If you’ve ever ordered chicks, you might have noticed a statistic for the “survival rate” or “mortality rate” or something like that included with the description of the breed. This rate is to give us an idea of how many chicks will actually survive long enough to process. Typically people assume a 20% loss in the chickens they raise for meat, and thus make sure to order more chicks to overcome the inevitable deaths of birds that don’t reach market weight. I saw one hatchery proudly stating their chicks had a 70% survival rate. That’s 3 out of every 10 chickens dying! We need to do as much as we can to improve these odds. Continue reading “Essential tips to improve broiler chicken survival rates”
Midday chicken chores have me and the little girls running from one side of the yard to the other with water, food, and entertainment a few times a day. We fill up the food for the broiler chicks, who are doing really well in their bigger pen. I haul water, refill and clean waterers, and my three-year old pokes sticks and weeds into the fencing, for her entertainment and theirs. Today, however, we had an escape! Continue reading “How to catch a cockerel”
Chickens need space to move around and forage in order to provide the healthiest eggs and meat, but as we’ve learned there is a trade-off in giving these plump, docile birds unrestricted freedom: predators. For the chickens we raise for meat we have always been more careful and use fencing (for heritage breeds) and chicken tractors (for cornish x) to keep predators out. Our meat birds do not have a traditional, solid wood “coop” and thus their living space needs to be secure through the dark summer nights when those sharp toothed sly beasts lurk with large appetites. We’ve learned a few tricks along the way and since we’re about to put up a lot more fencing to keep the free range hens safe I think this is a great opportunity to review the tricks and best practices for chicken security measures. Continue reading “Fencing Tips to Keep Your Chickens Safe from Predators”
For the past year, our hens have truly ranged freely on our land. In the morning we open the door to the coop and leave the gate of the run wide open. Without much hesitation, the hens hop out of the coop and exit the run, beginning a day of adventurous scavenging and exploration. But recently, while the hens were ranging around in the woods about 50 feet from our house in the middle of the day (while we were outside!) we heard a… commotion. All but one of our hens came sprinting and panting to the house. My heart froze when I noticed a buff orpington was missing her tail feathers. I walked around in the woods for a few minutes and then I found the feathers of one of our plymouth barred rocks scattered in a few circles. Predators. Continue reading “Reflections on “Free Range””
Chicken and other livestock raised for meat qualifies for USDA Organic certification if it meets the following guidelines: all feed consumed by the animal needs to be 100% organic from early in life, they must never receive any antibiotics, hormones, or other treatments, and they must have access to the outdoors on untreated, organic land with sunlight and shelter available (source). From my research and experience, it would seem that organic practices alone don’t ensure the meat is tastier or even more nutritious than non-organic. So what is the difference? Continue reading “Is Organic Meat Really Better?”
So you’ve overcome the myths and misconceptions about raising chickens for meat and have decided you want to raise your own chickens for meat this summer. Awesome! We’re totally with you! You’ve browsed the catalogs, researched the breeds, and are ready to place an order. But wait, where will you keep them as they grow? A coop with a run will be a lot of work to clean, especially if you have a lot of chickens! It’s time to think outside the box… or maybe inside one? Continue reading “What is a Chicken Tractor? (with free chicken tractor plans)”
It is nearly time for us to order the chicks for fryers and broilers, and I couldn’t be more excited. The meat supply in the chest freezer is dwindling and I will rest easy knowing it is on its way to being replenished. That’s right, we raise our own chickens (and if you’re local to Madison, NH, you can buy some from us, click here). I know a lot of people out there think we’re nuts, but we’re here to set you straight.