Keeping Chickens for Meat – Raising & Feeding Table Birds

Raising table birds, that is chickens for meat rather than laying eggs is fairly similar when the table birds are the cockerels from a dual-breed hatching or a traditional slow-growing breed. With modern fast-growing breeds maturing in less than half the time of traditional, the feeding regime is quite different.

Looking after Table Chickens

Table Birds

Flock of Table Birds

Standards of Care

You should give your meat birds the same standard of living conditions as you would your egg layers. They need at least one square foot of coop space and one metre square of run space per bird as well as entertainment such as dust baths. Feed and water should be supplied adlib and should be topped up and freshened on a daily basis.

Feeding Table Birds

For dual-purpose breeds or general cock birds you can feed them along with their sister hens until 14-16 weeks of age on un-medicated growers pellets. Usually hens are moved to layers pellets by 16-18 weeks of age and at this stage you can choose one of two ways to feed the birds intended for the table.

La Bresse, Traditional French Table Bird

La Bresse, Traditional French Table Bird. Slow growing, but better development, less fat and more flavour.

The first feeding method you can use is to allow the cock birds to eat the same layers feed as the hens and this will lead to a slower growing bird that is still full of flavour and will mean you can continue to run the birds together and not have multiple types of feed. If doing this I would recommend moving the cock birds you are going to cull onto a diet of corn to improve flavour for the 3 days before killing. The birds will be table size by 22 weeks of age for a smaller carcass.

The second method is to separate the birds and move them onto finisher pellets. This feed helps to increase the body mass of the bird quicker and will mean you have a larger carcass or will be able to cull the bird sooner. I would again recommend for the 3 days before you are going to cull moving the cock birds onto a diet of corn to improve flavour.

Timetable & Feeding Regime for Table Birds

For modern fast-growing, meat specific breeds the timetable differs from slow growers who can basically be raised as layers. You can use usual feeds in the form of chick crumb, growers pellets and then finishers pellets or you can use feeds that are aimed at obtaining a higher body weight sooner such as broiler starter and broiler growers.

The bird should be moved from starter/chick crumb at 3-4 weeks of age to a growers pellet and then at 7 weeks of age move the birds to a finisher pellet.

You will then have a bird ready for the table from between 8-10 weeks. You will notice however, that although the birds eat for a shorter period than a dual-purpose breed they eat a far increased amount and you should therefore give larger feeders and drinkers and always top up the food and water daily if not twice daily if possible.

All birds need to be kept under heat after being hatched until at least 4 weeks of age. Obviously if rearing with a broody hen they do this for you, but with broilers and incubators hatching you need to make sure you keep them warm and clean to decrease any losses at the early stages.

Raising Table Birds

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