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Dual purpose birds?
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bb99 · 06/01/2010 16:32

Sorry in advance if too controversial a subject, but I am interested in ethical eggs and meat.

Do any of you keep dual purpose birds and if so how long do you keep/fatten them for meat? Also how big a flock would you need for a reasonable 'turnover' and are there any regulations/laws/advice about dispatching the meat birds as I'm not sure how to go about that part of it? My Dad could probably show me as he is of that age, but lives too far away to be of regular help.

My family eat meat and I like the idea of knowing where their food has come from and that the animal, or bird, has had a good, wholesome and as natural as possible life and as swift and stressfree end as possible...whether or not I can do this in practise, I don't know.

TIA for any advice - I know not everyone's girls are for the pot, so sorry if I have caused any offense!

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luckyblackcat · 06/01/2010 16:40

DuchessofNorksbride used to have meat birds, have a search on chooks section and see if you can find her posts.

Don't know if she is around any more.

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Drayford · 07/01/2010 00:09

I keep Rhode Island Reds alongside my rescue hens - we allow the rhodies to go broody in the spring and keep the hens, but rear the cockerels for the table for our own consumption only. The ratio of hens to cockerels is usually about 1:3, but I'm not sure if that is the norm.

It takes about 12 - 14 weeks for them to be ready. We feed them on bran mash and mixed grain and corn and then slaughter and dress them oursleves. I went on a course when I first started with chickens that covered poultry for meat and dealt with slaughter methods and dressing, but there are plenty of books available too.

There are rules concerning humane slaughter, I think it may be the 1995 Welfare of Animals Act that covers it.

We hardly ever buy commercially reared chicken now, home reared really does taste better!

Hope this helps a bit - good luck!

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bb99 · 07/01/2010 17:50

Thank you for the advice.

Drayford - so do you have a cockeral or do you get the broodie birds to sit on fertilised eggs you buy (my friend got her broodie bird to hatch some duck eggs for her) and if they lay their own fertile eggs, how many would each bird sit on?

Or, can you recommend a good book as the questions may just start rolling out now - trying to figure out how many birds for about 1 doz eggs a week and as much meat as is reasonable, so I can stop feeling so bad everytime I cook chicken or get it from the supermarket!

Looking at building my own coop, but it could all just be a bit of a pipe dream...

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Drayford · 07/01/2010 18:53

I do keep a cockerel - I buy a new one in every 2 years to stop to much inbreeding in my replacement rhodies. As soon as a hen is broody, I just put her in a broody coop and put about 8-10 eggs under her. But you can put more.

You do need a good book though. I bought one for a friend who was just starting with chickens last year - I think it was called The Poultry Keepers Handbook or something like that. Country Smallholder magazine and website may have some info for you.

If you have over a certain number of chickens, you will need to register with DEFRA. DEFRA's website should have the guidelines.

We use a second hand shed and our DC's old wooden wendy house, both with DIY pens attached, as chicken houses. It's pretty easy to build your own!!

We treat chicken as a luxury now - in fact we produce more far beef and lamb than chicken, so eat more of that!

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bb99 · 09/01/2010 13:51

Drayford - you have bullocks/cows and sheep too! You certainly keep busy. Hope the weather is being kind to you and your herds/flocks! I know the farmers around here are having a tough time in general with some poaching, even of bigger animals, the economic down turn and now the weather...

Thanks for the info - I'll get looking for the book and have a peep at the DEFRA site.

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Drayford · 11/01/2010 23:14

Do let me know how you get on!

If you want some rescue battery hens, just for eggs, these are the people to go to. They started just down the road from me and I'm on my second lot of rescue hens from them!

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