Raising Chickens for Meat

You have probably heard about the benefits of raising chickens on pasture, good for the soil, good for the forage, good for the chicken, and good for the humans who eat them. And if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you want to raise them yourself or maybe I’m wrong, and you’re reading this just for fun. Either way, welcome!

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I have created a series following the chickens through their life on our farm and explaining how and why we do what we do. So, sit back, and enjoy this close look into raising broiler chickens on pastures!

Week 1

Week 3

Week 5

Week 7

Final Thoughts

 

The New Chicken Tractor

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We decided to change the way house our chickens in the pasture for 2020. If you want to see what methods we used for 2018 and 2019, you can check out what Chickabiddy Chatter has to say about it, but you can also watch a YouTube video.

So, the Suscovich chicken tractors were great! BUT.. We needed something I could move while pregnant, something that was a little less maintenance while we adjusted to being new parents. We did a bunch of research and saw the things other pasture poultry farmers were doing and we put it all together to form the Schoentrup Farms Chicken Tractor.

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We bought most of the material from our local hardware and lumber stores. We decided to have an open structure plan where the chickens could move freely in a large area as they pleased. To protect them against ground predators, we bought The Premier 1 Shock or Not Electric Fence Kit. And for areal predictors we bought a Penelope, the guard goose! You can read all about her here.

We use 2 Plasson Automatic Chicken Waterers so every chicken has free access to water all day long. In 2018 and 2019 we had 3 chicken tractors with 30 chickens per tractor, that meant 3 waterers. We decided to plumb together 3 water buckets with PVC with the waterers connected to the center bucket instead of connecting each waterer to individual buckets. Also, we only used 2 waterers this time. Because the chicken have more room, 100 chickens can filter around 2 waterers just fine. This allowed us to use the third waterer for the brooder but still have 15 gallons of water available all day.

We remounted our trough feeders to sit on the ground instead of hanging. We thought it would work in the YouTube video, but it ended up being much harder to get feed into. We just pick up the feeder to put feed in it and slide it back underneath the tractor. We also added a bulk feeder so there was less competition for feed.

It did take us a few tries to move the fence efficiently. It’s easier to pick up half the fence at a time so it’s not so heavy. But it is still awkward and a little time consuming. You are probably also wondering about the PVC thing behind the tractor. This summer has been so hot and dry, we needed an easy way to give the chickens some shade. We bought a 10×12 shade cloth and strapped it to some PVC. It works so well and the chickens love it!

This is by far my favorite way of raising chickens on pasture! The chickens have so much open space to roam and enjoy the sunshine. We did have a small predator issue, so we added a scarecrow and we wrap the fencing tight against the tractor and shade cloth at night, but that has seemed to fix out problems!

If you’re a small hobby farm or want to raise food for your family, this is so great!!!

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Unfortunately, we are finding it may not be the best way to scale up. We are working on some additional ideas to increase our production. I’ll write all about when we figure it out, so stay tuned!

Raising Broilers on Pasture – Final Thoughts

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So there you have it, how we raise meat chickens on pasture. It may seem easy, and at times it is. But it also is very hard and at the same time so very rewarding!

Temple Grandin once said “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Raising Broilers on Pasture – Week 7

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The last week on the farm. We don’t change anything! The animals are fed, watered, and moved twice daily.

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Thursday night, we wait until it starts to cool off a little bit, grab the pick up truck and the chicken crates, and we get to work. We work efficiently and with care. These are still animals and we don’t want to stress them out or make them upset. There is a fine line between working quickly and working carefully, but we get the job done.

We make sure we don’t overcrowd the crates. It’s hot and packing them tight only makes it hotter. So, we want to make sure each bird has some room to feel comfortable on the trip to the processor.

Continue to Our Final Thoughts…