A Family Affair: Pastured Poultry
A family farm is a family affair. We all work at it together. A team. Not that everything goes smoothly, but we’re in it as a team. Last weekend the project was putting the chicks out in chicken tractors, where they “free range” on the pasture. Jim and Frank worked in the brooder to gather the chicks to move them. These crates make the job easy. They figured out how to arrange the crates so the chicks were cornered and then quietly loaded them in the crates.
Meanwhile, Mark, Sam, and Keith got chicken tractors into position and prepped for the chicks. Things didn’t always go smoothly. A couple of things broke and the water system needed troubleshooting, but they got the job done! Broiler chickens prefer the protection of a chicken tractor to a more open system like laying hens and turkeys prefer. They are also inherently lazy and need the push of a mobile house to move into fresh grass.
Jim and Keith gently placed the chicks into the chicken tractor, where the little birds were happy to check out their new digs. These guys have had access to the outdoors for two weeks already and don’t need the full protection of the brooder anymore. If we feel they still need heat at night, they stay in the brooder. They are surprisingly tough against the cold by four weeks old.
The chicks loved the grass! They will consume grass at a rate of about 20% of their diet. The sunshine stored in the grass is the magic in pasture-raised poultry, as opposed to “free-range” birds. This is what makes them beyond organic (which only requires “access to the outdoors” not full-fledged on grass). Taste is minerals and vitamins, and that blade of grass is making a really healthy chicken who will in turn really nourish us. Frank gives a final inspection. All is well and as it should be with the chickens on the pasture. Good teamwork!