What does a table bird cost me to rear, how do I do it and what do I get for it?
With table fowls as soon as I can distinguish the cockerels from the pullets, usually when the birds are about 8 weeks old, I separate the sexes and give the cockerels at least five weeks on as much free range as possible. They then go into the feeding pens for three weeks, four birds to a compartment or twelve to a pen. Here the birds are fed four times daily. At sixteen weeks of age, my chickens average three pounds dressed weight for which wholesalers readily pay me 1/2 per pound or 3/6 per bird. Private customers pay 1/6 per pound, such a bird makes one delightful meal for four persons leaving nothing for a second meal.
There are practically no losses from disease. Whilst on free-range cats, snakes etc occasionally get a cockerel but that is all. From hatching to the age of eight weeks the table cockerels get the same rations as my pullets.
Yellow Mealie (Corn) Meal (coarse) 70 lbs @ 13/- per 180 lbs approx 5 – 0
Pollard 20 lbs @ 9/6 per 150 lbs approx 1 – 4
Bran 15 lbs @ 5/6 per 100 lbs approx 10
Meat Meal 10 lbs @ 23/- per 200 lbs approx 1 – 2
Bone flour 2 lbs @ 1/6 per 10 lbs approx 4
Ground limestone flour 1 lb @ 1/6 per 10 lbs approx 2
Lucern Meal 5 lbs @ 1/6 per 25 lbs approx 9
I weigh out 2oz per chick then take away half an ounce per chick and first feed this as a wet mash, the rest is put in the runs dry for the birds to peck at.
At 3pm I remove whatever is left and give a little chick grain thrown on to clean grass to allow the chicks some scratching for exercise. This I find keeps the birds healthy and contented.
During the five weeks on free-range, the table birds get crushed mielies and when available soured skim milk. On being put into pens for the final three weeks fattening they are fed on 50% barley meal, 50% yellow mielie meal (coarse) mixed with water – with soured skim milk when available – and a touch of salt.
I mix 20lbs of barley meal, 20lbs yellow mielie meal with water or soured skim milk at a time and feed 1lb to eight birds three times per day and twice per week I feed minced lungs from the butcher and mix the soup in the mash. Whilst in the pens the birds are not allowed much water or green food.
A table fowl sixteen weeks old cost me about 6d in bought food for its first eight weeks of life during which it has had 7 lbs of mash; in the second period five weeks of ranging the birds get 2oz crushed mielies per bird in the morning 2oz in the afternoon say 9lbs crushed mielies over the stage at 13 shillings per 180lbs about 8d worth. In the final stage, the ration costs me in barley and mielie meal and meat 15d.
One may take it that with food, labour, killing, dressing and transport a table chicken costs its producers 2/6 to 2/9; thus at 2d per lb, there is a profit of 9d to 1/- per bird. I have purposefully put the costs of feedstuff at the prices charged by Pretoria Merchants selling small quantities at a time, therefore, my costs are maximum ones. Buying grain etc. in large quantities or growing a large portion naturally greatly reduces the costs of production leaving a bigger profit.
Egg production is so often written about and so much information is available that it is unnecessary for me to go into detail as my laying fowls are treated on orthodox lines. Allowing for labour and green food eggs cost me 7d/dozen on an annual contract. My fowls when not laying are mostly occupied as incubators for either fowl or duck eggs and usually manage a double sitting as I take the eggs away as soon as the chicks begin to peck. When the hens definitely show signs of age or unthriftiness they are fattened and sold at 6d profit per bird over fattening costs.