From Feathers to Fork: Raising Meat Chickens in your Backyard

Feb 14 • 2024

Raising meat chickens can be one of the most exciting and rewarding things for your family to experience. In just a few short weeks you go from baby chicks to a fully stocked freezer with plenty of chicken for the year!

Before those fluffy chicks ever arrive at your doorstep …it’s crucial to lay a strong foundation. Let me tell you, organization is the cornerstone of success in this venture. From preparing a suitable temporary brooder and ensuring a steady heat source, to maintaining nutrition levels and establishing a processing plan, every aspect requires careful planning. This not only guarantees the well-being of your future meat birds but also ensures a seamless and efficient process from start to finish. Being organized allows you to anticipate and address potential challenges, enabling you to provide the best possible care for your birds. So, before you even think about ordering chicks, take the time to meticulously plan and organize every aspect of their future home and care routine. Your feathered companions will thank you with healthy growth and flavorful meat.

Lucky for you, I have created a Free Meat bird Checklist so that this planning process takes much less time!

Get the Free MeatBird Checklist Here!




What Breed Would You Recommend?

When growing meat birds my breed of choice is the Cornish Cross Broilers since they grow really fast, and we have had great success with them. Here in Florida our Cornish Cross Broilers are ready to move to their outdoor space around 3 weeks of age. Before then, they need to be kept warm and clean. Their brooder must stay dry with a full stock of water and fresh feed.

When I first started my meat birds, I was living in a 5th wheel camper waiting for my new construction home to be finished. I didn’t have access to sheds or permanent structures to create a stand-alone brooder so I had to improvise.

Supplies Needed for your Brooder Setup

  • Portable Brooder: Using portable brooder playpens worked perfectly for the space I had under the hitch! They could stay close to me but still out of the “weather”.
  • Heater Plates: In our setup, we opted for heater plates over heat lamps. This decision was influenced by the fact that heat lamps posed a greater challenge in preventing the shavings from catching fire.
  • Infrared Thermometer: Keeping this style of brooder at the right temperature can be super easy with an infrared thermometer! Just point and you know in an instant how to adjust the temp to keep those chicks nice and cozy.
  • Chick Waterer: You need something easy to fill, clean and maintain with smaller sides so that the chicks can easily access the water.
  • Chick Feeder: You want a feeder that has plenty of holes for your chicks to spread out and eat. Something flexible yet heavy duty preferably.
  • Pine Shavings: These are super absorbent and create a great layer for the chicks to walk on. You will need to add additional layers at least once a day to keep your chicks dry and clean.
  • Chick Electrolyte: You want your flock to stay hydrated and healthy especially after their long ride with the post office.
  • Composter: Where else would you put the pine shavings and bedding from the first 3 weeks? This will be excellent to have so that you can use this later for fertilizing your garden.
  • Shovel: No need to break your back! Whip out a shovel when it is time to clean those brooders out. You will find this makes the job much easier.


Broilers & Feed Setup

When you go to purchase your chickens be realistic with the amount of space you have to keep Meat Birds happy for 8 weeks. If you do not have space for a large brooder then maybe starting out with 25 chicks is more than plenty for your space! You should expect 2-3 birds to die prior to the 8 weeks of natural causes as that is what this breed typically runs at.

  • 25 Cornish Cross chicks from hatchery: We have had success with McMurray Hatchery but have also purchased locally as well with similar success.
  • 20%-22% Meat Bird Starter/Grower Feed: You can buy this from your local farm/feed store or online!
  • Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae: We had this to their diet once they are out on pasture as additional food/snack but is not necessary.
  • Feed Drum: Keep a drum that is airtight and not easily accessible to animals outdoors.
  • Feed Scoop: You will want a small and large scoop to fill up those feeding trays!



Chicken Tractor & Supplies

We are firm believers that your chickens do best on pasture, but it can be difficult sometimes to keep them away from predators. We chose to build our own chicken tractor very similar to that of Joel Salatin. Start researching the best type of chicken tractor for your land and what will be easily maintained throughout its use.

These movable chicken tractors allow the chickens to eat plants and bugs as they move spaces day to day. This also allows an even spread of manure which will certainly benefit your lawn!

• Chicken Tractor: Your movable chicken tractor should be floorless and easily movable. The dimensions can vary but should be 3-4sq ft of space for every 2 chickens.
• Large Chicken Waterer: Your chickens will drink a ton of water throughout the day! I suggest a 3-gallon waterer to make sure they have plenty.
• Metal Range Feeder: Your chickens will make a mess when it is feeding time. The metal feeder is easily cleanable within seconds and super durable to last you for years!
• Poultry Carrier: Transitioning your chickens from the brooder to the chicken tractor can feel daunting so have a poultry carrier handy to make this much more manageable.

Cleaning Supplies

You never know what you really need until you are in the situation, but it is super convenient to have tools on hand in case you need them when it comes to keeping things clean on the homestead.

  • Poultry Castile Wash: This is an all-natural multi-purpose soap to clean those feathers and feeders.
  • Hand Sanitizer: This is nice to have close to your back door when you come in from tending to your flock. Keep those hands clean!
  • Scrub Brush: Chicken poop can get sticky when it dries in this Florida heat so keep a scrub brush near that tractor because you will definitely use it on those hot days.
  • Vinegar Wipes: These are great for those small messes that you can clean up quick.
  • Vinegar Solution Spray Bottle

With these items on hand prior to ever purchasing those birds you will be more prepare then 90% of people that buy chickens on a whim one weekend. Stay organized and keep your supplies stocked and operating smoothly. Take care of your things!

If you would love my complete Meat Bird Checklist that also includes the checklist for Processing day…..check out this link to get your FREE copy!