Monday, April 24, 2017

Chicks on Grass!

We moved another batch of broilers out to pasture last week and this picture is too pretty not to write about.  These are 3 week old chicks that will get to spend their days roaming and pecking through this type of pasture. We will move the bottomless structure (pasture pen) as often as is necessary to insure that these birds always have pasture available. These pasture pen moves will be every 2-3  days when the chicks are little, but will be required daily as the birds get bigger.  This is a lot of work, but If you've ever had good pasture raised chicken, you will understand why we go to this extra effort.  The percentage of a chicken's diet that they can get from grass is minimal, usually estimated at only about 10-15% on really good pasture. However, it is an important 10-15%. I believe the grass improves overall health of the bird and also has positive impacts on taste and texture. Not to mention, wouldn't we all prefer to eat chickens that were allowed to run around on the pasture eating grass and bugs while breathing fresh air? As usual there is a nutrition and a welfare component to how we design our systems. Some might ask why we don't just turn the chickens out and let them run completely free. Well, as it turns our young chickens are not yet weary to the predators that would also like to consume a chicken dinner. They are easy prey for hawks, coyotes, owls, and a variety of other animals that see a chicken as a free lunch. By using the mobile bottomless pasture pens we can provide both pasture and protection.  To us it seems like a wonderful compromise, we think the chickens would agree.