Pastured PoultryRaising Chickens in a Grass-Based System Erin Campbell-Craven, Livestock Program Assistant Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
What is Pastured Poultry?Pastured poultry ≠ free range!• “free range” is a marketing term• “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” – USDA Food Labeling fact sheet• Outside could be pavement, gravel, rocks, dirt… not necessarily pasture
What is Pastured Poultry?Pastured poultry ≠ organic• Feed must be organic• No use of hormones or antibiotics• Environmental regulations• NO pasture regulations for poultry, only ruminants
Pastured poultry are…• Raised on FRESH pasture for most of their lives• Given access to sunshine• Usually frequently rotated• Less crowded (enclosure space per bird 1-2ft²)• Fed either non-organic or organic feed – Pastured poultry NEED feed or planted grains supplementation to thrive and produce (diet is only about 10% grass)• Often slower-growing, heritage breeds
Types of Pastured Poultry• Broiler systems• Layer systems
Broiler systems• Raise from chick to slaughter in 8-12 weeks• Usually kept in confined chicken tractors• Moved often• Often processed on site• OK allows home-processing without licensing UP TO 1000 birds/year – only allows sales to household consumers – must process at USDA-certified plant to sell across state lines, contract with stores, restaurants • Darp Processing Plant – Tahlequah, OK
Layer systems• More often free-range or surrounded by electric fence & locked up at night• Need more space – Higher frequency of cannibalism/pecking in layers – Will be in production for years, not weeks• Egg-mobiles• Easiest to sell directly on-farm to consumers – OK laws governing egg sales are stricter than federal laws!
Why Pastured Poultry?• Waste control• Fewer health problems – Heat stress – Cannibalism/pecking issues• Pasture improvement through use of manure• Health benefits/Tastiness of eggs & meat
Pastured Eggs vs. Non-pastured EggsPastured eggs have:• 1/3 less cholesterol• 1/4 less saturated fat• 2/3 more vitamin A• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids• 3 times more vitamin E• 7 times more beta carotenehttp://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx#ixzz27LvkfgLn
Other Benefits of Pastured Poultry• Ethical concerns• Appealing appearance of flock to customersYou’re not just marketing a product, you aremarketing a way of life!
Pastured Poultry Challenges• Weather – Heat stress – Cold stress• Parasites – Midges – avoid having poultry near boggy spots• Predator control – Electric fence – Livestock Guardian Dogs
Heifer Ranch Pastured Poultry• Raised 1000 broilers/year for kitchen• Processed on site• Cornish cross shipped at one-day old• On pasture at 3 weeks, processed at 8 weeks• Production from early spring to late fall• Non-medicated feed (chick starter for first 2 weeks)
2009-2010 Chicken Tractor• Can house 6-8 birds year-round• Easily moved with an ATV or other vehicle• Generally moved once-twice/week• Perfect for pulling over beds or rows to fertilize garden pre-planting
2011 “Learning Experience”• 100 Golden Wyandottes and Dominiques placed on pasture at 8 weeks in June 2011• Surrounded by electric fence and locked up at night to limit roaming and predation
2011 “Learning Experience”: Problems Faced• Birds did not recognize the trailers as their place to roost• Could not be herded into the trailers easily – had to walk up narrow, steep ramp to access trailer doors• Had to be individually caught and manually placed inside the trailers – Too stressful for birds• Already over 100 degrees in beginning of June – couldn’t shut birds up inside trailers to acclimate• Roamed widely as soon as they were placed in pasture – Not trained to electric fence
2011 “Learning Experience”: Lessons Learned• Start over!• Order 40 chicks, not 100• Raise chicks in trailers – “Home base” will decrease roaming• Put chicks on pasture as young as possible – Acclimate to weather before summer• Place wire panels on either side of ramp leading to trailer door to herd birds into trailer• Move trailers frequently to limit roaming, predation
Electrolyte/Vitamin Mix - dissolve 4oz. packet in 2 gallons of water – add10oz per gallon of water for 4-6 weeks – promotes fast feathering
Brooder temperature recommendations• Week 1 – 95 degrees• Week 2 – 90 degrees• Week 3 – 85 degrees• Week 4 – 80 degrees• Week 5 – 75 degrees• Week 6 – 70 degrees• Week 7 – 60 degreesThese are just recommendations – the faster youcan wean your chicks off of the heat lamp, thefaster they will feather and the better they willacclimate to changes in the outside weatherconditions.
Rock Creek Project – chickens move in a 2-3 day rotation behind cows in aneffort to scatter cattle manure patties and decrease internal and externalparasites in the cattle
Panting to dispel heat – normal in chickens on hot days
Scratching through cattle manure to fertilize pasture and destroy internal andexternal parasite larvae
Kerr Center Pastured Poultry: Future Plans • Develop breeding program – Acquire Delaware rooster – breed pure and Wyandotte crosses – Use hens for natural incubation • Cull roaming hens • Livestock Guardian Dog for predator control • Fecal egg counts • Soil tests on improved pasture where hens have been