chicken lady

Dear Readers, I need advice.

I am trying to pencil out my next project: raising broiler chickens for my freezer. I don’t intend to sell them, or if I do, it would only be to friends and family, not for profit or commercial sale. I very very much want to raise them on organic, soy-free feed, and I’ve found a place that makes it about two hours from where I live.

The problem, obviously, is cost.  Organic, soy-free feed is about $.22 per lb more expensive. Calculating that up to cover 25 birds for 11-12 weeks, things start getting pretty damn expensive, raising the price per pound of meat by over $1.

Now let’s add in the second problem: my lack of experience.  I have to accept the fact that my first crack at raising meat birds is probably not going to go perfectly. I may lose birds due to disease, weather, predators, not picking the right hatchery or the right breed, etc. As I get more experience, I would expect that these losses will go down, but some trial and error must be part of my overall plan.

Aside from the vast improvement in flavor and quality of meat, probably one of my biggest motivators for raising meat birds myself was to get out of the GMO/soy agribusiness economy. So why on earth would I go with conventional feed, ever, even one time? On the other hand, its it more prudent in terms of my long term goals to do this first batch with less financial risk involved, and invest more money into it when I can be more sure of successful results? After all, I’m trying to balance this new project with all the other ones I’ve started (bees, dairy goats, garden, laying hens, horse, etc.) all with their own financial commitments.  Not to mention this first batch comes with the additional expenses of setting up the large chick brooder and building a chicken tractor.

Oy, I just don’t know!  Has anyone out there gone through this before? And if you haven’t, from just a consumer standpoint would a home-raised, free-range but NOT organic or soy-free chicken have any special value to you, or would you just prefer to pick one up at the grocery store? Is it worth it for me to start a project aiming for only half the mark, or should I go all out from the beginning?