Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Free Ranging

We've had a few changes recently here on the farm. After keeping our chickens under cover of chicken wire and in large pens for months, we've let them all out on the pasture to forage for themselves. This was a decision made to give them a better life, and us better eggs. Plus it is easier on the feed costs. We had closed them in because of the hawks that have been living in the area. We lost three chickens in two days early this spring, and we just couldn't stand to lose anymore, so we put them under cover.

A month or so ago our Silver-Laced Wyandottes were just too big to keep in their pen any longer, so we pastured them inside a large electric fence that we move weekly. So far the hawks haven't bothered them, even though they are easy pickings. I think the chickens are too big for the average hawk, which is about the same size. So now that all the chicks are grown, we hope the hawks won't bother with any of them, at least until next spring when they have to feed their own chicks, and I suppose then we'll close up our gang for a few weeks to keep them safe. Now the ducks and all the chickens can range free on our property. The small bantams have been finding their way into the dog's area, but our Azawakh don't seem at all interested in them. Lucky for the little chickens they were the ones on the field when the chicks came in for the 'greener grass' in with the dogs. They have all escaped injury, and the Wickles (as I call them) have gotten a lot of brownie points with Barry.

We have a few new additions to the flock. Recently we visited a farmer friend of ours in N. Georgia who raises Cornish Cross chickens for one of the 'big box' chicken companies. The ones you get at your local supermarket are raised in places like our friend farms. Every seven weeks he gets a delivery of 100,000 day old chicks to raise in his four computer-run long houses. He often has a few extra, so we took home 10 from a recent delivery just 18 days ago.

We are raising these for ourselves and friends as an experiment to see if we can take a hybrid bird with great meat, but raise them more slowly (10-12 weeks instead of 7) and use forage and organic feed. It will be a challenge as these birds are bred to eat constantly. To control their growth we have to control their feed. They aren't great foragers, so we won't worry about what they find themselves, but they are greedy with the feed. If we are successful, we'd like to raise new broilers four times a year and offer them to friends. They sure do make a good dinner. I'll let you know how it goes.

See you on the farm!

1 comment:

  1. I really like the picture of the chickens roaming in the big yard. It made me go "tee hee". :)

    When can me and Valerie Payton come visit?