Please read my disclosure if you have questions.
Raising meat chickens in the city can be a quick and easy way to provide some meat for yourself even in the city. Cornish cross grow quickly, but they are traditionally raised on a grain based diet. Many people prefer pastured meat chickens (myself included). There are heritage breeds that are better at foraging on pastures, but they are not ideal in a very small urban situation like ours. There is a compromise between the two, and that is raising Cornish Cross on pasture. Our last batch of meat chickens spent a lot of time outdoors and I will continue to do so for future batches as well.
How To Raise Pastured Meat Chickens Without a Large Pasture
The trick to raising pastured meat chickens in the city is rotation, and very small batches. If you have a batch of four to six birds and rotate them every day they will keep your grass “mowed” and fertilized, but won’t kill it. Cornish aren’t very active, so they won’t be as destructive of a lawn as other breeds. They also aren’t as flighty as other breeds. So, while chicken wire usually does NOT work to keep chickens contained you can put up a quick pen with chicken wire and stakes that is easy to move daily.
Use ALL Your Space!
The benefit of using chicken wire is you can make it funky shapes. In my case, this means the chickens can graze up and down the strip of grass between raised beds, but won’t get into the garden. They won’t be able to get all the nutrition they need on grass alone, so still make sure to provide them with feed. If they sit in front of the feeder all day, wait for a couple hours to put it into the pen in the morning. That way they are more likely to get some exercise.
Downsides of Raising in Small Spaces
There are some downsides to raising your meat chickens on pasture with a very small space. First of, it’s very time intensive. You have to move the birds every single day, and keep an eye on them for safety if you are using a small chicken wire fence. In our case, I brought the birds into our garage every night because I did not have space to attach a movable coop to the pen. If you have more space you can get a less time-intensive, sturdy tractor like Flip Flop Barnyard did for their flock.
Also, the smaller your space, the smaller flock you need to keep. You may not be able to produce an entire year’s worth of chicken, on your smaller property. But if you do successive batches you may be able to raise quite a few. By starting chicks in the brooder that will move into your outdoor space after you process the older birds you can raise a decent number over the course of the season. It may not be as convenient as one huge flock each spring, but the ability to raise your own pastured chicken may be worth the time.
Give it a try!
I’ve raised Cornish Cross in pens, and raised heritage birds alongside our layer flock. So far the Cornish Cross in movable pens on the lawn has been my preferred method of raising meat birds. The heritage breeds have good quality of life, and you can let them go longer before processing. However, the Cornish are more compatible with small spaces than the active heritage breeds.
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