Cornish Cross & Black Australorp chick, couple of days old
One thing that I'd like to know for myself is what the cost difference is in raising a cornish cross chicken and a heritage rooster, so I'm going to do an experiment to see what the costs are for raising heritage roosters vs the industry standard cornish cross. Both sets of birds will eat an identical feed ration.
Chickens eggs hatch about 50% male/female. But most people who keep chickens only want the hens, which leaves hatcheries with (huge) numbers of surplus male chicks. They're usually quietly disposed of at the hatchery. You can buy them for $0.50 to $0.80 from national hatcheries, or sometimes get them for free if you live close to a hatchery -- as the hatchery owners hate to kill the chicks and most would rather they be put to some better use.
Low cost chickens?
There's a lot of rooster chicks that you can buy or aquire cheaply. Cornish cross chicks cost a little more, but grow a lot faster. A cornish cross chick sells for $1.50 to $2 each.
Cornish Cross and Buff Orpington chick, one week old
So what I'm going to do is raise a batch of roosters and a batch of cornish cross, carefully measuring the amount of feed and tracking the amount of bedding and all other inputs including labor for each batch, and weighing the chicks every week or so until slaughter.
Personally, I prefer to raise the heritage roosters, but in doing so I've got to have a better idea of what it really costs me to raise them -- so I can make sure that the price that I'm charging is appropriate and profitable. By doing a small study I can take the guesswork out of the mix.
Cornish cross and Buff orpington chick, four weeks old
I'm going to do this experiment at first by raising the chickens in pens on wood chips, and then repeat it later this year with the birds on grass, to see how pasture changes their feed consumption. Everyone assumes that pasturing the birds reduces their feed consumption, but I don't know anyone who's actually tested that idea -- and even it if has been tested, I'd like to know the results on my land with my feed and my bird suppliers.