When raising chickens for meat chicken farmers used to separate roosters from pullets at an early age. The pullets were then raised for egg production while the roosters were raised for meat production. This state of affairs created an imbalance in meat and egg production. A balance had to be found, after extensive research, scientist developed hybrid birds, which they considered the best chickens to raise for meat, at the time. However, the initial broilers, which came into being in the 1930’s, were characterized by slow growth and were also very prone to diseases. Modern breeds are less susceptible to diseases and gain weight rapidly. With the right fattening program, the birds can be ready for slaughter within 6 weeks.
Where do Broilers (meat birds) come from?
Broilers are hatched from eggs laid by broiler pullets, broiler breeders. The breeding broilers can lay eggs for up to 10 months. After that, they are also slaughtered for meat.
There are a number of ways of acquiring broiler chickens. One of the ways is to buy grown chickens from chicken farms. This is a safe option in that the chicken history is well known and the chickens will already have been vaccinated against most chicken disease. The downside of doing this is you will have to pay more for the grown birds.
Day old chicks are cheaper to purchase, but they are delicate to look after. The chicks have to be properly housed, fed and vaccinated against various diseases. The care provided would vary depending on which phase of growth they will be in.
There are various varieties of meat chickens. Traditional breeds include the Indian game (Cornish), Rhode Island Red, Sussex and the malines. These birds are not broilers per se as their pullets are also excellent layers.
Modern broilers are a cross between the Cornish and some other variety. The most popular breeds to raise for meat include the Cornish game hens, Cornish roasters and the Cornish rock. These breeds are favored by many hatcheries because they do not consume a lot of feed, are fast growing and are survivors.
Housing the Broilers
The chicks will definitely have to be housed in a brooding area before they are old enough to be transferred to a coop. The coop should be well constructed, lit, and ventilated.
It is recommended that the floor of the coop be made from concrete and be covered with some form of litter, chopped straw and wood shavings, this will make it easy to clean the coop.
Adequate lighting is important, as it will stimulate the birds to be active. However, the birds should be shielded from direct sunlight and extreme heat and humidity, as these can cause them to die of heat stress.
When raising chickens for meat they tend to gain weight at such a fast rate that it becomes difficult even for them to support their own weight. This makes the birds docile and inactive. Thus, the chickens spend most of their time lying down making them prone to health conditions such as heart failure, lameness, breast blisters among others.