Last year we grew Freedom Rangers, recommended by my friend on School Committee. They take a few weeks longer to mature than other meat birds, but aren’t as physically awkward, tend to be healthier and make better use of pasture for eating, which we have plenty of. I was warned that “freedom” translated to “active” so we’re hoping their additional mobility doesn’t make them tough and that they stay inside the fence.
Before that we tried Jumbo Cornish X Rock birds which tend to be the standard. Meat birds grow MUCH faster than laying hens, reaching butchering size in about 8 weeks. The ‘rocks’ were cute for about 5 days, but then quickly outgrew their fuzziness and lumbered around the rest of their short lives awaiting a meal, growing back feathers just in time for the end.
Holding one was like holding a chicken parm sandwich — without a roll. They are bred to be so heavy breasted, they can develop problems with their legs sustaining their weight. They even come with a high altitude warning … seriously.
The Freedom Rangers are reddish-brown birds, and are much easier to look at — so much so that my husband Rus said “Oh, I like them better already.” Their feathers grew in at 2 weeks and at 4 weeks enable them to clumsily flutter about and make threatening faces at each other. Our Weimaraner, Mac, watched over them while they still lived in the kitchen, and thought they looked pretty good too.
They were much more fun to raise, extremely healthy and ate well off the pasture. But their increased activity made them slightly more tough to eat and they needed more time to finish than the Cornish X Rocks. Still deciding what we’ll raise this spring.