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Old 06-01-2013, 08:09 AM   #1
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Default Meat chickens... the rangers

OK, I received my 1st 'Freedom Ranger' chicks on May 8. This is where they were ordered from. Learn More - Freedom Ranger Hatchery. I split an order of 25 with 2 other people and I took 10. 2 days earlier I had received a dozen LF Black Ameraucana chicks.... all mine... no splitties with anyone. The Freedom Ranger chicks hatched on May 7th. The Ameraucana chicks hatched on May 5th. That's a 2 day difference which does make a difference on chicks this age. I took these photos last night so they're not the greatest but... you can get an idea of the 'Freedom Ranger' rate of maturation because those stock tanks that the groups of chicks are in are the exact same size. The Ameraucana chicks are dwarfed. I had to split them from the Ranger chicks because there just wasn't enough space.... the rangers are little porkers and they're just barely over 3 wks of age!!!
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At the website it says, "Since our Freedom Ranger Broilers are a slower growing breed, they are naturally better suited to the higher welfare and all true natural rearing systems (full pasturing, free range, organic, certified, backyard etc.Ö). In the United States most modern poultry industrial production models use fast growing breeds (hybrid white synthetic Cornish crosses).
Natural instinct and behavior is preserved in the selection and growing methods of our Freedom Ranger breeding stock. It goes without saying that our birds love foraging in pastures, free ranging outside, always looking for natural sunlight and fresh air, as well as ground scratching and dust bathing. At Freedom Ranger Hatchery Inc. we strongly believe in traditional and environmentally friendly farming methods, and we are convinced that allowing the chickens to do what comes naturally ensures an incredible meal for your table!" It then says this at the website, "Based on the results and experiences of our own flocks and our customersí flocks, the Freedom Ranger assortment will reach 5 to 6 LBS Live Weight in a minimum of 9 weeks and a maximum of 11 weeks. In no way does this data constitute a warranty or guarantee of the same performance as conditions of nutrition, management, health, density or physical and biological environments (weather and relief) vary from producers to producers." This actually is slow growth compared to white cornish x and black broilers but.... they can all be sent to freezer camp by 12 weeks. Now compare that to say a Dorking. Dorkings are excellent meat birds. They're a heritage breed.... their instincts have been preserved but.... they can't go to freezer camp until they're about 20 weeks old. That's a big difference in feed and time.
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I'm familiar with the Red Rangers because I've been seeing them for the last few years coming in to the processor and the birds always looked to be in excellent condition. No way could I say the same about Cornish x birds and the condition of black broilers seemed to depend on who was rasing them. The biggest bonus to rangers is that they don't go down on their legs like the other broilers do so if you miss a processing date for whatever reason... it's not the end of the world. Miss a processing date on a Cornish x and you could lose all your meat.
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I bought a few of the birds from other people going to the same processor as me. I wanted to taste the meat and do my own comparison based on the chickens I've raised. These birds have nice breast meat and a lot of it... their legs and thighs are "beafy"..... just like the meat on the Black broilers I raised which take longer to reach processing age. Compare that to the LF Dorking and both the Black Broiler and the Freedom Ranger come out on top. While Dorking meat tastes noticeably superior to any other chicken including the Freedom Ranger chickens in side by side taste tests.... I'm thnking the Freedom Ranger is the best value because... who actually does side by side taste tests. Besides that... not many people have tasted a Dorking but.... just about everybody I know has tasted store bought chickens and any home raised bird will blow store bought out of the water.
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On June 11th I'll be getting 10 'Red Ranger' chicks. I guess they're Murray McMurray's version of the 'Freedom Ranger', Murray McMurray Hatchery - Red Ranger Broiler. I'll let you know how those stack up.
Attached Thumbnails
Meat chickens... the rangers-img_2649.jpg   Meat chickens... the rangers-img_2654.jpg   Meat chickens... the rangers-img_2652.jpg  
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Old 06-01-2013, 09:27 AM   #2
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Thanks for the information and the pictures.

5 months for the rangers then.

White dorkings is what we use to raise commercially; 40 years ago. Our big long chicken house is still standing; My father had it recovered six years ago--holding hay mostly.

It is hard to believe that they have bred up animals that can be harvested in three months. I wonder how they are able to reproduce them, if in just those few months they can't even walk?
No wonder the chicken never seems to taste all that good.
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Old 06-01-2013, 10:55 AM   #3
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Noooooooo..... 80 days for the rangers to 6.7 lbs. That's just shy of 12 weeks. The deal with the rangers is that they're from a more traditional trial and error type breeding program that's evidently ongoing. They're NOT like the Cornish x frankenchicken that was bred to confinement requiring an obscenely high protein diet that will go down on its legs because of the "explosive" growth described in this article, Raising Freedom Rangers V.S. the Cornish Cross ?Franken chicken? For Meat Birds. - Li'l Bit Farms. I don't know if you knew this but.... Cornish Rocks can be processed as early as 8 weeks.... I've seen them brought in at that age and it's obvious some of them have already gone down on their legs. I have to go back outside and plant some more but when my husband comes home, I'll pull out a chick and get a photo of it for you. These are healthy birds. 0 mortality being reported by everyone I know trying them and.... all of ours are on unmedicated 18% protein chick crumbles. Hold 1 of these in your hand and it feels solid if that makes sense. The 'Freedom Ranger' chickens are said to be a combination of 4 different LF heritage breeds..... which breeds.... who knows but... they're basically free ranging muts... they're cross breeds that won't breed true and from what I've seen so far.... they've definitely got hybrid vigor. I really think you should try them.
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Old 06-01-2013, 03:23 PM   #4
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Do you process them yourself or do you have some else do it?

We have our own butcher for our beef - we don't do it; of course it takes special tools and knowledge for beef - not so much for a chicken.

Okay let me see if I got this right:
Freedom Rangers 9 to 11 weeks
hybrid white synthetic Cornish crosses 8 weeks
Dorkings 20 weeks - four or five months - use to be 6 to 8 months 40 years ago.

- free rangers -- mutts.
I find it amazing that they know so much of what to breed with what and get this end result!

This is a project I am going to let simmer on the back burner for a while -I am feeling rather over whelmed at the moment. Strawberries have come in and - I think I need to reduce my crop next year --my hip bones are complaining. but I must say I have not had a good chicken in like never!
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Old 06-01-2013, 05:03 PM   #5
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Freedom Rangers are more like 11 - 16 weeks depending on what they're fed. I have Silver Gray Dorkings, you had White Dorkings, Murray McMurray Hatchery - Silver Gray Dorkings. Maybe there's a difference because the Dorkings I had were 16 - 20 weeks. The other thing that's different now than 40 years ago is that we know so much more about feeds so that could be why they can be processed sooner than they could in days gone by.
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I.... er uh.... don't have the guts to process my own chickens. I know how.... I just can't do it. I wish I could. Maybe some day. I do have a neighbor down the road who knows how and he is always offering to help me. For now, I'd rather go to the poultry processor.
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The French developed the Freedom Ranger "breed" if you want to call it that. It looks to me like it's got some RIR in it. I heard that the name was chosen because they wanted to make a statement to their government by developing a bird that anyone could raise in their backyards to help feed their families in rough times.
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I let projects simmer all the time so I know what you're talking about.
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My strawberries are just now starting to bloom. I'd love to have enough space to be able to say I could cut back on a crop. My strawberries are in a 5 x 5' raised bed.
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The Dorking photos are my male. He's calm around most people. He really only perks up and holds his tail feathers high if someone new comes around. The last photo is 1 of the Freedom Ranger chicks. It's "beafy".
Attached Thumbnails
Meat chickens... the rangers-img_2463.jpg   Meat chickens... the rangers-img_2461.jpg   Meat chickens... the rangers-img_2657.jpg  
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Old 06-01-2013, 05:51 PM   #6
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Silver greys are really pretty. It looks like it has a lace collar around it's neck.

That chick looks like it is going through puberty early! It is a big (little) thing.

Oh, and it looks like you have sheep wire around yours.
Our neighbor borrowed some land to raise sheep on until he could purchase his farm -- he left a lot of sheep wire down in the lower pasture. I got it rolled up - I was wondering if I could use it when the dog fence wire I have, now, rust out. 10 years has gone by already!, and and it is looking rusty. The wire is farther apart but I guess not big enough for a fox to squeeze through.

Time difference from 40 years ago. 20 weeks for dorkings is five months, so it took a month longer - so long ago. I would guess, to make it one month shorter; it is probably both the feed and intense breeding - -Grandpa and my Dad talked a lot about feed all the time when I was growing up. AND breeding since it seems the world has got faster, and people are more interesting in time it takes for all things. . Years back what was a few weeks.
We raised our chickens like we would a crop. After the crop was over - the chicken house needed to be cleaned. extensively. Dad and Grandpa like to give it some time to rest. I imagined time for chick pathogens to die. They had these great big brooders that looked like space ships - they had stored - and they had to get them down from the rafters, and put up, cleaned up and checked out to make sure they were working.
By the time they got the shavings out, let it rest and clean shavings back in , the rats and mice all killed out, several months had passed. They only raised one crop a year.


I had to laugh when you Ur -- (oh too funny)!

I am glad you don't process. I have been around my father and grandfather butching dozens of chickens, and all I can say; I hid my eyes on a lot of it. I liked my grand father's way the best. They never squawked or appeared to know what was going on.
Grandma - I watched her once and was traumatized for life . She wrang it's neck.
I don't mind picking the feather's off, or singing them -- it is when that moment of life and then not. Just like you, I would imagine. I don't think that is a bad thing - it shows that we do have respect for life - and we don't have to.

You know how to do it, and if the apocalypse hits us, and if we get hungry enough we can do it. End of story.
How much does your processing fee cost?
I have a neighbor that processes his laying hens when they are done. I don't recall how much - ---- maybe 2 dollars a hen, sounds familiar.

I made a mistake on my strawberries and chose to plant Gurney's choice. They said they were small - but my gosh -- I did not know they would be that small. My other strawberries had given me 37 quarts - this other big, huge, long, -new one that was suppose to be my main producer has given me maybe four quarts.
But in all fariness they are good and I have been serving them fresh for the pass few weeks.

Thanks for letting me put this on the back burner with no guilt.
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:26 AM   #7
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1 of the nicest things about silver grays is their temperament.... they're real non-aggressive with people and other birds. The roosters are a classic barnyard looking rooster. When I 1st saw them at a fair, they reminded me of the roosters you'd see in manuals from the turn of the last century. Female dorkings have a non-descript appearance.... there's nothing spectacular about them. The bad thing about the roosters is the size of their combs. If you're not watching the weather reports and let em out on the wrong day over winter.... they'll get frost bite. Once that happens, a chunk of the comb will turn black and fall off and then they lose their "classic" rooster look. I guess what Iím saying is that this probably isnít a good breed for northern reaches.
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Back to the Freedom Ranger and Ameraucana chicks I've got.... I read this at another chicken site, "Rule of thumb..... Brooders are set at 95 degrees the first week, decreasing 5 degrees each week until normal outside night time temps are reached, oooor the chicks have full feathering accross their backs. The reason this is important is that chicks lungs are located close to their backs. Unfeathered backs and low temps will kill them." The feathers on the ranger chicks haven't been coming in any faster than the feathers on the ameraucanas but by 3 weeks of age, they were twice the size of the other chicks. I had them in the same brooder for the 1st 3 weeks so it was easy to compare. Because of their size, I moved the rangers out to the porch about a week early. It's been warm here so I figured, why not. The ameraucanas are still in my living room and they're gonna stay there for another week or so but I did feel the rangers could go out... I mean it is June now. I've got a heat lamp on them day and night and since the day time temps for this coming week are only supposed to be in the low 60's with night time temps dropping down to the low to mid 40's, I'm deviating from what I normally do in week 4 and leaving the heat lamp on day and night for this week, http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/livestock/10270-better-hens-gardens.html. I'll watch the weather reports and soon as day time temps are in the 70's, I'll put the rangers in the chicken tractor for the day. Sometime around the middle of June, I should be able to leave them out in their own pen 24/7. The Ameraucana chicks are gonna stay where they are for the time being because of the unseasonably cool temps predicted for the next week or so. I'll probably move them straight out to the coop where I can section off an area and add a heat lamp. I'm really surprised we're getting such cool weather at this time of year after having such "teaser" weather the last week or so.
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Oh oh oh.... remember when I mentioned that rangers don't have an obscenely high protein requirement.... I forgot about this thread, http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/livestock/11248-black-broiler-chicks-heads-cocked-1-side-circling.html.
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"Oh, and it looks like you have sheep wire around yours." Some of the panels are heavy duty hog panels but most are cattle panels. All of them have chicken wire attached. I went with the heavier gauge metal not because of the coyotes and foxes in the area but because of the stray dogs.
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"I would guess, to make it one month shorter; it is probably both the feed and intense breeding" I think you're on the $$$ about the combination effect of feed and breeding since the more I think about it.... advances in nutrition alone couldn't account for being able to take them to the processor a whole month earlier. I remember when I was little that most folk who had chickens raised the meat birds like a crop. They did it once a year in spring. I don't remember anyone having any fancy brooders though. Just carboard boxes in their living rooms. When the chicks were old enough to go outside, out they went and they were processed on an as needed basis.
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'I am glad you don't process." I'm not. It's costing me gas to and from the processor AND $3.15 a bird all because I'm weak. I totally agree that if we're hungry enough.... there's a lot of things we can and would do without batting an eyelash but.... I'm thinking if gas prices go up any higher than the $4.09 they're at right now.... the processor is gonna start losing a lot of the IL hobbyists like me because.... most of us either do know how to do it or know somebody who does. BTW.... I know how to do it the way your grandpa probably did it AND the way your grandma did it. I've been trained on how to ring the necks of mute swans. You probably don't want to hear this but... your grandma's way is probably the quickest and least stressful on the bird.
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I've been playing with strawberry plants for a while. I've tried all the popular varieties like what Gurney's sells and gave up on them. I'm growing 'Sparkle'. Taste is superior, it produces well and.... fruits are decent sized.
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You're thanking me for letting you put meat birds on a back burner.... you're too kind. Remember.... I'm the 1 who has boxes of bee hive components stacked up in my living room and a brand spankin' new butterfly and pollinator garden out front that doesn't have any native plants in it and I passed on your goslings that I was totally lusting for because I was already getting spread too thin last year before el shitto started hitting the fan over the holidays. I think we all have to listen to our little voices and table plans when the going starts getting tough. There's always next year... or the year after.
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:12 AM   #8
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Oh, Sparkle sounds very familiar. I don't know if that is what I purchased last year or not. I kind of think it was.
What ever it is, I have a very long row of it about 40 to 50 feet long. They were vigorous plants too. Last summer after I put them in, they grew, and then some;and kept trying to grow really wide. I had to rotor till them to keep the row contained some what. They maybe really good like wild strawberries, but they are not worth my time. I picked enough last night for lunch today, but I could tell they made my husband very impatient and aggravated. I don't blame him - I told him to go do something else.

So it is Cattle panels, then it wider than the sheep wire even. This sheep wire is more expensive than the cattle wire too. I have to shake my head at why my new neighbor born and bred in Mass and retired here - decided to take down our cattle fence and put up this sheep wire. We bought it off of him when he got his new farm, to keep him from having to bother taking it down -- since he was so excited about his new place and working on it so. But it is a weaker fence for cattle. He even took down our fence in our small lot that we catch our cattle up in, and then put up in just pieces --sheep fence, stringing it from post to post?

On the up side, he fenced off our large lot into two sections (which is all we really loaned him), and I now use it for my extra garden in the summer.

Yes, I read about your heavy baby chickens and was amazed that they needed as much protein as dog food, or their heads crooked over! And then after all that effort a mink from Europe - released by do gooders ate and - killed them all.

Minks are around here too, I found out recently. My Mother said she, and her father use to set traps down by the creek bank for them. I read that minks travel great distances too-- We have a creek not far from us. I don't know if a mink could get through this dog wire- I would imagine so, it is about an inch and 1/2 spaces.
I keep thinking any day now that my baby chicks (small breed of course)that are now three months old will no longer be able to get through it. The adults cannot. I thought it might be safer to give them easy way out and in since it appears that I cannot keep in baby chicks in no matter how tight I fence. At least this way they don't have to hunt for an opening - to get in and away from predators. I lost one this spring that was in the tighter lot with chicken wire. So, far I have not lost any in my lot with the dog wire.

Perhaps though the foxes have moved on. I know my dog told the mother fox - that it would be best if she did.

3.15 cents to process.
The same guy that processes our beef we keep, also processes our neighbor's hens, and yes this is the same neighbor with the sheep.
The guy that does the butchering is from the Amish community. He does a pretty good job and it all comes back. We did have a butcher (that went to our church), but we don't use him anymore. He stole so much that it got ridicules. We took off a big steer, and came carrying him back in a picnic basket. Pitiful.

The Amish guy processes lots of chickens - so I do wonder how he knows what is what. Even if I raised big nice chickens and then had him butcher them - would I be getting (MINE) back?
That is another problem.
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:58 AM   #9
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'Sparkle' is a cultivar of our native strawberries. It's a heritage variety. I like it because it tastes the best to us and produces the best for me.
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I've just been corrected.... we started buying 5' hog panels in 16' lengths not cattle panels. Those are even heavier duty than cattle panels. I don't remember what we paid for them though or how they compare to say.... sheep and goat panels.
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I never really had to think about whether the chickens I was getting back were mine or not. I always stay and wait for my chickens..... no way am I gonna shell out $$$ for gas making 2 trips to the processor for something I should be doing myself. They do them by batches and you can follow along with where your birds are in the process so I know I've been getting my birds back. 1 time I took some birds in for a friend. That was a problem because without their legs.... they all sorta look alike to me so what I did was I quick fast banded my birds with baggie twist ties and told them when they got to the birds I brought in to just leave the leg with the band on it attached to the bird because I could cut it off at home. That took care of me trying to figure out which birds were my organic fed birds and which birds were my friend's birds. When ever I travel outside the US it seems like I always run into farmers markets where they sell everything with the legs still attached. There's a reason for that.... if someone's paying top dollar for rabbit.... they wouldn't want to get sold cat so the legs are left attached to everything pretty much except beef and horse meat.... makes sense to me. I know that processors remove chicken and duck legs and will send them home with us if we want them but.... what's not taken home is sold to Asian restaurants.... they use those chicken legs preparing things like.... oh.... egg drop soup. I'm just thinking out loud here but Amish are pretty straight forward people and the guy is a neighbor of yours but then again... we're all human and humans make mistakes so why don't you just start putting twist ties or cable ties on 1 leg of every bird you bring into him and just tell him to leave the legs on those birds so you can try some Chinese recipes. He won't be offended and you'll know for sure you're getting your own birds back. After that.... maybe just tell him you really like egg drop soup made with chicken legs so it's ok if he leaves the legs on all your birds all the time and that you'll stick ties on your birds to help anyone helping him process the birds that the owner of those wants the legs back.
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Old 06-02-2013, 10:34 AM   #10
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That is an excellent idea! Thanks.

--- and humans are humans. Our neighbor took in one of his lambs and the Amish butcher's daughter did make the statement that he would be getting all of his lamb back cause they did not like lamb. Might have told on themselves a bit. Not that I am unwilling to give the guy some little part as a tip sort of, for a job done will.

Speaking of lamb -- I cannot tell it from beef really! I think - not sure they don't get that strong mutton taste until a year old? Maybe it is six months. I can't remember, I will have to ask my neighbor the next time I speak to him. I think the strong mutton taste is why mint sauce is served with some lamb and mutton.

I kind of agree with the Amish butcher's daughter when it comes to mutton.

And you stay while you wait for your birds?
So you make a day of it-- well a couple of hours for a few birds, I guess?
Do you knit or read while you wait?
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