As a homesteader, it has been a dream of mine to raise chickens for meat. 1) We eat a lot of chicken in our home. 2) It’s my favorite meat to cook because it is so versatile. 3) I know that store-bought chickens do not live the best lives: they often live in small dirty cages and have no access to fresh air or land. And 4) they are often filled with antibiotics and hormones. Yuck!
I love the idea of knowing where my meat comes from, how it’s been raised, and what it’s eaten during it’s lifetime. That’s why we finally decided to raise our own meat birds. Let me show you how to raise chickens for meat.
How to Raise Chickens for Meat
Raising chickens for meat is surprisingly easy and really requires only a few steps.
Step 1: Have a place for the chickens to live.
For us, that meant converting an old shed into a chicken coop. You can do something like that- upcycling, or you can purchase a chicken coop at your local farm store like Tractor Supply or Rural King or even online. You need to make sure your coop will be big enough to accommodate the amount of chickens you buy. Our converted shed could easily hold 20 meat chickens at a time. It’s about 4′ x 10′ (we left some of the shed for storage of pine shavings and chicken food, etc.)
I also recommend having a shaded outdoor area for the chickens to meander. It doesn’t have to be a huge area because they will get big quickly and won’t want to walk far distances. Letting them free range (or have access to grass) also cuts down on your food bill because they will be eating grass and bugs.
Step 2: Have supplies to keep the chicken coop clean.
I keep my chicken coop clean by first adding a dusting of diatomaceous earth all over the floor of the coop. This helps control and kill any bugs that may find their way into the coop. Then, I add pine shavings (I have also used saw dust, and some people even use sand) to the floor- about 2″ deep. I only have to clean my coop once per month because my chickens (once they’ve grown their feathers) have access to outside and spend most of their time meandering their large pen.
Step 3: Have plenty of food on hand.
Meat chickens eat A LOT! Again, having access to your yard is smart because they can eat grass and bugs, but they also need chicken food. I only buy my chickens certified organic food. I recommend you to do the same. You will need a chicken feeder to put your food in. You can purchase a chicken feeder when you get your chicken food, or you can use old pie pans. I not only have a full chicken feeder at all times (I check it daily), but I also throw a cup of food into their pen.
Step 4: Keep lots of clean water in their pen and in their coop.
Chickens eat a lot, but they also drink a lot! Who can blame them? Growing so large, so fast requires a lot of energy. I make sure to have clean water in their coop AND in their pen. This also means I change their water daily. During the spring, summer, and fall I just use a regular chicken water-er and buckets. (To be totally honest, I steal my kids’ Easter buckets and use those!) You need to make sure your chickens are large enough to reach the water in buckets. When they are tiny, it’s smart to use a store bought chicken water-er or even an old pie pan. Once they get bigger, they stand taller than a bucket, so that works well because buckets are easy to carry (handles) and keep clean.
In the winter, I use a heated dog water bowl. I do not like to use galvanized steel water-ers (you can put them on a heating pad and it keeps the water from freezing) because they tend to rust no matter what the season. I wouldn’t want to drink rusty water, so why would I want my meat chickens to drink rusty water? Yuck. So, I have found that a heated dog water bowl works well! It doesn’t rust! It keeps the water from freezing. And it’s easy to clean!
If you haven’t noticed, I’m all about keeping things clean AND easy! Follow these easy steps and you’ll succeed at raising your own chickens for meat! Stay tuned for next week’s post. I will show you how we butchered our first round of chickens for meat.
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Happy Homesteading! (:
P.S. have any thoughts or questions? Tell me all the things in the comments! Also, you can contact us if you’d love to collab!