We raise our animals outdoors as much as possible. For chicken, this means we only raise meat birds (chicken) during the spring and summer when we have grass to put them on. This year the plan is to process meat birds in June, July, August, and September.
Our chicks come from Freedom Ranger Hatchery. They hatch on Tuesday, are shipped in the mail, and arrive by Thursday. They have the internal nutrition that they need to do well on the trip here and have each other to stay warm with. When they arrive, we dip their beaks in water and grain so that they can find the water and food again. They have 3 heat lamps to warm up under and again have each other to huddle with if needed.
The chicks live in the brooder for 3 weeks. The brooder gives them time to grow and feather out. By 3 weeks they have the feathers that they need to keep themselves warm and then they can be safely moved outdoors.
We use moveable pens in the pasture, moving them daily at first and twice a day as they get older. This gives them fresh grass and bugs, spreads their manure as they deposit it, and protects them from the various predators that may be around.
The grain we provide comes from Gianforte Farm over near Cazenovia. Gianforte grows and supplies organic grains, grinding and mixing them with Fertrell Poultry Nutribalancer, to add extra minerals, and Fertrell Fish Meal, to boost the protein.
Another key piece to protecting all of our chickens is a livestock guardian, in our case, Yorek, a one year old Great Pyrenees. He is learning what is normal and what is not and barks as needed. This warns off predators and makes our meatbirds a less desirable option.
When the meat birds are 8-10 weeks old, we will process them here. With a good scalding and plucking, the birds look similar to chicken from the grocery store and taste much better. We are hoping for 2-5 lb. birds and will have them available for sale as whole, frozen chicken.