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{broilers on the loose}

05.24.12

Unbeknownst to the guys, after they had unloaded another batch of broiler chickens into their bottomless shelters in the field on Tuesday morning, over half of them had escaped.  When Mr. Farmer Jones and I went out to the field that afternoon to do chores, we found over half of them out-and-about, just free-ranging all willy-nilly.  As I mentioned previously, I had got distracted by this and instead of rounding up the chicks, I took some photos of the escapees.

It’s so funny to watch the birds, just enjoying their time in the big world, without any fences.  They don’t actually roam that far, and once they realize you are trying to catch them, they frantically run in every direction but the way you want them to be.

{one little guy trying to figure out how to get in to visit with his friends}

Because the ground is not completely even, there are gaps created under the shelters that leave room for small birds to get out.  Well, it appeared that the guys forgot that step, hence the escapees.

We don’t hatch our own chicks here at the farm.  It is a complete other full-time job that we just can’t do right now- if ever.  We are using a local hatchery and they deliver our 450 chicks each week.  The chicks live in the brooder for the first 3 weeks of their life.  This allows them time to mature, grow feathers, and protect them from natural elements and predators.  Once they are large enough and have been hardened off {a term that means they are now strong enough to withstand the elements out of the heated and cozy brooder space} we collect them in chicken crates and move them to the pasture to live last 4 weeks of their life.

{We always have lots of helpers during chore time}

The bottomless shelters are the same as those from Polyface Farm– which is where Mr. Farmer Jones learned most of his farming skills when he apprenticed there for a year.  The shelters are moved every morning to new pasture.  The shelters are in one spot for 24 hours.  This is the perfect balance for the birds and the pasture.  The birds have enough access to fresh grass, forbes, bugs, and other forage.  The pasture receives just the right amount of nitrogen/fertilizer {aka chicken poop}.  This heals the pasture from the past mismanagement practices, helps new species of grasses, forbes, grubs, and forage grow, and puts more nutrients in the ground {and therefore more nutrients in the grass too}

The broilers, being raised in this manor, are a key element in our farming practices.  They are vital to the health of the pasture and because they help the pasture so much they give health to the other animals that graze there after them.

Due to the high levels of nitrogen that are put into the pasture from the broiler chickens, we have to make sure to not run the broilers on the same piece of pasture year after year.   Mr. Farmer Jones  has to think through where on the pasture he will run our fleet of broiler pens each year and how each of the other animal groups will be moving around the pasture to work in a symbiotic relationship.  Figuring out where and when to run each group of animals is definitely a mental exercise.  I’m thankful Tyler is so good at spacial reasoning- cause it definitely comes in handy for this type of farming when you have to think days, weeks, months, and years in advance when planning things.

It is fun to watch the health of pasture continue to improve over the years that we have been on this land.  The broilers work hard for us, and we appreciate all they contribute to the farm.  It is truly satisfying to know that from the time they arrive as hour-old chicks, to the time we butcher them 7 weeks later, that we are allowing and giving them the opportunity to live as they were created to.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Roberta Donaldson permalink
    05.24.12 12:49 PM

    A wonderful post. Thanks for sharing the wonder of life on the farm, and how you and the animals work together.

  2. 05.24.12 1:21 PM

    OMG – Nothing like chasing chickens on the loose! Cute little buggers:)

  3. 05.24.12 7:44 PM

    Your chickens are lovely and so is your blog; therefore I’ve nominated you for a One Lovely Blog Award.

    • 05.25.12 6:07 PM

      Thank you so much Rachel! I’m honored that you nominated me for a One Lovely Blog Award! I love the idea of your blog! I hope that you discover lots of great things and that many others can learn from what you find!

  4. 05.25.12 7:59 PM

    Baby chickens are so cute, even though they’re not the brightest. It continues to amuse me that they’ll figure out how to get out and then not work out that they should get back in the way they got out :) and then panic ensues. Drama queens, the lot of them!

  5. 05.27.12 3:24 AM

    Reblogged this on Versatile Blogger Award and commented:
    Another fantastic VBA Winner post — this one’s about chicks… Check it out now! Carley

  6. 05.27.12 3:25 AM

    Congrats! Re-blogged this on VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD site. This is a wonderful post! Carley

  7. 05.27.12 11:52 PM

    Oh my gosh, I want to kiss those chicks! I’ll have to show these pictures to the kids in the morning; they’ll go nuts with excitement. :)

  8. mary gunn permalink
    06.04.12 9:06 AM

    beautiful pictures of the birds. if i may ask what local hatchery do you get you chicks from? those look like healthy and happy birds.

    • 06.07.12 5:17 PM

      They are healthy and happy birds Mary :) Thanks for noticing! We get our chicks through Jenks Hatchery {http://www.jenkshatchery.com/} just down the road from us in Tangent, OR.

      • mary gunn permalink
        06.08.12 2:59 PM

        thanks so much for replying to my post. what a beautiful farm you have.

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