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How Some Hot Little Chicks are Going to Heal the Land at Chez Siberia

So. To review.
When chicks arrive, they are hopelessly cute. As you can see from the video, pieces of which were taken on 4/1, 4/13, and today, 5/10, they grow up fast; they grow up aggressive; they grow up and out and all over the place. They fight for their places at the feeders. These guys are now out in their own little room in our barn (which is the former brooder house; our property was once what passed for a ‘big egg farm’ in the 1930s, with two, three story buildings on the property, with 7,000 birds each. 14,000 birds would not qualify as a ‘small timer’ now with the huge battery farms in places like Delaware and Maryland). And the job of the moment for them is to…eat, drink, grow and do their chicken-y thing. Our job of the moment for them is to … create the moveable ‘living units’ that we will transfer them to in June when we move them onto pasture.

This is going to be a whole new adventure for the DH and me; we raised chickens for years, in one of those huge hen houses out back; we never had any more than about 100 birds — on one floor – they got to run around a lot and had a yard outside to scratch and play in. It’s a whole new deal with moveable pens but we are excited to do it. Raising meat and eggs on pasture creates an entirely new level of nutrition from raising under regular henhouse conditions.

“In addition to being lower in calories and total fat, pasture-raised foods have higher levels of vitamins, and a healthier balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats than conventional meat and dairy products.
Studies have shown that milk from pasture-fed cows has as much as five times the CLA (a “good” type of fatty acid) as milk from grain-fed cows. iii And meat from pasture-fed cows has from 200 to 500 percent more CLA as a proportion of total fatty acids than meat from cows that eat a primarily grain-based diet. iv
Free-range chickens have 21% less total fat, 30% less saturated fat and 28% fewer calories than their factory-farmed counterparts. v Eggs from poultry raised on pasture have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A and 400% more omega-3’s.” Pasture Raised Food

Any other benefits?
First of all, it will help keep the pastures down and, with some help from us, will heal the land. Ever since we said goodbye to the sheep and the goats (if you are looking for a reason, three words: loose domestic dogs), the pastures have just taken off, which is actually a huge fire hazard. The soil there also has never been really great – and we did not do anything to help that situation. We admit it. The pastures used to play out too early and we’d have to buy hay to feed the livestock. Not great in terms of being stewards of the land or in terms of doing our proper job as entrepreneurs. A properly created and maintained pasture, with the proper mix of cool and warm weather plants in it, can withstand that period of the summer when high dry weather will reduce the amount of forage to basically nothing. We’re looking forward to putting in the work to improve the soil and the plants out there to make that pasture a real asset.

There are some pasture-raised poultry arrangements that actually include using ruminants first. Sheep and goats do not compete with chickens in a pasture, so you get all sorts of synergies by putting chickens into a piece of pasture that goats and sheep have just left. Goats and sheep do not compete – goats ‘brouse’; sheep graze down(just watch the heads – goats eat UP; sheep eat head down…down..down, which is why parasite issues with sheep are so much more widespread and difficult to eradicate than they are with goats). Chickens are down there at the ground level, stirring up the bugs, stirring in the fertilizer, stirring up the dirt. But for the moment, we do not have ruminants, though we might just offer to let someone put their goats into the paddocks to start the process of getting the pastures down. And we also do not have the ‘chicken tractors’ made for them either.

What’s a ‘chicken tractor’?
chicken tractor
More chicken tractors: more chicken tractors

Links for pasture-ized poultry:
Penn State Univ.
Univ. of Wisconsin
SARE on pastured poultry
Rodale New Farm on Pastured Poultry 1
Rodale New Farm on Pastured Poultry 2
Rodale New Farm on Pastured Poultry 3
Rodale New Farm Pastured Poultry Resources

The person credited in many of these articles with being the ‘grandfather of the pastured poultry movement’ is a Virginia farmer named Joel Salatin. His book on pastured poultry is considered the bible of the movement. For a very informative site:Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms

So, this is a very exciting adventure for us; it’s going to be work (nothing ever worth it is NOT work), but we have hopes that we will be able to raise high quality eggs and meat and at the same time, improve our pastures so that they will be able to support the animals on them with good nutritious forage.

Stay tuned: whole lotta learnin’ going on!

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3 Comments

  1. Elcoj says:

    Interesting, I`ll quote it on my site later.
    Thank you

  2. Any type of animal raised on a free range basis is very rich in omega 3 fats, healthy or “good” fats, contrary to animals fed with grains which are rich in pro inflammatory omega 6 fats (”bad” fats)

    For more, read http://www.omega-3-fish-oil-wonders.com/omega-3-fatty-acids.html

    Thanks
    Alfredo E.

  3. htwollin says:

    Alfredo – thanks for the link. There is a lot of really great information out there on Omega 3 and Omega 3 vs. Omega 6, which is the preponderance of what you find in commercially raised meats because of grain (esp corn) feeding. One of the reasons we are raising these guys on pasture is precisely for that reason – we have heart disease issues on both sides of the family. I wish we had done this years ago. The list of diseases and conditions that are ‘inflammatory’ based continues to grow.

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