A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some chicken math

Photo credit - http://www.flickr.com/photos/binkley27/1487476672/

Yes, yet another post about chickens...am I the only one so obsessed? This time I'm talking about broilers/fryers and not our beloved laying hens. I received the hatchery catalogue in the mail last week and I have been browsing through trying to decide what I want to order. I think I have decided on a Cornish Cross for my meat birds and a few more of the Sex-sal Link or ISA Brown to supplement my laying hens. The Cornish Cross seems like a winner for a meat bird...from the Rochester Hatchery catalogue...

"This dual purpose bird is a pleasure to grow. Our unique cross gives you the best of both worlds. A bird that makes a good roaster without having the leg problems, heart attacks, or "water-belly" commonly seen with the modern meat birds, since it is slower growing. The Cornish X is capable of finishing at weights close to those of the broiler but will take 2-4 weeks longer."

The Cornish Rock Giant is the bird typically grown for meat use. It is grown to about 8 lbs live weight in 8-10 weeks. Sadly as it has been bred to grow fast and with exceptionally large breasts it has no end of leg problems and heart attacks...so I think the Cornish X is a better alternative. I am going to order 100, which should leave me with about 50-60 birds for the freezer...when you factor in losses and chickens to trade for help when slaughter day comes.

I'm quite excited about having our own chickens. It means I can completely skip the meat aisle of the grocery store because we get our pork from Big Bear Ranch (check out their Family Pack - and make sure to get some bacon..delicious) our beef from the Zirnhelt Ranch and in the Fall we will have Zirnhelt-Meyrick lamb and chicken.

In anticipation, I have stopped buying trays of breasts which I have always bought (which is the meat from 4 chickens!) and started buying a few roasters, per week. So now we come to the math part...two organic chickens (from Bradner Farms in Abbotsford) at 1.4 kilos each cost me about $30 (about $10/kg). I prepared both chickens using this recipe....they came out juicy and very tender. We ate the meat from one chicken one night, saved the meat from the second one for Chicken Fettucine Alfredo later in the week and made a delicious stock from the bones and leftover chicken which gave me 4 litres of rich, golden stock...

three of which I used for Chicken Noodle Soup (one dinner and two lunches).

So... $30 worth of chicken = 3 dinners + 2 lunches for a family of 5 + 1 litre of stock for my favourite vegetable soup. Not bad!

So then, in raising our own chickens...the cost breaks down as follows:

100 chicks = $192 + $20 to vaccinate chicks against coccidiosis and Marek's disease + $15 shipping= $227
*Approx. 450 kg of organic chick grower = 22 x 20 kg bags @ $19.50 per bag = $429
Miscellaneous equipment costs = approx. $100
Total cost = $756

*While we are hoping to use some chicken tractors to let the chicks forage for food after a few weeks...we wanted to calculate our costs as if they were eating feed alone as we're not sure about the quality of our forage.

So then if you factor in some losses...so say 10%...leaving us with 90 chickens...if we barter 30 of those to get help with slaughtering etc...that leaves us with 60 chickens for our freezer at approx. $12.50 per chicken. So going back to our Bradner Farm organic chicken purchase...we are hoping our birds will finish at a live weight of between 3 - 4 kg which would provide us with a roaster at approx. 2kg. So...based on all of these estimates, raising our own organic meat birds should cost us about $6-7 per kilo.

So in the end...we should be saving about $3-4 per kg...or based on my 3 kg worth of chicken meals I mentioned above $12 per week (if I've done the math correctly ;) Not to mention contributing to our overall goal of eating locally and 'knowing where our food is coming from'.


  1. You know, I get the broiler or roaster chicks from the Okanagan Hatchery. And I have had few of the predicted problems because I don't feed them aggressively and because, I think, they live outside in chicken tractors that get moved everyday so fresh grass and bugs are a regular part of their diet. And of course, I don't use any antibiotics and I feed them organic feed. Last year my biggest bird at dress-out weight was 9.9 lbs! In 2 years of doing it at 30 birds each time, I have had a total of 1 bird who didn't thrive and 1 heart attack. No broken legs or anything like that. Also, these birds are only $1 each. Last year I grew some of the old fashioned meat birds and at 20 weeks they came in weighing 3 - 4 lbs whereas the others at 11 weeks weighed from 6 - almost 10 lbs....

  2. I'm glad you are thinking to go with the Cornish X ... I feel bad for the meat birds whose legs give out!! My friend used to raise their own chickens both meat birds and layers. A lot of work come slaughter day. I'm glad you have help lined up. I'll have to check out the pork and beef places you mentioned. We love to buy local. We get the Bradner chickens too and am always amazed at how many meals we can get out of one chicken ... there is just the two of us.

    Here is a good video for cutting up a fryer ... a little different than I used to but definitely saves a lot of money ... a whole chicken for the price of two breasts!!


    The idea of a chicken tractor is appealing ... so one can move them around. I still think about say 4 layers ... we only need a couple of eggs a day! Our lot isn't "big" enough to officially have birds but I thought I could escape detection with just 4 birds! I can dream. I so would like to be self sufficient ... because I think one day we will need to be!!