Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Black australorps as broilers

Bagged chickensI was bound and determined to lower our feed conversion rate this year, so I decided to think outside the box and try to raise laying breed chickens for meat.  My hypothesis was that these avid foragers wouldn't get as big as heavy broiler breeds and would look leggier than a supermarket chicken, but that their prowess at finding their own food would lower the overall feed to meat ratio, saving us money and resulting in healthier meat.

We killed our two biggest cockerels on Monday, so I have the first set of results to share with you.  I took the photo above after bagging both the australorp and the golden comet cross, so it's tough to see the difference, but in person, the golden comet carcass (on the left in the photo above) looked how I'd expect --- not much breast meat and sporting long, gangly legs.  On the other hand, I was surprised to notice that the black australorp carcass (on the right in the photo here) actually looked pretty much like a supermarket chicken, only smaller.

Capture chicken at nightNext, I weighed both birds --- 1.86 pounds for the australorp and 1.87 pounds for the golden comet.  Here, the results were more in line with my expectations --- at 11.5 weeks, the laying breeds were considerably lighter than the dark cornish at the same age (2.25 pounds apiece) and vastly lighter than a cornish cross would have been.  I feel obliged to also mention that I did choose the biggest cockerels, which means that the average carcass weight of our laying breed chickens was probably closer to 1.75 pounds at this point.

Finally, I crunched some numbers.  At 11.5 weeks, our australorp flock had consumed about 8.3 pounds of feed per bird instead of 14 pounds for dark cornish cockerels of the same age last year.  Divide that by the average weight of this year's cockerels, and you get a feed conversion rate of 4.5 : 1.  Suddenly, our little cockerels look like big winners, cutting the amount of grain I had to buy per pound of meat by more than a quarter.  In fact, the australorps even won out over the average for slow broiler breeds on pasture.  I suspect that some judicious breeding, combined with making the forest pasture an even more buggy spot, might even raise our feed conversion rate up to the level experienced by folks who raise cornish cross on pasture.

Black australorps on pastureThat said, we actually ended up spending more money per pound of meat this year than last year --- $3.09 versus $2.91.  (I forgot to factor in brooder costs last year, which is why this number is different from what you see in a previous post.)  Over the last twelve months, chicken feed costs have increased by 42%, from 24 cents per pound to 37 cents per pound, which in turn increases our feed costs even though we gave the chickens less food.  If we hadn't needed to buy chicks and had just factored in the cost of Thrifty Chicken Breedsrunning the incubator and brooder (next year's method, I hope!), we would have spent a mere $2.11 per pound.  I think we're going to be more and more glad we've settled on good foragers as grain costs continue to rise.

Our chicken waterer is the low work, clean water solution.

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Very Insightful indeed. Thanks for this.
Comment by Patrick Jonathan Mwale early Wednesday morning, January 27th, 2016

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