So You Want to be a Breeder – Expanding beyond your farm
So you want to be a breeder, but you don’t have the space or the budget to grow out 100+ chicks every spring. Do you believe you could accelerate your breeding progress by hatching and growing more chicks than your home place will hold? How about recruiting your friends and neighbors to help out? What???
Getting a few folks in your neighborhood to grow out a hatch or two of your chicks is an inexpensive way to expand your grow-out flock and accelerate your breed improvement progress. However, you have to have a plan.
I hatch out right at 1,000 chicks every spring from my three breeds. I only have room to grow out around 650 of them. Fortunately, I have two friends that are in the chicken business that routinely grow out some birds for their own uses.
Ok, let’s take a minute out to address biosecurity. Keeping our breeding birds safe and disease free is important and everyone is going to have different levels of comfort with moving birds between properties. These are the same worries people have about showing their birds, some show with no problems for years, some show and take precautions to keep their birds at home safe and some would never set foot in a poultry show due to the inherent biosecurity risk.
Every breeder needs to make their own choices and just like there is a upside to having a judge and other experienced breeders assess your birds such as attending a poultry show, for me, growing out a large number of chicks each year to be able to advance my breeding program significantly faster is worth it to me. Alright, back to the regularly scheduled article.
Our arrangement is relatively simple, I hatch the chicks, and brood them for about two weeks. I do this because I have the space and I know the chicks get off to a good start. I then give my growers the chicks to raise. At eight weeks I go to their location and do my preliminary evaluating/weighing/tagging. At 16 weeks I show up and select my breeders from the group. The remaining birds then belong to the grower, to be finished for slaughter (cockerels) or retained for layers (pullets).
In order for this to work it obviously need to be a win – win situation for both parties. I generally select only the top 5% of the cockerels and the top 10 – 15% of the pullets. So from my perspective, for the cost of hatching 350 chicks, I get 8 to 10 cockerel breeder candidates and 35 to 50 pullet breeder candidates. From the grower’s perspective, they get 160 plus cockerels and 125 to 140 pullets for the cost of their feed and time. Feel free to do your own internal math and see if this type of arrangement makes financial sense for you.
One of the advantages of this arrangement is that it is strictly a barter transaction, it does not require any payments in either direction.
A key to this arrangement succeeding from your end is that it is very important to ensure that your growers are employing the same husbandry standards that you employ at your own grow out setup. Communicate your expectations regarding space and access to free range, so that these birds are afforded the same care that they would receive at your place. I would also recommend them using the same feed that you use. In my case, I feed a grower ration put together by Fertrell using non-GMO grain that is grown, ground and mixed locally. I share that feed with my growers at my cost.
I have utilized this arrangement for the past three years with generally good outcomes. We are always communicating with our growers to make sure we are all on the same page and this is mutually beneficial. At this time our arrangements are still all verbal. In the event you wish/need to have a more formal arrangement with your grower, the Livestock Conservancy has a one-page document titled Satellite Flock Raising Agreement that can be used as is or with some modifications.
Matt Hemmer Smoky Buttes Ranch