiskey.

Egg laying chickens are super easy, very low time commitment per day. They're a great starter animal. They don't save money versus cheap grocery store eggs, but they're fun to watch and the eggs are very high quality on just food scraps, what they forage from the yard, and a conventional layer feed. 18 months in and our cost/dozen is $2.55 and still falling slowly. We'll see where it bottoms out.

If you want to raise and butcher your own meat, see if there's any way for you to learn to butcher from someone in your area. I  learned how to do rabbits from YouTube, but before I butchered my first rabbit I'd helped a friend process a bunch of meat chickens so I'd had experience taking a life. It was gross at first, but not nearly as gross as I thought it would be. It's gotten pretty routine for me at this point, but it's never an enjoyable process.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

homestead neohio

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 779
    • Journal - Seeds Sprout
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 02:46:17 PM »
I'm in.  We normally raise 90+% of non-dairy protein, but our normal patterns of raising pork, chicken, and eggs will be interrupted by some travelling this year.  75% is still reasonable.  If we raise 2 hogs and 50 broiler chickens, plus a dozen hens, that about does it for our family of 4.  That's what we did in 2017.

Allie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2121
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2018, 04:30:27 PM »
We don't raise anything, but go grab it from the wild.  Does that count?  Right now, we are at 0%, but I'm hoping that by the end of the year we are at at least 50%, depending on what gets killed.  Even if I don't play along, I want to see what everyone's doing!

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2018, 04:54:11 PM »
We don't raise anything, but go grab it from the wild.  Does that count?  Right now, we are at 0%, but I'm hoping that by the end of the year we are at at least 50%, depending on what gets killed.  Even if I don't play along, I want to see what everyone's doing!

Sure, I'd say that absolutely counts :)
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

Allie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2121
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2018, 08:05:54 PM »
Great!  We have had 90% years and 10% years...this is our worst year to date!  Hoping to turn it around once the spring arrives.  On the list is salmon, halibut, moose (I wish), and shrimp.  Although we don't eat all that much non-dairy animal protein compared to most, so it's not really a fair comparison to other guys!

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2018, 09:30:02 AM »
In January we produced 33% of our protein needs. Very low egg production but we did have a decent number of rabbits to harvest.

All-time average is now 44%.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

kapnfriday

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 63
    • The Graying Saver
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2018, 10:42:35 AM »
Enjoyed the video tour. You guys are doing a lot on a small space. We're fortunate to have 3 acres about 3 miles from downtown Raleigh, NC. We currently have a dozen chickens. I think this is our 5th flock over the last 10 years. We've tried all sorts of breeds but we're getting our best winter egg production ever out of our current flock, which includes red and black sex links.

I like that you're seeing better fly control now that you have the chickens around. It's always great when your livestock can do more than one thing to support the overall operation.  We've got a chicken moat set up around our garden area which allows the chickens to help with weeding and pest control, and of course we also compost their bedding/manure.

We did our first butchering with our last flock. It's a good skill to learn, but I don't see us raising meat birds.
My mid-life journey to financial independence
https://www.thegrayingsaver.com/

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2018, 10:46:45 AM »
Enjoyed the video tour. You guys are doing a lot on a small space. We're fortunate to have 3 acres about 3 miles from downtown Raleigh, NC. We currently have a dozen chickens. I think this is our 5th flock over the last 10 years. We've tried all sorts of breeds but we're getting our best winter egg production ever out of our current flock, which includes red and black sex links.

I like that you're seeing better fly control now that you have the chickens around. It's always great when your livestock can do more than one thing to support the overall operation.  We've got a chicken moat set up around our garden area which allows the chickens to help with weeding and pest control, and of course we also compost their bedding/manure.

We did our first butchering with our last flock. It's a good skill to learn, but I don't see us raising meat birds.

Thanks. We have a type of red sex link except for one Australorp but the brutal cold snap we got up here shut most of them down, even the first year birds. Still waiting for them to come back into a better laying rate, hopefully in next couple of weeks.

Having acreage that close to a major city is nice! Nothing like that here that I'm aware of. You have to get about 25-30 minutes out minimum to have land that's not in HOA hell, and even then a lot of the surrounding counties are more restrictive on livestock than what I can do on my tiny city property.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3242
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2018, 10:56:50 AM »
They don't save money versus cheap grocery store eggs, but they're fun to watch and the eggs are very high quality on just food scraps, what they forage from the yard, and a conventional layer feed. 18 months in and our cost/dozen is $2.55 and still falling slowly. We'll see where it bottoms out.

Yeah, but the quality and taste are worlds apart from cheap grocery store eggs too, so...

I hadn't realized that until I moved out to rural farm country and we started buying eggs from someone down the road.  It's eye-poppingly different how much tastier the eggs are!
My random project blog - ebikes, DIY, fans, and more: http://syonyk.blogspot.com

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2018, 11:04:21 AM »
They don't save money versus cheap grocery store eggs, but they're fun to watch and the eggs are very high quality on just food scraps, what they forage from the yard, and a conventional layer feed. 18 months in and our cost/dozen is $2.55 and still falling slowly. We'll see where it bottoms out.

Yeah, but the quality and taste are worlds apart from cheap grocery store eggs too, so...

I hadn't realized that until I moved out to rural farm country and we started buying eggs from someone down the road.  It's eye-poppingly different how much tastier the eggs are!

Oh definitely! To buy comparable eggs here I need to pay at least $3.50/dozen.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3242
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2018, 12:14:03 PM »
We've tried some of those when our local suppliers didn't have eggs (molt, I think), and they still don't compare.

On the other hand, there's a taste difference between various local eggs we've gotten, so it's more than just being local.

Personally, I'm hoping I can convince chickens in a chicken tractor to eat cheatgrass seeds... but that's not a project for this year.  Currently cheatgrass assault is via a 75 year old tractor.
My random project blog - ebikes, DIY, fans, and more: http://syonyk.blogspot.com

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2018, 08:23:39 AM »
In February, the chickens continued to lay poorly, but at least one hen has come back into lay as a couple days ago we had 4 eggs for the first time since January 1st. We also had a limited number of rabbits to harvest, so our protein production was down to 24% for the month. The all-time average is now 39%.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

KCM5

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 847
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2018, 09:00:59 AM »
How do you feel about venison?

I have a couple of acquaintances that do the city deer hunt annually. - that means they shoot at least six deer every year - they call me after they’ve shot/field dressed it and I come pick it up and process it.

This could be a good way to supplement your home-grown protein

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2018, 09:20:00 AM »
How do you feel about venison?

I have a couple of acquaintances that do the city deer hunt annually. - that means they shoot at least six deer every year - they call me after they’ve shot/field dressed it and I come pick it up and process it.

This could be a good way to supplement your home-grown protein

Venison is amazing but I have not looked into the relevant costs to see if it would actually be worth it.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

KCM5

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 847
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2018, 09:46:29 AM »
THe key to keeping it cheap is getting it from enthusiastic hunters :)

I’ve borrowed a muzzle loader, gotten an in-state license/tag and taken hunter safety and it came out to about $175 for 25 pounds of meat, processing it myself. Each tag is about $30 so you could bring the cost down by shooting multiple per year.  However, i’m just not that into shooting things and it takes a fair bit of time.  But getting the deer from a friend who loves to hunt but only eats 1-2 per year is literally free. I bring her home and cut her up. I suppose there was the cost of freezer paper and a sharp knife? And you need to get rid of the carcass (bury or landfill are the options I’ve come up with). And then put 25-40 pounds of venison in the freezer, depending on the size of the doe.

Anyway, this option definitely depends on your social circle and their generosity, but something to keep in mind.

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2018, 09:53:11 AM »
All the hunters I know are even better butchers/processors than I am and eat every scrap they get ;)
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2018, 07:32:37 AM »
Protein percentage: We have produced 31% of our non-dairy animal protein. All-time average (tracked since November '17) is currently 38%.

We expanded our flock but the new birds are not laying yet, should start laying this month.

Should hopefully have some extra rabbit does kindle this month, so rabbit harvests will increase starting in June to July.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2018, 12:25:07 PM »
April 2018 Homestead Tracking

Rabbit amortized cost/lb: $8.32
      -Equivalent value pegged at $4/lb, rabbit at this metric has cost us a lifetime net of $1,128 (261 lb produced)
Rabbit consumables only: $5.64
      -Equivalent value pegged at $4/lb, rabbit at this metric has cost us a lifetime net of $428 (261 lb produced)

Egg cost per dozen: $2.58
      -Equivalent value pegged at $3.50/doz, eggs have saved us a lifetime net of $168 (183 doz produced)

Protein percentage: We produced 41% of our non-dairy animal protein. All-time average (tracked since November '17) is currently 38%.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

FallenTimber

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 55
  • Location: Colorado
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2018, 07:25:23 AM »
This is a great thread, and one of my family’s goals as well. Congratulations on your success furrychickens. I’ve always had some interest in raising rabbits but haven’t taken the plunge yet. We eat a handful of rabbits hunted on our land each year, and they make for a delicious shepherds pie. How are you enjoying the rabbits as far as the raising and butchering process goes?

We purchased a ranch with over 40 acres of land, although like much of Colorado, we’re in terrain that supports a mere 1 head of cattle per 35 acres. So the cost of hay negates any financial benefit of raising our own beef. However, we do have deer, elk, wild turkey and various small game on our land that we buy tags to hunt each year. We also raise chickens, goats, alpacas, llamas and horses. In the past we’ve raised ducks (never again) and turkeys (loved them). We also live near  rivers and lakes that supply us with fish protein.

Last year we either raised or hunted 90% of our animal protein. This year we hope to reach 100%. Here’s our breakdown:

Chicken:
We raised 50 meat birds last year but I’ve sworn them off forever. They were broilers (the same you’d get at a grocery store or even Whole Foods), genetically mutated to grow big and grow fast. Despite being free range and all of the other feel-good adjectives, there was absolutely nothing natural about these birds. They get too heavy to even support their own body weight with their legs, and their organs can’t keep up with their growth rate. They’re designed to butcher at a mere 2 months old. I will never raise chickens designed specifically for meat again. We still have a dozen or so in the freezer and I cringe at the thought of eating such unnatural meat.

We still raise between 30-40 egg chickens. We only eat around 2 dozen eggs per month, and then we sell the other 40-60 dozen eggs each month for $5/dozen. This $200-300 per month covers all of our expenses for the year to not only raise the chickens, but to raise our other animals, feed our dogs, cover all hunting expenses, and gives my wife and I extra date night money. They’re extremely low maintenance animals, and we have them setup so that I only spend about 2 hours per month taking care of them. During the summer months, they’re self sufficient for about 10 days, making traveling quite easy.

Most of our animal protein now comes from hunting and fishing. Last year we hunted 2 deer which was more than enough for us since we only eat meat 3 or 4 days per week. This year we hope to put an elk or two in the freezer. If we’re unsuccessful,  we’ll purchase a grass-fed Scottish Highland steer for the freezer, but we hope to avoid having to do so. Our annual hunting and fishing cost is around $300 including tags, ammo, and gas, which provides us with anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds of the most natural meat you can eat. Despite my love for raising animals, I’ve found hunting to be far more economical (and a fraction of the work). I realize the same can’t be said for most states, but that’s been my experience in Colorado.

Trifele

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1263
  • Location: US
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2018, 07:36:55 AM »
Hi @furrychickens

Love the thread.  Random thought -- have you considered insect protein?  I haven't actually raised them, but I've sampled crickets -- tasty and versatile.  I've read a bit about cricket production and it sounds totally doable.   Also -- there are folks raising black soldier fly larvae -- both to feed to their chickens and also for human consumption.   
« Last Edit: May 03, 2018, 10:12:17 AM by Trifele »

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2018, 08:56:01 AM »
This is a great thread, and one of my family’s goals as well. Congratulations on your success furrychickens. I’ve always had some interest in raising rabbits but haven’t taken the plunge yet. We eat a handful of rabbits hunted on our land each year, and they make for a delicious shepherds pie. How are you enjoying the rabbits as far as the raising and butchering process goes?

I enjoy the work, they're fun animals to work with and butchering them is super easy. Much easier than chickens at a small scale because it's all hand work, no special things like scalders or pluckers. (Conversely, they're much harder to do at scale because the steps are much less conducive to automation or specialty equipment than chickens are.)

That said, I've had massive growing pains. Lots of disease and predator issues. Experienced rabbit folks in a couple Facebook groups have told me I've had about the worst start they've ever seen anyone have. But I'm still plugging away because I like the work and value having control over my food supply.

The manure should be a good add for the garden but I've been spread too thin on gardening (up until this year I had an additional 1/8 acre off property) so I haven't seen the yield increase I will start to see in next year or two now that I'm only gardening at home. .

I talk about it a lot on my journal if you're at all interested. I can also get into more details here if you have questions. I've encountered just about every possible health problem, cause of death, etc that you possibly can so I've had to learn fast. I also have detailed cost records.

Depending on where in CO and how far you're willing to drive, I may be able to recommend some good breeders if you do make the plunge.

Quote
Chicken:
We raised 50 meat birds last year but I’ve sworn them off forever. They were broilers (the same you’d get at a grocery store or even Whole Foods), genetically mutated to grow big and grow fast. Despite being free range and all of the other feel-good adjectives, there was absolutely nothing natural about these birds. They get too heavy to even support their own body weight with their legs, and their organs can’t keep up with their growth rate. They’re designed to butcher at a mere 2 months old. I will never raise chickens designed specifically for meat again. We still have a dozen or so in the freezer and I cringe at the thought of eating such unnatural meat.

Standard Cornish Cross can be done right, you can avoid the leg problems and get them to forage some if you ration feed. There are a variety of feeding schedules floating around. But, yeah, they're not fun animals to raise. I don't like them. I've also seen reports that specific strains are better than others.

Quite a few hatcheries offer strains of birds about halfway in between CX and the very slow Freedom Rangers. Freedom Rangers aren't particularly worth it in my opinion based on the experiences I've seen friends and others report.

Meat birds aren't a good fit here in the city and even if we had the space, I don't enjoy working with them, so not sure if I'll ever raise them. We eat chicken occasionally as a change of pace, I'm okay buying it for a few birds a year.

A difference between rabbit and chicken that's both a pro and a con is that you're maintaining your own breeding stock, so you're ideally getting an even supply of fresh meat all year round. Much more of it is stored "on the hoof" so there's a lot less hitting the freezer, whereas chickens are best done in one-shot batches. Of course, the con is that those animals need care 365 days a year, so travel requires finding help.

Hi @furrychickens

Love the thread.  Random thought -- have you considered insect protein?  I haven't done it, but I've sampled crickets -- tasty and versatile.  I've read a bit about cricket production and it sounds totally doable.   Also -- there are folks raising black soldier fly larvae -- both to feed to their chickens and also for human consumption.   

I've done some reading, but I doubt I'll ever do anything here. BSF don't thrive here, too cold for too long in the winter, but I may do worms as a supplement for the chickens at some point. Right now I'm maxed on bandwidth.

For human edibility...not for me. My wife's company does some work with flavorings and additives for cricket bars and she said they're not bad at all, but raising them myself? Probably not.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

homestead neohio

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 779
    • Journal - Seeds Sprout
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #23 on: May 04, 2018, 08:57:44 PM »
Quote
Chicken:
We raised 50 meat birds last year but I’ve sworn them off forever. They were broilers (the same you’d get at a grocery store or even Whole Foods), genetically mutated to grow big and grow fast. Despite being free range and all of the other feel-good adjectives, there was absolutely nothing natural about these birds. They get too heavy to even support their own body weight with their legs, and their organs can’t keep up with their growth rate. They’re designed to butcher at a mere 2 months old. I will never raise chickens designed specifically for meat again. We still have a dozen or so in the freezer and I cringe at the thought of eating such unnatural meat.

Standard Cornish Cross can be done right, you can avoid the leg problems and get them to forage some if you ration feed. There are a variety of feeding schedules floating around. But, yeah, they're not fun animals to raise. I don't like them. I've also seen reports that specific strains are better than others.

We've done both Freedom Rangers and CX.  First we ever did was standard CX and we felt sorry for them.  All they ever did was lay in a ring around the feeder or water and leave rings of mud and shit.  When you moved the waterer or feeder, it looked like a bulls-eye where the center was grass, then a ring of mud they layed in, then a ring of shit.  We had them on pasture and they didn't eat it.  We threw worms or Japanese beetles in with them and they ignored them.  Their stools were runny and orange and stunk.  Everything about them was sad and we did not want to continue with them.  We next raise Freedom Rangers and they were better.  Slower growing, higher feed cost, but we did not feel sorry for them as they ran around and foraged and behaved like chickens.  Our big problem was keeping predators away during that longer time to maturity.  A subsequent year we had to decide to raise CX cross or just not raise meat birds that year because we only had 8 weeks left of good forage.  We went with CX cross but made some changes which made a WORLD of difference:
1) We hydrated the feed.  Mixed water into the feed and allowed it to swell until it was a porridge like consistency.  This reduced dehydration and thirst in the animals as the moisture required to hydrate the feed during digestion did not have to come from their bodies.  I think this was the key to stopping the runny, smelly stools.
2) We fermented the feed.  This is supposed to make nutrients more available and was simple enough to start with apple cider vinegar and a rotation of buckets.  This may have helped with stools, too.
3) We Fed twice a day only instead of free-choice.  This encouraged these eating machines to get up and find food at other times of day, which leads to foraging and natural chicken behavior.  The same breed raised this way will rush across a pasture area to eat worms or beetles thrown to them.

I don't know if each of the above is essential to the success of raising CX because we made all 3 changes and have not experimented with making them individually, but it was a wholly different experience.  I have 52 5-day-old chicks in the brooder right now and we chose CX cross again because reducing time to harvest reduces predation.

On the rest of the protein for us this year, we are cooperatively raising 6 pigs and will get pork from 2 or 3 of them.  My son also started a meat rabbit project for the fair, so I expect we'll eat some rabbits.  If you have favorite rabbit recipes, post them or PM me.

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2018, 05:49:54 AM »
Based on what I’ve read, I bet #3 was the big one but I’ve seen the other two changes spoken well of, but #3 is something most of the small commercial producers I know use, with variations (some feed more times per day with appropriately smaller rations, etc)

As you know from my journal, we tend to eat almost all of our rabbit boned out and ground. I’m still searching for ways to make it as whole cuts that I like. Smoking and grilling can be good, over roasting can be good, many folks crockpot but I have a hard time finding all the bones with the low and slow methods.

One way to think of rabbit is whole muscles=chicken except for the belly flaps, which are kinda their own thing. Back legs are close to thighs, loin/backstrap is like breast, front legs are like wings.  Ground rabbit=lean ground pork, incredibly versatile.

Scott Rea has some neat rabbit ideas on his channel. I also learned deboning from one of his videos. A Facebook page called “Recipes for the Caerbannog Traveler” has many cool posts. Another Facebook page called “Lancaster Hills Rabbitry” is a top Cali breeder in the Philippines who often posts some really neat recipes, many of them Asian themed.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2018, 05:52:06 AM by furrychickens »
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.

erutio

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 169
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2018, 07:39:01 PM »
We are far from reaching your levels, so posting mainly to follow.

One question though, when you harvest the rabbits, do you use the pelts for anything?

furrychickens

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7181
  • Age: 33
  • Location: SE WI
  • Homeschooling and homestesding since 2013
Re: Produce 75% of Non-Dairy Animal Protein
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2018, 06:51:56 AM »
We are far from reaching your levels, so posting mainly to follow.

One question though, when you harvest the rabbits, do you use the pelts for anything?

I don’t currently. Just not enough time to tan, and fleshing is really hard on my RSI crippled hands. Tried it once.

Plus to get a good pelt that won’t tear easily and won’t have eventual fur slippage you really have to keep the rabbits past an age where 1) they need to be in a solo cage rather than a shared pen and 2) the feed conversion really suffers for the last few weeks of getting them to the minimum age for prime pelts.

When I’m no longer teaching the kids maybe I’ll have the time to revisit it and design a setup that isn’t too hard on my hands, but not any time soon :)

I do raise Rex and Silver Fox, both of which do make excellent pelts. Rex for super soft, velvety plush fur and Silver Fox for a luxurious thick furred pelt.
I kill fluffy bunnies and feed them to my children.