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by Mike Badger
Pastured Poultry Talk

Evaluating Breeds for Pastured Poultry and Understanding Genetics, Performance, and Cost


This episode has a downloadable worksheet to help you apply the concepts discussed in the podcast episode to your situation. Get it by email here.

I assume that when it comes to choosing a breed of chicken for your pastured poultry flock, you will have a favorite breed. As you research birds, you'll make a list of potential options that would appear to be great birds. Finding information about chickens on the internet is easy; however, my goal is to give you a way to judge the economic impact on your pastured poultry business, not as a way to recommend one choice over another, but as way to set expectations and and calibrate your choice of chicken to your actual goals.

Evaluating the Genetic Potential of Breeds

Every single meat bird or laying hen you raise has a potential. As a manager, you either bring out that potential or you suppress it. We'll talk about how you can bring out the genetic potential of your flock in the following episodes. For now, know what the genetic potential of your chicken choices are. Every breeder has this information for meat birds and for layers, and if you're buying heritage breeds from someone, think twice about buying chickens from a breeder who cannot articulate important concepts such as feed conversion, carcass size, growout time, and lay rate.

But don't rely on the book knowledge. At some point you need to do the work. You need to measure your actual results, compare it against the potential, and then use that information to make decisions about management, pricing, markets, etc.

Choosing a Meat Bird for Your Pastured Poultry Flock

Nobody can tell you what the perfect meat bird is for your flock. Instead you're going to need to research a breed, match up the breed to your business goals, raise the birds, and then evaluate your results.

In the podcast episode, we dig deep into the genetic potential of several popular meat birds and extrapolate that information to get a price per pound for labor and feed.

  • How much more does it cost you in feed to raise a Freedom Ranger compared to a Cornish Cross?
  • How about the Robust White?
  • How does the feed and labor of the Freedom Ranger compare the labor of the Delaware?

I cover all those questions and more in the episode, and in the accompanying worksheet. The worksheet provides a reference for all the values and explains the calculations.

Things to know when choosing and evaluating meat chickens.

  • Expected growout time
  • Expected carcass weight
  • Feed Conversion Ratio

Choosing a Layer Breed for Your Pastured Poultry Flock

The layer specific analysis picks up at 42 minute.

On the podcast episode, I run through similar comparisons as the meat bird and try to really hone in on the labor and feed cost of a dozen eggs. For layers, the golden metric is lay rate, which is a calculation of how many eggs a hen lays over a period of time. For example, ten hens with an 80% lay rate will produce eight eggs per day.

Things to know when evaluating layers:

  • Expected age of lay
  • Expected lay rate
  • The amount of feed to make one dozen eggs
  • The plan for dealing with the boys

In this episode:

  • All breeds have genetic potential
  • I'm not a cornish cross fan boy, but if you mame your birds you're at fault
  • It's hard to change the birds. It's much easier to change how you manage them
  • Compare production data for Cornish Cross, Freedom Ranger, SASSO, Robust White, and Delaware
  • Evaluate cost per pound in terms of feed and labor
  • Things to know when buying meat birds
  • Compare production data for Layers (red sexlinks and heritage) (timestamp 42:02)
  • The male problem
  • How lay rate affects margin
  • The "economy of scale" of chickens
  • Listener question about managing a hybrid from two heritage birds

I created an editable PDF worksheet to help you work through the concepts in this episode. Get it by email.

This episode of Pastured Poultry Talk sponsored by Windy Meadows Hatchery. Windy Meadows Hatchery supplies day old broiler chicks from their family run hatchery.

If you're looking for a supplier for your chicks, talk to the people who are directly responsible for hatching and shipping your birds. Tell them you heard about them from Pastured Poultry Talk. Contact Windy Meadows Hatchery.

If you’re looking for fences that work from the people who use them everyday, contact Premier at 800-282-6631 or visit their website to request an informational catalog.

Badger's Millside Farm is a distributor of Ready-to-Lay Pullets. Ask about full beak, non-gmo, certified organic, soy free, and more. Learn more.


Episode 105

by Mike Badger