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We tried our hand at raising 100 red ranger broilers this year (still in process, they are about 6 weeks old now) and I'm fairly certain we're not going to meet the advertised feed conversion which is killing any chance of even breaking even on the endeavor. I know I've made some mistakes including but not limited to:

1) Trying to start too late in the year - We got chicks September 10 after the weather had started cooling down and had problems in the brooder controlling temperature and drafts and as a result has some mortality in the brooder from huddling tightly. We had some thin plywood bent into the corners to keep a 90 deg corner but still had some issues, lost 6 or 7 chicks in the brooder.

2) Bought the wrong chick starter feed. Accidentally bought 24% protein feed for game birds which was fed for the first week until I discovered my error.

3) Injured a few birds once moved into pasture in a Salatin style chicken tractor by rolling their leg under the edge when moving, was unable to see birds laying on the ground on the back edge of the tractor before moving.


We're buying bagged feed from the feed store which is expensive. The Purina feed has been on sale over the generic feed store brand for about $0.50 more per bag and they seem to go through that a little slower, maybe has less filler. I bought a hammer mill/mixer at an auction for $200 this summer and hope to buy a gravity box (~200 bu) from a farmer just north of me that raises conventional corn (non-GM) while prices are super low. I have a tractor coming soon that will handle partial mixer loads (not the full 95 bu capacity) which is fine, I'd rather mix smaller batches more often and have less finished feed in barrels. This should keep my feed costs lower than bagged feed even with a mineral and whole roasted soybeans mixed into the proper rations. Longer term goal (2 years) is to convert some of my tillable ground which is in mixed grass/alfalfa hay to grain after I have the ability to harvest it.

I don't plan on getting chicks before April 1 or any later than Aug 1 in the future. Based on this experience I don't believe the broiler breeds to be hardy enough for cold weather brooding.

After this batch of chickens is comfortably resting in the freezer I'm going to make some modifications to the tractors to make them easier to move. I want to have bicycle size wheels on all 4 corners with a link system to lift the whole tractor several inches off the ground so the whole thing can be moved without rolling birds under the edges. I have some undulations in pasture that also need to be disced, harrowed, and reseeded so that the pasture doesn't have as many bumps, dips, and general unevenness to it.


What other ways do you have for reducing mortality and keeping feed costs down. At this point, I don't think I would mess with broilers again other than for personal consumption if I had to do bagged feed.
 

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I don't do broilers, at least, not recently, but your best bet for saving money is only to raise what you need. I ALWAYS over hatch, and end up keeping too many birds for too long and spending too much on feed.

Do as I say, not as I do. :D

In my defense, I'm doing a breeding program for specific traits, not all of which show up early, but feed costs are a large consideration.

I also only hatch for myself, but if I were hatching for sale I'd certainly have no qualms about letting people know what it costs to grow the birds and make sure they would be sold not at a loss.

Sounds like you are on the right track with what you are doing/thinking about. Being aware of the problems is half the battle with expenses.
 

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I would try cornish cross in a free range situation, suplemented with high protein feed mixed with your corn, like a 40% protein kinda deal.

Cornish are bred to convert feed efficiently, and everything I have read tells me they blow all others out of the water. We raise ours in a free range situation, and feed them our farm wheat with a high protein blend. Their feed conversion is amazing! In a free range situation, and if not overfed, they act as a chicken should and stay healthy and strong longer.

Heart issues, leg issues, laziness issues: These are a symptom of overfeeding. Our 10 pounders are ready for butcher tomorrow, and they still walk around, scratch in the soil, eat weeds and bugs, and do just fine.

The only deaths out of 50 this year, were tw0 who were stepped on by my children.

We raise them from chickhood to adulthood using the same building as home base, so they are never moved which reduces stress and accident risks.

Part of our efficiency is our abundance of our own grains, I recognize that.
 

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We've been raising cornish cross for many years. We finally ditched the salatin style tractors for a much improved "A" frame style. I absolutely hated the Salatin style tractors and I dreaded moving them each day. Terrible design... We started using the A frame style towards the end of the summer and it was WAY better and I have not had one mortality due to running over. I can see every single bird when I move them. We can't put as many per tractor but that's OK. I'm no longer chasing little chicks around the pasture because there is NO WAY they can get out.. That use to drive me absolutely nuts... We lost a lot of birds this year due to other reasons (bad hatchery genetics) and will change things up next year. We have been using certified organic feed by the bag and it's crazy expensive and that sure cut into the profits. We are going to switch to a transition feed next year and see how things go. With all the time invested in these birds the term "profit" is subjective. We do get to eat some really good chicken tho....
 

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A few thoughts, cold and drafts will make for mortality, so unless you have a draft free environment, definitely stick to the warmer months. The gamebird starter is not a terrible plan for the first week, gets them off to a good start, bugs are high protein, and that is what they would feed on in the wild. The thing to remember is that with Salatin's tractor design, he has herds of interns to help him move those tractors. Broiler chickens are not overly smart. (I have game chickens that fly up on their perch when I start moving their tractor.) I have always felt that the dumbing down is part of what makes them hang close to the feeder in a big crowd and eat all day, which makes them good at what they are bred for. Another thought, grass might be 12% protein on a good day (that's like the highest grass hay I have had tested, actual grass with water in it is probably less than half that), most broiler feed will be at least 16%. Feeding them grass is going to make them take longer to reach processing size. The broiler tractoring model works best when implemented with other animals in the rotation, the addition of insects in manure, and grain waste, will boost a pastures nutrition level.
 

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I will see if I have a pic. We bought the instructions on-line and then made a few tweaks to it. Not sure if I can post any kind of link here... The frame is treated 2x4's and the back only lifts up a inch or two. Before the birds really get the hang of the whole "move" thing you can just gently "bump" them with the back end and then they move. There are wheels that mount on the back end about 10 inches behind the back so when you lift up the front and pull it moves right along... Per the size the max is around 30 birds per tractor but to me it's worth it to move multiple tractors (currently have built 6) then to move 2 or 3 of the other ones. The water and feed troughs are mounted inside and moves right along with the whole unit.. It's really slick and I wish we would have had them years ago...
 

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I agree with going with the cornish rock. I raise 100 every year & make a nice little profit while also leaving me with about 40 for us. I sell enough to pay for the chicks & the feed & also a little extra so that makes mine basically free. I made smaller tractors that are only about 18" high. They are 8' square. I put handles on each side & I get my son to help pick them up & move them. We pick them up just enough to move them without the chickens being able to get out. Works great.
 

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I raise my broilers on pasture, but they go into a little enclosed shed at night. We built a shade structure with two wheels at one end so I can move it around. I move it in the evening after they are in the shed for the night so it's ready to go when I let them out in the morning. I move their food and water to the shade structure in the morning and back to the shed at night.

I should mention that this set up is inside of a fenced-in pasture, so I don't have to worry about 4-footed predators during the day. I'm sure hawks could swoop in and pick one off, but I've never had that happen.

Here's a picture of the shade structure.
 

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Crazy Canuck
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I would try cornish cross in a free range situation, suplemented with high protein feed mixed with your corn, like a 40% protein kinda deal.

Cornish are bred to convert feed efficiently, and everything I have read tells me they blow all others out of the water. We raise ours in a free range situation, and feed them our farm wheat with a high protein blend. Their feed conversion is amazing! In a free range situation, and if not overfed, they act as a chicken should and stay healthy and strong longer.

Heart issues, leg issues, laziness issues: These are a symptom of overfeeding. Our 10 pounders are ready for butcher tomorrow, and they still walk around, scratch in the soil, eat weeds and bugs, and do just fine.

The only deaths out of 50 this year, were tw0 who were stepped on by my children.

We raise them from chickhood to adulthood using the same building as home base, so they are never moved which reduces stress and accident risks.

Part of our efficiency is our abundance of our own grains, I recognize that.
What exactly are you giving them besides wheat? What %? What other suppliments?
How many weeks to get them to 10 lbs?
 

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10lbs is a big ass chicken! I process ours a little smaller, after dressing out they average 4.5-5.5lbs which is just about right for our farm customers.

We feed a mix of roasted soybeans, corn, barley, fishmeal for added protein, minerals, lime, alfalfa hay. a very balanced high energy diet. I have had 1-2 deaths this year due to heart attack. We raise 600 broilers a year, plus 150 turkeys on this feed. (no turkeys dead except of the dumb couple who stayed out of cover in the cold rain, and the one who slept in the waterer.... )
 

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What exactly are you giving them besides wheat? What %? What other suppliments?
How many weeks to get them to 10 lbs?
We feed whole hard red spring wheat, mixed with a 40% protein "poultry pre-mix" from the Co-op. Plus they have room to glean whatever else they can!

10 pounders are usually a mistake; in the years harvest gets late and prevents us from early butchering, especially this year, when we only got them in late July. We shoot for 8 dressed weight. They pretty much need to be male to get to 8 to 10 lbs dressed, we find.

I estimate they currently will dress out at around the 8 to 9 lb weight. They are about 13 weeks I believe.
 
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