Chicken economics – ranger vs cornish

So I wrote earlier about the results of our first experimental batch of red ranger chickens, but I’d like to get all geeked-out and dive right into the nitty-gritty numbers of it all.
Read ahead at your own risk (you might find it all dangerously boring.)


 I wanted to do an in-depth comparison of Cornish-cross and Red ranger chickens for any other farming-type folks (0r customers) who might be interested.  I need to figure out which chickens I’d like to raise next year, and figure out what price the chickens need to bring.  It helps immensely to have a solid set of numbers to base my decision-making on.



Live weight – 6lbs at 7 weeks

Dressed weight – 4lbs (66% dress-out)

Cost per chicken:

  • Chick – $1.05
  • Feed – $2.97 (13.5# x $0.22/lb.)
  • Processing – $3.13 ($2.80 + $0.33 transport cost)
  • Labor – $1.20 (7 weeks * 7 days * 5 minutes * $15/hr. [divide by 50 chicks/pen])
  • Equipment – $0.33 (pasture pens, brooder, feeders, etc.)
  • Marketing & Overhead – $2.00
  • Mortality Loss – $1.21 (9%  * $13.40)

Total Costs – $11.89

Income – $13.40 ($3.35 * 4lbs.)

Profit – $1.51


Red Ranger

Live weight – 6lbs at 11 weeks

Dressed weight – 4lbs (66% dress-out)

Cost per chicken:

  • Chick – $2.20
  • Feed – $2.97 (13.5# x $0.22/lb.)
  • Processing – $3.13 ($2.80 + $0.33 transport cost)
  • Labor – $1.93 (11 weeks * 7 days * 5 minutes * $15/hr. [divide by 50 chicks/pen])
  • Equipment – $0.33 (pasture pens, brooder, feeders, etc.)
  • Marketing & Overhead – $2.00
  • Mortality Loss – $0.80 (6% * 13.40)

Total Costs – $13.36

Income – $13.40 ($3.35 * 4lbs.)

Profit – $0.04


There you have it: red rangers cost more to raise than NASCAR chickens.  We would need to charge $3.95 per pound for our red ranger chickens to make roughly the same amount of profit that we’d make raising cornish-cross.  And that’s not even factoring in the opportunity cost of having the equipment and labor tied up for an extra 3 weeks.

Several times this past year I’ve had other farmers ask me why our prices are so low.  Mainly, our prices were a complete shot in the dark.  I’d done the math way back at the beginning of the season, so I knew we weren’t losing money, but it was going to take a year to get a really comprehensive view of the costs involved with raising chickens on pasture.

For next year it’s pretty clear that we’re going to have to raise our prices.  Raising Cornish-cross (which we’d prefer not to do) we would only make $906 in profit for a whole years work at our current prices.  It’s even worse with red rangers, profiting a mere $24.  That’s not much for a year of hard work.


On feed conversion:

I just used the industry-standard 2.25:1 feed conversion ratio for my calculations.  We buy our feed in bulk, so it’s difficult to compare exactly how much the cornish or rangers eat.  The meat chickens, turkeys and young layer pullets have all been eating from the same 4-ton batch of feed.  I estimated the amount of feed that I would need for this year based on a lower conversion ratio (about 3:1, I can’t remember) and we came out with more feed than I thought at the end of the year.  Judging from this powerpoint presentation, it looks like 2.25:1 is a solid number to aim for.

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  1. Love your figures Andrew! It is very hard to make a profit if all goes well. Did you figure in the loss of a chicken or two?

  2. Thanks Andrew, this is very informative and helpful to someone like me who hasn’t started yet. You have made my choice easy for what chickens I will raise for meat chickens when I start farming.

  3. Great analysis. I’d be super curious about the FCR difference. Besides the grow out time, that’s the only other thing that has kept us growing out Cornish. Our FCR this year was 2.89 to 1. Our customers more often are recent converts to the small farm raised model of buying, and would rather have the animals be more like what they are used to at the store… If the FCR was better for the Ranger birds, we might change it up, but as they tie up equipment for an additional month, it doesn’t really add up. We might be able to get a premium price for them as well (with a little bit of education so the customer know’s what they are buying).

    1. It would be really nice to get some solid”on-farm” numbers for FCR, but I didn’t see a huge difference in the feed consumption between the cornish and red rangers in our experimental batch. I might have to go ahead and weigh the feed for our first batch next spring so that I can get some hard numbers. I could handle a slightly higher FCR, but the extra month of care & feeding is by far the biggest drawback.

  4. I enjoyed the information on the two different chicken types as well. We raise meat birds for our own comsumption and have tried the red rangers, too. I was extremely happy with the fact that they actually moved around and foraged so much compared to the cornish X. I found the meat to be superior to the cornish as well. However, the fact that they take longer to finish out was dissapointing. I do believe they ate more. We went back to the cornish X this past summer due to high feed costs, but forgot just how gross they truly are. Talk about the poo factor! I was so happy when butcher day arrived. A few died due to heat stress and who knows what, but in the end they averaged 8 pounds dressed weight (one was just over 10 pounds). We raised them for 9 weeks and had all males.

    The whole idea behind the red ranger chicken is getting the birds to forage more, which equals better nutrition (and quality of life!)for birds and consumers. More greens equals more omega 3’s etc. Insect protein is better than soy any day. The old adage of “you are what you eat” is true, but it’s also “you are what you eat eats.” Maybe you could raise a few of the red rangers for those folks who put a high priority on those things and who are also willing to shell out a few more bucks for the effort. Just a thought.

    As for us, when we are finally done eating through our frankenchix (as I call the cornish cross), I will be ordering the rangers once again. Costs be damned, they are worth it.

  5. Here they raise the different birds to different ages. Little guys go to 81 days or more and the cross birds much less. The local chicken farm slaughters at 21 days (i.e. under 2kg) else they are too big for the French market. Have you tried varying the ages at slaughter?

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