The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Praise for the Red Ranger

Butchered Red Ranger

A couple of you asked for more information on Mark's first Red Ranger butchering post. In case you missed it, I commented with lots of stats here.

The only additional bit of information is the final weight after butchering all sixteen birds. The lightest bird was 3 pounds 13.5 ounces, the heaviest bird was 5 pounds 12.8 ounces, and the average weight was 4 pounds 13.3 ounces. Most were so big I had to cut the legs off before packing them away in gallon ziploc bags!

I really enjoyed working with this breed, despite it being a hybrid, and I'm pretty sure we're going to give them another go next year. I think we'll start a few weeks earlier, though, so the birds aren't finishing off after the killing frost. And we might also kill them a couple of weeks younger since I suspect the feed-to-meat ratio got considerably worse during their last few weeks of life. The broilers also got a lot lazier about foraging during that period, meaning they were packing away more bad fats and fewer good fats --- yet another reason to kill them young.

But, all told, I now think Red Rangers are a good compromise between the fast growth and good conversion ratio of the Cornish Cross and the better foraging and survivability of the heirloom bird. Right now, if someone asked me which broiler to raise on pasture next year, I'd feel confident saying "Red Rangers all the way!"

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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When we raised CX for sale and strictly followed Salatin's methods we got a feed conversion rate of 2:1. It's not hard to do if you are diligent about fresh range for the chickens, free range really lowers the feed conversion rates on any breed because it only takes a few days for the insects and "low hanging" fruit to be foraged out of existence. It's the same with grazers, they eat they high energy part of the plant the first day and then if not moved or allowed to range far and wide they are forced eat farther down the plant and at that point are getting just fodder.

The best chicken we raised for ourselves were the roosters from our pullet batches, and butchered at 20 weeks. After 12 weeks or so the meat changes and becomes more flavorful, so it's no wonder the CX are bland, they are still babies. We used to eat a lot of chicken but no more, too expensive to raise anymore, the price of feed grains are astronomical for what you get. It may be different in your area where more feed grains are actually grown.

Comment by Nita Sat Nov 21 09:42:45 2015

Nita --- You're totally right. That was my final analysis of Cornish Cross --- they simply don't range well enough for my rotational pastures to work. With layers and even the Red Rangers, simply turning them into a new pasture every week and rotating back around to the first pasture in a month keeps the cream growing, but not so with Cornish Cross. Unfortunately, we don't have the type of pastures you need to do Salatin-style tractoring --- too many trees and hills.

It's pretty pricey to buy chicken feed here too. But I can no longer conceive of cooking without their broth, so we have to grow enough to make soup bases. :-)

Comment by anna Sat Nov 21 10:24:20 2015
Thanks for the stats...i think I will give them a go next year.. and after paying an arm and a leg for pastured turkey for thanksgiving, I think maybe a few turkey poults too!
Comment by Deb Sat Nov 21 18:39:39 2015
It's definitely a journey, I used to think that too about the broth, but I have to cook to my husband's dietary needs, and we found the chicken broth to be a little allergenic probably due to the grain diet, compared to the broth I make from the beef or sheep which received no grain in their lives and only eat from here. Less tummy aches sure made it easy to wean ourselves from much poultry in our meat array.
Comment by Nita Sun Nov 22 08:58:04 2015
Nita --- That's intriguing! Our bodies so far seem keen on chicken broth, but that may be because about half of our year's supply comes from laying hens --- grain fed, but much more pastured. As our goat adventure continues, though, I could definitely see the red meat becoming a larger part of our diet. Ruminants are definitely more sustainable if you can have something local for them to graze on. And Mark loves red meat.... :-)
Comment by anna Sun Nov 22 13:54:21 2015
Have you played around with fodder systems for chicken feed? I usually do 4 rotating trays of wheatgrass, or other microgreens, during winter, but am considering expanding that this winter for goats and geese maybe.... mine is very low tech, just big baking trays spread with sprouted wheat, let it grow till about 3 inches, and toss the whole thing in the pen, roots and all. No substrate, just water them, drain off excess.. seems like you get at least double the weight of food , maybe more. Will try barley this time, since that seems to be the grain of choice in real fodder systems
Comment by Deb Sun Nov 22 18:15:28 2015

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