The economics of meat chickens

A couple of weeks ago, we butchered our meat chickens for the year. We lost 2 over the course of the 8 weeks we had them, and had to butcher one early because it had a bad foot. All in all, we put away 20 chickens into our freezer.

Raising meat chickens in Alaska is different from other places. Feed costs are expensive, as all the chicken feed shows up on a barge from the lower 48. Bears can be frequent and troublesome visitors (I lost 23 chickens to a bear last August). It’s not terribly warm here, even in the summer, so the chicks really need to be housed inside until they feather out at 3-4 weeks. All this makes the process challenging, but totally worthwhile after one bite of firm, flavorful chicken breast.

I took special care to track my costs this year, and here’s the breakdown:

Chicks     20 @$2.05     $41

Shipping for chicks        $17

Electricity for heat lamp $17

Straw for bedding   $36

400 lbs of food @.50/lbs $200

Total costs: $15.55 per chicken.

We got about 2.5-3 lbs of meat per chicken when we dismembered it into skinless breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and wings. If we only got 2.5 lbs a chicken, that averages $6.22/lbs. Gutting the whole carcass and keeping the skin on, they averaged out at about 5.5 lbs. making the costs about $ 2.82/lbs.

A friend of mine is letting his chickens free range, and he claims they’re hardly eating any feed, but they’re about 12 weeks old now, and he’s had to fence of all of his garden space to keep them out. Unfortunately, that’s impractical for me.

Anyone else had experience with the economics of raising meat chickens in AK?

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