Raising Roosters for Free-Range Meat That's Free

Large-scale, local hatcheries will give away rooster chicks that you can raise free-range as a source of free meat. All you have to do is pick them up.

| January/February 1979

Reader Ron Spomer Is Raising Roosters for Free Meat!

While on a trip to the local garbage dump to gather leaf mulch (conveniently prepackaged in plastic bags), my friend Tom and I discovered a yellow heap of dead chicks lying near an air-befouling incinerator.

In answer to my shocked questions, Tom explained to me that the local hatchery often dumped its "worthless" rooster chicks there … birds that — since they couldn't produce eggs — "nobody wanted."

Well, that pile of dead birds set my brain to working, so later that afternoon Tom and I drove to the hatchery and told the dealer that we'd be glad to take a batch of those doomed roosters off his hands. The gentleman was most agreeable, and we left with instructions to pick up our gratis fowl on the following Friday. Our great chicken-raising adventure had begun!

Build a Chicken Brooder for Free!

While we awaited the appointed day, Tom and I prepared a home for our expected babies. First, we secured a large fiberboard box (the size that washing machines and refrigerators are shipped in) from a friendly appliance man and placed it on its side in our garage. The inside corners were rounded out with sheets of cardboard (to keep the chicks from bunchin' up and squashin' each other) and — for a heat source — we hung a 100-watt light bulb 18 inches above the "floor" of the makeshift brooder.

With this low-cost housing completed, it was time to move in the "furniture." A coffee can, placed upside down in a "throwaway" aluminum pie plate, was dubbed a feeder. Another pair of the same items — with the addition of two sticks glued to the inner surface of the pan — worked as a "waterer" (The sticks held the coffee can a quarter-inch above the pan's bottom and allowed the water to rise to that height). Of course, we could've purchased small feeders or waterers for under a dollar from the hardware store, but this was a low-buck operation.

We had no ground corncobs, cut straw or wood chips for floor litter, so we just lined the bottom of the brooder with several layers of newspaper and hoped for the best.

victoria shaw
1/24/2013 7:42:45 PM

Nice article on the free chicks. It saddens me when I read about them being thrown away at the trash dumpster. How can people be so heartless. When I get my 10 acres I will look for a place to get the free chicks

11/6/2009 5:43:33 PM

That is a great idea. I did not know you could raise many rooster together like that without them killing each other. This is something I will consider the next time I pick up chicks.

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