Chicken debate at work...

From Orpingtons to Ostrich. Hybrids, pure breeds or just your breeds. Watermael to waterfowl. Put all your general posts here.

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Are Supermarket meat chickens girls or boys?

Hens only
Cockerals only
Total votes: 24


Chicken debate at work...

Post by Sparklepeeps » 06 Aug 2008, 19:26

Humm, it got me thinking at work today, when I was asked if the bog standard chicken that we buy in the supermarkets is likely to be a hen, or could it be a cockeral?

I guessed that it could be either because as meat birds they wouldnt grow old enough to become sexually mature, and therefore acceptable to keep both sexes together.

... but I am not sure. But I am sure someone here will be

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Gilly C
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Post by Gilly C » 06 Aug 2008, 19:32

on the programme Jamie did they sexed them the girls to battery cages for eggs the boys to be fattened makes sense really


Post by JC » 06 Aug 2008, 19:45

Both boys and girls.

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Welsummer Cockerel
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Post by milkmaid » 06 Aug 2008, 20:20

they are both :wink:
with hybrids for battery cages every male chick is gassed or masticated (spelling),you don't want to know :( ,the males of laying bird wouldn't fatten as fast
with hybrid meat birds both males and females are used
the old way was with utility birds girls laying males fattened for the pot
rose comb white dorking nut


Post by Kitsune » 07 Aug 2008, 10:14

I'm sure I remember reading somewhere that hens put weight on faster than roosters - but I am pretty sure they do just chuck the lot in with hybrids now.


Post by Pekinout » 07 Aug 2008, 11:20

Found a link showing how the 'breeder parents' are kept and below in quotes what happens to their 'offspring'.

The chickens you see in the supermarket can be both sexes, as they're a maximum of 20wks old when killed for meat. Around 15 weeks old when a fast developing 'line' is bought in for quick turnover.

All About the Parent Breeders

The parent breeders are starved compared to their offspring who are fattened up.

Selective breeding is the mating of birds chosen because they exhibit the genetic characteristics or traits most desirable in the generation eventually reared for meat production.

Several traits are selected for robust heart, lungs and other organs. While good leg strength and resistance to disease are as important as body conformation, feed performance and growth rate in the selection process.

Every bird in the breeding programme is thoroughly examined and only those with all the essential traits are selected for breeding. The selection process is very rigorous. If a bird shows any sign of a particular condition e.g. leg joint weakness, then that bird, its parents and all its siblings are removed from the breeding programme.

All chickens are naturally mated.

Selective breeding produces the pedigree, or elite flocks, whose offspring form the great grandparents and grandparents of the birds eventually reared for their meat. But the grandparent birds must also have genetic characteristics required for the parent flocks to produce the fertilised eggs from which chicks are hatched and reared for meat production.

Maintaining sound and healthy birds with the proper genetic balance between reproduction in the parent flocks and meat production in the broiler flocks is the key to modern selective breeding programmes.

It is highly scientific and requires huge amounts of data on every single bird and its extended family to be collected and analysed.

Today, selective breeding of commercial poultry strains is carried out by only a few specialist primary breeding companies who operate throughout the world.

Parent Breeder flocks produce the fertilised eggs from which the chicks grown as meat chickens are hatched.

In the UK, parent flocks are kept in poultry houses on floor litter of chopped straw or wood shavings and provided with nesting boxes. Battery cages are not used in any stage of the breeding or rearing of birds for meat production.

There are around ten hens to each cockerel in the parent flock. The hens and cockerels reach sexual maturity aged around 20 weeks and soon after the hens begin laying fertilised eggs in the nest boxes provided. Each hen lays around 130 fertilised eggs during its productive life of around 60 weeks. The eggs are collected from the nest boxes several times each day and sent to the hatchery.

Many modern houses have automatic egg collection using conveyers located unobtrusively below the nesting boxes. Eggs are recorded by laying flock and can be matched against other records of the flock concerned and this record accompanies each batch of eggs to the hatchery.

At any one time there are approximately seven million broiler chicken breeder hens in the UK laying fertilised eggs for hatching.

All eggs laid by parent flocks are collected and delivered to the hatchery where they are incubated at a controlled temperature and humidity in setters. Good air circulation is provided and the eggs are turned regularly to encourage development of the embryo and to prevent it from sticking to the inside of the shell.

After 18 days the racks of incubated eggs are taken out and candled to detect and remove any infertile eggs and damaged embryos. Candling involves shining a light through the egg from behind.

The perfect eggs with growing chick embryos are placed on special trays which are put into the hatchers and kept at a controlled temperature and humidity until they start to hatch out of their shells on about the 20th day.

Hatchery hygiene is important to ensure the newly hatched chicks do not pick up an infection.

Day-old chicks may be sorted by sex in the hatchery depending on whether the rearing farm they are destined for has separate-sex rearing. The tips of the chicks' wing feathers show if the chick is female or male.

The day-old chicks or poults are then transported to chicken or turkey rearing farms in specially designed covered trays and in dedicated temperature-controlled vehicles.

Chickens and turkeys are reared in large purpose-built houses on deep litter of chopped straw or wood shavings. Chickens, turkeys and other poultry reared for meat are not kept in battery cages. Chickens are reared from a day old until their weight reaches around 2 kg in about 40 days for indoor birds.


Post by Chickweed » 07 Aug 2008, 18:23


from memory of HFW Chicken out prog. They are both and can be ready for slaughter at 37 days. If you look on the specs pages at S&T poultry website if gives you the growth rate and food conversion ratio for its free range hybrid meat birds. These are ready about 84 days


Post by Kitsune » 07 Aug 2008, 19:57

Pekinout wrote:
The chickens you see in the supermarket can be both sexes, as they're a maximum of 20wks old when killed for meat. Around 15 weeks old when a fast developing 'line' is bought in for quick turnover.
22 weeks is what duel purpose breeds are raised till - the broilers in the supermarket are usually between 8-10 weeks - though free range have to be slower growing birds and will be ready in 54 days or something along those lines I believe


it's 70 days till slaughter for organic chicken, 56 for free range and 49 for indoor reared

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