If there’s one thing we like around here more than bacon, it’s fresh, wholesome pastured poultry. Our meat chickens are nearly free range. We use portable, movable, Salatin style pens to ensure that they have maximum access to rejuvenative sunlight, fresh country air, and bugs in every shape and size. You may be surprised, but our chickens actually eat a rather large volume of grasses and forbs. Especially the tender clovers. Our pens are moved daily, and sometimes twice a day depending on the time of year, age of the birds, weather conditions, and health of the soil. It’s a satisfying image watching the feathered friends devour the dew laden clover in the morning.
Each year, we buy our chicks from the hatchery. They arrive at our farm as day old chicks and we pick them up at the local post office. They are brought home and my young son and I carefully and quickly dip their little chick beaks into the waterer and feed. This lets them associate where it’s at, and then they are moved under the heat lamps to adjust and stretch out. It doesn’t take long before the have full bellies, a quenched thirst, and their loud cheeps subside to a low chirp as the stretch out under the heat lamps and get some rest.
After a few weeks in the brooder house the birds begin to feather out and become more resilient to fluctuating springtime weather conditions. Around four to five weeks, depending on weather and the chicks progress, they are moved into movable pens in the pastures. In this new home they will live another 6-8 weeks. They are moved everyday, and often twice as they get larger towards the end. The last trip they take is from the fields to a farm up the road with wonderful facilities and can handle all of our birds. They come completely cleaned, plucked, packaged in vacuum sealed bags, labeled, and frozen as whole birds. You’ll be hard pressed to find a tastier bird around.
Most people are familiar with the Cornish Cross meat birds that have become with grass based farmers. We certainly have raised them, and will do so again in the future, as they are a absolutely delicious bird. More and more however we lean towards the Freedom Ranger breed of chickens. Not only does the bird just sound patriotic and marvelous, but they simply out perform anything else out there. These birds take a little longer to raise on pasture than the Cornish Cross, but exhibit hardly any of the health issue associated with Cornish Cross. They are by no means couch potatoes. They are just as active and lively as our laying hens. The only delicate thing on these birds is their meat when it comes out of the oven.