How to Choose a Meat Bird Breed
Meat birds are truly a breed apart from laying hens. Although a hundred years ago, laying hens were truly dual-purpose, meaning most people kept a flock of hens and roosters and killed older birds as needed for meat, older chickens tend to be tough and stringy, better for stew or soup than a roast chicken like we eat today.
Cornish Rocks, which are a cross between a Cornish and a White Rock, are the typical meat bird breed, used in factory farms all over the US and on many small family farm operations as well (both pastured and conventional). They are extremely efficient converters of feed to muscle. However, other breeds more suited to pasture are also becoming available.
You will need a coop for your chickens, just like for your laying hens. Coops for meat birds are often larger so that you can raise 50, 100, or more birds at a time. Many people raise meat birds just during the summer season, so they can often be more temporary shelters like hoop houses or tarps. You will need to make sure your birds have protection from the rain and wind. They don’t need roosts because meat birds don’t really like to roost. If you’re pasturing your chickens, you will want to have something movable or use a day ranging method.
How to Start From Day-Old Chicks
Most likely, you will buy your chickens as day-old chicks from a hatchery or feed store. Baby chicks require a bit of specialized care: they need a brooder area and heat lamp to keep them warm; they need their brooder temperature monitored closely; and they need to be prevented from developing issues like pasting up.
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 large cloves cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 10 chicken drumsticks
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sauce
- Mash brown sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper together in a mortar and pestle to form a paste. Spoon paste into a resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken, coat with the paste, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight.
- Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir onion in hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir, bring to a simmer and cook until flavors blend, about 10 minutes.
- Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate. Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade.
- Cook chicken on the preheated grill until lightly browned on all sides, about 1 minute per side.
- Turn off one of the grill burners or move the coals and move chicken so there is no heat source directly below it.
- Baste drumsticks with the sauce and cook another 10 minutes; turn again and baste chicken with sauce. Continue to grill drumsticks until juices run clear, 10 to 15 minutes more. An instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone should read 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
- You can also blend the brown sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor to make the marinade paste.
- The nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of the marinade ingredients. The actual amount of the marinade consumed will vary.
- Aluminum foil helps keep food moist, ensures it cooks evenly, keeps leftovers fresh, and makes clean-up easy.