We had the first of our first heritage meat chickens for dinner this week. He was yummy, very chicken-y, but much chewier then the cornish crosses we did last year. Next time I’m cooking in the crock pot. We’re still not sure what the plan is for next year. There were some things I definitely preferred about raising the heritage breed over the cornish cross but there were also some drawbacks. These birds we purchased as chicks from a local bird farmer who is attempting to replicate heritage meat mutts that reach weight quickly.
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Are Heritage Meat Chickens The Best?
These birds were good foragers, and decently fast growers. They acted like chickens instead of big fluffy blobs. We didn’t lose any to heart attacks or have any legs give out. That alone was totally awesome, as it was one of the biggest downsides of the cornish cross. I did end up overstocking the yard space I had available and it really stressed the grass in the backyard, so I definitely can’t raise that many good foragers at a time on pasture in my tiny backyard farm.
They grew unevenly, with the hens growing much slower. After the fact, I ended up regretting the fact that we butchered some of the smaller hens, I should have kept them as laying hens for a year or two first. They didn’t get as big as the broilers, even though we kept them until they were about 16 weeks old, twice as long as with the cornish.
Unfortunately keeping them that long meant that they started crowing before they were as big as I wanted and that was a HUGE negative for me, because I am not allowed to keep roosters in city limits.
If I had a larger property and could legally keep roosters I would be very happy to raise these birds again, but given the longer grow out time, the stress on my tiny plot of grass, and the crowing I probably won’t be raising another “big” batch of these.
They sure were cute though! Here they are dust bathing, something I NEVER saw the cornish even try!
Should you raise heritage meat chickens?
If you have a bit more space to pasture good foragers, I think raising a heritage meat breed is a great idea! These weren’t ideal for the tiny urban homesteader, but for everyone else they seem like a great option.
They have a much higher quality of life than cornish cross, and they are good foragers with a decent grow out rate.
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