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Wrong About Freedom Rangers

12/7/2010 9:59:30 AM

Tags: poultry, chickens

Well, I was wrong about Freedom Rangers. In Cornish Cross or Heritage Chicken: Which Do You Prefer?, I wrote that they “fall somewhere between heritage chickens and Cornish Cross.” But if heritage breeds are at one end of the spectrum, and Cornish Cross are at the other, Freedom Rangers are much closer to the Cornish Cross end of the spectrum. I raised 26 Freedom Rangers this summer and fall.

Freedom Rangers 8 Weeks 

The Freedom Rangers did well on pasture; they may have foraged a bit more than the Cornish Cross that I raised last year. I received 26 chicks on July 30. That night, I put eight of the chicks under a broody hen. She raised those chicks until they were about five weeks old. The other chicks were brooded under a heat lamp, but had access to pasture when they were less than a week old. Because we had some pretty hot weather in August, making sure the chicks didn’t overheat during the day was more of a concern than keeping them warm.

I expected the chicks to grow more slowly than Cornish Cross, so I fed them 24-percent protein starter for several weeks. Then I realized how quickly they were growing and reduced the protein level to 20 percent. I started noticing many of the chicks walked much like Cornish Cross chickens — a slow, tromping gait. I backed the protein level to 15 percent. Before they were eight weeks old, one of the cockerels was virtually unable to walk, so I slaughtered him. Another cockerel was even less mobile by the pre-arranged processing date when the birds were 11½ weeks old (Poultry Processing: Processing Chickens in Fall 2010).

 

 

Not all the Freedom Rangers grew so fast. We had a pretty broad range of sizes in the flock. The smallest pullet provided a carcass that was about 3 pounds. The largest was probably a bit more than 6 pounds. (We only weighed a few.) This photo shows an average sized bird and the smallest bird.

Freedom Ranger Carcasses 

Costs and Efficiency 

I spent about $229.11 buying the chicks and feed. I fed about 530 pounds of commercial feed plus about 90 pounds of whole oats. The following numbers aren’t precise, but should be pretty close:

  • 620 pounds of feed produced 195 pounds of live birds (3.17 pounds of feed per pound of gain — about the expected ratio).
  • 130 pounds of meat (about $1.76 per pound)

I’m satisfied with the efficiency and the cost, but I’m disappointed the growth rate was so fast that it caused leg problems. I probably could have prevented that if I would have fed lower-protein feed from the start. I fed 19 percent feed to my Cornish Cross last year and didn’t have any leg problems. I mixed whole oats with their feed, too, and we didn’t process them until they were 11 weeks old.

The Freedom Ranger hatchery website says, “The genetic stock is derived from the American and European old heritage breed of chicken …” After some research, I discovered that the parents of the Freedom Rangers come from Hubbard, one of the largest poultry genetics companies in the world. That’s disappointing, too.

Raising these fast-growing birds is not that much fun. And it’s not sustainable. Any offspring Freedom Rangers produce won’t necessarily be like their parents because Freedom Rangers (like Cornish Cross) are a four-way hybrid.

Next year, I’m planning to raise real heritage-breed chickens for meat.

Top photo: Troy Griepentrog 
Bottom photo: Karen Keb

 



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Post a comment below.

 

Carrie Timlin
8/16/2013 6:55:21 AM
We have 51 FR's this summer, our first time. They are 8 weeks old and all have survived. We put them outside at the end of June in a chicken tractor at 2 weeks old, with supplemental light at night for one more week. We fed a mixture of local milled and regional organic starter/grower mash of 22%, not sure how long, but 150 lbs, then switched to 17-20% broiler - depends on which mill. They are active and yes, voracious (will peck your hand off at a day old), but I expected that after reading the feed conversions - we planned on 750-800 lbs of feed to get them to 12 weeks. They are a nice size. We don't let them out of the tractor, just move it every two days so they have fresh ground, grass, and some bugs. I'm not sure I want the muscles to develop that much(?), but this is our first year. And wasn't sure they would be smart enough to make their way back in at night. Most of ours are the golden color - we have two with "spots" of grey and brown that I assume will be bars when they are older. We've decided to keep one pullet with the bars and add her to our laying flock. She is kinda sweet and I like her coloring. I may cross her with our Buff Orpington Roo or our FBCM Roo and see what kind of meat birds we can get for next year without buying, as long as she assimilates well. Right now she's the odd teenager in the bunch. We chose these because every time I see the cornish x, they look nasty. Also didn't want to deal with the health issues or "having" to feed commercial medicated feed. No leg issues, no crop issues, although I did keep an eye out for this - at 4-5 weeks they seemed to have swollen crops frequently, so I made sure to start them on Chick sized grit early and stopped feeding at night so their crops would have a chance to empty.

Lisa AMMERMAN
3/26/2012 10:56:09 PM
We raised 51 Freedom Rangers; 49 made it to the butcher (one died at 3 wks of sour crop, and another went missing....). They were free-range, very active and resourceful foragers -- hearty indeed, and lived a blissful existence until their one bad day at the butcher's... They appeared to thrive on layer mash -- no leg problems.

Jennifer Lee Curry
3/25/2012 11:33:52 PM
I haven't had the experience that Freedom Rangers have leg problems- I freerange all of my fowl. I am however extremely disappointed with their reproduction- last year out of forty some eggs only one hatched- but she is very true to type and doing well. I definitely plan to mix in some different breeds this summer. I'll pick up on some free roosters later in the season I'm sure- Rhodies and Buffies I think.

matt4emu
9/2/2011 10:27:44 AM
I am wondering where you found your information? You state " After some research, I discovered that the parents of the Freedom Rangers come from Hubbard, one of the largest poultry genetics companies in the world. That’s disappointing, too." I have not being able to find that. It's easy to say.... I found that they came from the planet Venus....... however, that means nothing unles you put a reference to back that up. If you had truly done your research, you would have found that these chicks don't need all that protein, they do verry well on free forage!! My experience with 200 free range chickens on 20 acres..... NO FEED COST! 5-7 lbs. bird in 10 - 12 weeks. I raise marans, brahmas, and others as well. Please respond with your research data..... I don't want to be lying to my customers! If this is in fact true!

Mainecelt
7/23/2011 6:05:12 PM
Did you feed your birds free-choice or limited rations? I've raised both Cornish Cross and various heritage-breed meat birds without any leg problems, but I stick to the (old-fashioned?) practice of feeding twice daily, giving only as much feed as the birds can consume in about 15 minutes. (This does require a certain amount of time devoted to observation and ration adjustment, but that's good animal husbandry anyway. I watch them during feeding to check for any abnormal condition, appearance, or behavior.) I have heard from many long-time farmers that this limited feeding system prevents leg problems. My birds may not gain quite as fast, but they're always a decent weight by their butcher date.

marcia_3
12/27/2010 2:39:53 PM
Thanks for the great article. After raising Cornish Cross in 2009, we did not want to do it again! We raised "Red Broilers" this year. They were very healthy, did not over eat like Cornish X. We processed at 12 weeks and the chickens were small-2# to 4# finished weight. I think they needed about 2 more weeks to fill out. Like your photo, there was a large variety of sizes. Our pasture set-up was too small, but these birds do well on pasture. We fed them locally grown organic feed (about 500 lbs). Cost was about $690 for 59 birds (ordered 60 and only 1 died), or $3.80/lb. These chickens have great flavor; we found the CX bland-chicken nugget flavor. We plan to keep trying to improve our pasture and our chickens.

Ron_3
12/23/2010 9:53:22 PM
I have had some people online tell me of a breed of chicken known as the "Cobb Chicken" that supposedly has growth rates comparable to the Cornish Rock Cross, but breeds true. Some online research I have done a while back, seems to indicate that this breed was developed by a major poultry , I think Tyson. Does anyone know anything about this breed, and where to get it. Ron

Ric McDermott
12/23/2010 11:48:49 AM
Ric McDermott at Goosepoop Farm Two years I bought a few cornish cross, raised them on pasture when they were old enough. They became pets the boom booms as healthy as any of the others, last summmer they bred with the farm mix and I have some of the most incredible new chicks. Araucana/cornish big like a meat but the looks of a araucana. I can't wait to see the color of the eggs this summer. I am not a fan of hybrid chickens favoring the the heritage breeds. The cornish came to the farm with my lack of knowledge of knowing what I was buying as a new farmer. Its a differnt story now after a couple of years of experiance and a weath of knowledge.

Troy Griepentrog_1
12/7/2010 1:15:48 PM
From Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch: I enjoyed reading your story about raising Freedom Rangers. Glad to hear that you found out that they too are Hubbard birds. Any bird that grows faster then 124 days to market boiler weight is a hybrid bird. This means the bird has a mutated obese gene bird that is developed through hybrid selection. This also means that you can not breed these birds without going back to the F4 to F7 cross parents. It is sad that someone has to change the birds' diets to keep the bird from growing so fast. If you did get the bird to live long enough to breed, you would have a great difference in the offspring because you are working with a hybrid bird. The advantage of working with and breeding standard-bred birds is the offspring will look the same year after year. The farmer decides the size, growth rate and end product of their birds. The true heritage or standard-bred meat birds are hard to come by, and farmers must be wiling to work and select to keep these birds up to the standards of years past. -Frank Reese










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