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Broiler chickens on pasture

July 30, 2012

I spend some time researching topics to make sure what I post here is accurate information and presented in a manner that is even and readable. I also subscribe to a number of other blogs that are farm related and recently one described their activity with pastured chickens that I thought you would find interesting as the chicken that is available for sale at the Wild Ramp are either pastured like this or free range.

I also suppose some of you really wondered what a chicken tractor is and this will explain. It is not

source: permaculture articles

Sailors Small Farm

We are the second generation of sailors to live on this farm, hence the name of the blog.   We live on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada; an island is a natural for farming sailors, don’t you think?  We own a small acreage of about 14 acres, mostly in hay, but we also have laying hens and raise broilers.  We both work off farm as our primary source of income, which is unlikely to change in the forseeable future.  Our role as stewards of this land means that we are responsible to keep this land in good heart, improving, enriching and preparing for whoever will be here next.  We believe strongly in community, in family and in self sufficiency, and to that end are working toward raising as much of our own food as possible and eventually for others too, so that the farm will pay it’s own way, and perhaps us too.   The plan for this blog is partly to share some of what we experience in the hope that others can benefit from our learning curve, partly to chronicle this part of our journey for ourselves, but perhaps even more importantly, we hope that it will help keep us accountable to our goals, by putting those in front of readers known and unknown.  We’ll see…

I thought I’d share a couple of pictures of the state of the pasture after the broilers have spent a day in one place.

There are 65 birds in this pasture pen.  We move it late afternoon every day.  In Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin, he moves them in the morning.  That’s great if you don’t work off farm, but for us, it’s always worked better in late afternoon – right after work on work days, right before I start supper prep on the days I’m at home.  It takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.  It takes Polyface something like an hour to do 60 pens, which means my system is a “little” inefficient, or I don’t move fast, or both.  That’s OK, 15-20 minutes works for me.  If it’s just the actual moving of the pen, then I probably am up to speed, I think it takes me about 2 minutes…it’s all the other stuff – changing the water, topping up feed, putting the lids back on, that take time.

Why do we do it this way?  First off, to get some poop on the ground! We want the fertility for the soil.  Chicken manure packs a wallop of nitrogen.  Second, the birds actually eat a surprising amount of grass, given the chance.  For the first few minutes after a move, all you can hear is the chirruping noise they make when they’re happy, and the ripping sound of grass being torn off by 65 beaks.  Since you are what you eat, and chickens are no exception, this is good news for those who eat our chicken:  these chickens are getting fresh air, sunshine, protection from predators and a fresh patch of grass and bugs every day.  It absolutely makes a difference to the meat.  A good difference!

Take a look at how much of this they’ve actually eaten, not just trampled or pooped on:

They’ve been on pasture almost 2 weeks, you can see where they’ve been.  This will be a big strip of green about 3 weeks from now, right through to next year:

These birds are almost full grown.  They go up to the processor in just over a week.  It ain’t over till it’s over, but right now, they’re looking pretty good.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2012 1:40 pm

    Good post! I never thought of doing this with my chickens and here I sat on 1,800 rented acres of pasture. (Power company land with overhead high voltage lines).

  2. July 30, 2012 8:13 pm

    Didn’t Pollan write about something similar in Omnivore’s Dilemma?

  3. July 31, 2012 1:44 am

    Michael Pollan did indeed write about this system in Omnivore’s Dilemma, when he was describing Joel Salatin’s place, Polyface Farms. You will also have seen it in the movie Food Inc. If you search Youtube for Polyface Pastured Poultry, you can find lots of videos that show how the pens move and have Joel explaining his system. Thanks Wildramp for sharing my post – I particularly love the chicken tractor picture at the top – wish I’d found that! :).

    • July 31, 2012 10:49 pm

      I was ready to photoshop a chicken on to the seat of a tractor if I had to LOL

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