Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Heating Creepy Meats: Can you overwinter meats? Yes you can!

Several people contacted me recently to learn more about how to overwinter meat chickens. Can you grow your own meat? Yes you can!

My favorite bucket of chicken.

I received several questions about the heat lamp situation and how much did I leave it on?  Unless you have a momma hen who will take and raise your hatchery chicks - you need to keep them warm. The easiest way is to use a heat lamp and keep the chicks somewhere that retains heat.

When ours are really little we just keep them in a plastic tub.... or a huge produce box that we scored at a local store. They need to be kept at about 90*- 95*. The guidelines in Storey's say to start at 95* and then reduce the heat a little at time. The more they feather in the less heat they need. You can regulate the heat by raising or lowering in the heat lamp.

How do you know if they need less heat? The chicks will try to "get away" from the heat and be in the corners of the brooder box instead of a nice even dispersal pattern

Winter meats need more heat - even when they get bigger. You can tell if they need more heat because they will pile up together. You do not want this - they could suffocate in the meat pile. (Ew!) You also don't want them to be cold because they will expend energy keeping warm... and not piling on the pounds.

We get our heat lamps - the bulbs and the fixtures from Tractor Supply. But you can order the bulbsor here is another option..... here for the fixtures. We prefer the infrared bulbs because we think it's less stressful for the meats and it seems to discourage them from picking at each other. One of my friends said that they haven't had much luck with the red ones lasting very long... but we find that ours do just fine. Most of them are broken by me inappropriately using a rake long before they burn out.

How long do we keep the heat lamp on?  For as long as they need it. Right now the meats are in the garage and have only gone outside once because of the weather. It's just too cold to have the meats roaming around out there. We've turned off the heat lamp several days/nights when it was warm enough but it's been on more than it's been off.

We use the same guidelines now as when they were babies. Are they heaped up? Are they trying to get away from the heat? Are they peeping miserably or are the happily meatin' around?

Of course, there are a million ways to raise meat chickens. Fist fights have happened over the "right" way to grow out meats.... but the only "right" way is what works for you. Pasture? Coop? Hoop house? High-protein, low and slow, "get out there and free range because it's free"? All of these ways work. The key is what works for YOU. Everyone's farm is different - different resources, spaces, pastures. So don't hesitate to try different things to find out what works best for you. 

Can you raise meat chickens? YES! Really - it's "doable" and fun and easy.  Once you get your set up working for you then you can have a continuous parade of creepy meats that are dying to end up on your table.

You can follow along with our progress this spring.

Part one - meats arrive
Part two
Part three
Part four
Part five
Winner winner!
Something everyone has to see...actually my stupidest butchering day joke yet.
The last of the meats - proving they don't all die after 8 weeks.

Hopefully this will help you get the confidence to raise winter meats. We think they are easier to raise and butcher in winter. We feel they are easier to warm up then to cool down. To date we've never had any of the winter meats die from lack of heat... but we've had losses when it just gets too hot for the meats to endure.

Happy Thursday everyone!!! Are you thinking about raising winter meats? You can do it!

Editors note: Blah blah blah.... "affiliate links... blah blah blah. Why on earth am I shilling heat lamps!?! Because someone always asks exactly which ones so I'm putting the exact same brands that we are using right now. Easy peasy. Don't want to order them from Amazon? That's just fine. Just ge them at TSC the next time you are there. But not everyone has TSC. But hey - if you need to buy something from Amazon anyway... then give a click! I get a tiny portion of the sale. It can be anything - this book, movies, or last minute Halloween whatevers.  Do you need anything Amazon? You can support this blog by just clicking one of these links. Or using the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It doesn't cost you once cent more but helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. Thanks!


Heavens Door Acres said...

You know, we have raised those creepy chickzillaz for several years now. First it was "chick days" in the spring... Then one year we had a late start, it something, and we tried " summer chicks" ( that didn't work by the way, let's just say... Slow roasted ) ugh! We have done Fall chicks and Winter chicks. My favorite time of year to raise them? Fall. This way, I can " over winter " them, in the freezer!

PJ said...

Thanks for your encouragement and advice about meat chickens. I found out that our local feed store has them available starting in February. Now we just need to be ready for them.

Linda said...

Thanks for all the meat chicken info in one place. I just finished reading all of it. Yes its true....I am one of those people who was asking all those questions....lol.

I noticed on one of those threads you mentioned taking away their food at night. Oops I did not do that. I left there food in with them and they are now 6 weeks old. Is this going to mess them up?!? I sure hope not........and why do you do that?



Ohiofarmgirl said...

you said it, HDA! i love when they overwinter in the freezer! ha! we always end up with some until Jan or Fe tho... nice and fat.

PJ, you can TOTALLY do this! yay you! just march boldly into the feedstore and get a big box of them. I always think that 10 is a good number. most states require you to have a minimum chick purchase (around here it is 6). 10 allows for "attrition" and it still leaves you with a good amount of meat. if you are really bold... get 20!

Linda - several folks asked about the heat lamp. it's a great question! and nope you didnt do anything wrong with not taking up the feed. some folks dont feed overnite b/c it allows them a 'feed free' period to rest...and also to kind of put the brakes on their growth. we feed enough at nite for them to finish it off after about 20 mins... but during the day we'll give them a big first feeding and some during the day when they are out of food. you are doing great!

Onevikinggirl said...

Nicholas and me want one of those heat lamps. It is cold outside.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

it IS cold outside, OneVG! Nicholas loves to snuggle and he's nice and warm! he sends kisses.

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