The Freedom Ranger chicks from Freedom Ranger Hatchery are about 4 1/2 weeks old now. We had one smother on a cool night the first week when they all piled together, but have had no fatalities from other causes. They’re eating and pooping like crazy and growing faster than I ever imagined. They’ve nearly caught my Barred Rock/Black Australorp chicks that are 2 months older.
The Freedom Rangers are a four way hybrid which means they come from roosters hybridized from two breeds, and hens hybridized from two others. The Rangers will reproduce, but their offspring will not share the same characteristics.
We chose the Rangers instead of the more popular Cornish Cross because of the rampant health problems reported with the Cornish X. The birds grow so fast that their skeleton and organs can’t keep up, causing crippling injuries and high mortality rates. Mortality rates of 30% or more are not uncommon. The Cornish X is also known for being lazy, sometimes dying of heat stroke rather than walk 5 feet to the shade. If allowed to live past 8-10 weeks, many of the birds die of heart attacks. Raising them past that point requires careful management of diet, essentially starving the birds, and forcing exercise. They also have very high feed aggression while almost never foraging.
It just didn’t seem right to us to raise a breed of chickens that unhealthy, even if we could raise 4-6 pound birds in 8 weeks. We chose instead the Freedom Rangers which will grow out in 2-3 weeks longer, but are healthier, more active, and good foragers. The Rangers actually seem to prefer forage to their feed ration.
In the last 7 days, the Freedom Rangers ate 100 pounds of feed. With 51 birds, that’s about 2 pounds per bird. We’ll be splitting the flock into two tractors this week to give them more forage and spread out the manure. They eat so much they’re completely coating a 10×10 section of the yard each day. The ammonia kills the grass unless we keep a ton of water on it. If we keep them spread out at a level the yard can handle, the grass will be able to process the nutrients and will turn a brilliant dark green.
We’ll figure our feed conversion rates and cost per pound of dressed weight after we butcher. From all indications so far, the birds are very efficient. We’re looking forward to butchering time to see how they turn out. And so we can stop buying them feed!
I’m looking for a washing machine in working or non working condition to build a drum style chicken plucker, if you know anybody getting rid of one. We’ll be butchering around 60 chickens in one weekend and really don’t want to pluck them all by hand!