Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens for Meat

Discover some of the basics to raising chickens for meat — from the varying kinds of meat breeds to the benefits of free ranging.

| January 9, 2013

Minimum Space

Since birds in confinement have little else to do, when they're not eating, they get bored and resort to feather pecking.

Illustration Courtesy Storey Publishing

Whether you are raising a couple of backyard chickens or a flock of one hundred, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Storey Publishing, 2010) is the only book you need to keep your birds healthy and safe. The updated third edition includes valuable information on understanding fowl behavior, dealing with chicken predators, free-range feeding options and more. In the excerpt below from chapter 13, “Managing Meat Birds,” learn about the different breeds, management styles and feeding patterns used in raising chickens for meat. 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.  

If the idea of raising your feathered friends for meat doesn’t appeal to you, read no further. But if you are among the many folks for whom an important reason to keep chickens is for their clean, healthful and delicious meat, read on. Of all the different forms of livestock, chickens can put meat on your table with the least amount of time and effort. In a matter of weeks, your chicken-keeping chores are over, and your freezer is full of poultry that’s tastier and better for you than anything you could buy at the store.

Meat Breeds

When it comes to raising chickens for meat, you have two basic choices. You can produce a commercially developed Cornish-cross strain or you can raise one of the old-fashioned heavy or dual-purpose utility breeds.

Cornish-cross broilers have the advantage of being interested in only one thing — eating. Since all they do is eat, they grow fast and tender. But this characteristic also makes them coop potatoes. When they’re not eating, they have nothing to do but sit around getting sick and dying, or developing bad habits, like picking on each other.

And because they were developed to be raised in climate-controlled housing, they don’t actively forage and won’t do at all well outdoors when the weather is extremely hot or cold. Managing these hybrids therefore requires careful attention, but at least the homegrown result is better than the store-bought version.

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