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What is Pastured Poultry?
Pastured Poultry is a production system based on a model developed by Joel Salatin of Swoope, VA. It employs raising chickens in bottomless cages directly on pasture. The model has been developed over the last twenty years and allows the birds to receive up to 30% of their feed intake from pasture forage. The poultry is raised on fresh pasture and feed, with no growth enhancers of any kind. This also allows the birds to be raised in a cleaner, healthier environment as the cage is moved daily. The other aspect of the model is that all processing is done on the farm allowing for value adding by the producer. By not moving birds off the farm and incurring costs associated with custom processing this allows for greater profit potential.
Order the chicks through the mail and they are delivered to your post office where you pick them up. They are in the brooder for a 3-week period. The brooder must be draft free and rodent and animal proof. Keep the chicks warm (90O for the first week), clean and dry and ensure proper carbon-nitrogen ratio throughout the addition of wood shavings. This will eliminate odor, promote natural decomposition of manure and will ensure a healthy environment. Begin to introduce grass clippings to the chicks at 2 weeks to prepare them for pasture.
Out to Pasture
At 2 to 3 weeks of age move chicks to a mobile grazing shelter with approximately 1.5 square feet per bird per grazing shelter. Move the shelter a minimum of once a day. Provide water, feed, and fresh pasture for approximately 5 weeks. Feed should be a 22-28% protein broiler ration available at most feed stores. Keep feed and water in front of them at all times. Check birds mid day in the event of extreme heat (90O and above) and raise side of cage to allow for better ventilation.
In approximately 8 weeks, birds will yield from a 3 to 7 lb. carcasses. Processing should be done on-farm to maximize profits. Volunteer to assist an existing producer to learn the process. There is a reward system built in, by processing in the morning and selling fresh in the afternoon you receive payment at time of sale and have cutout the middleman.
Why Raise Pastured Poultry?
- To produce a high quality, farm fresh, all natural product.
- To improve profits through direct marketing, lower feed costs, healthier birds, improved pastured and to meet the strong demand for this product.
- To provide an opportunity to farm profitably during a 6 month growing season.
Who Should Raise Pastured Poultry?
Agricultural entrepreneurs with a self motivated personality, a willingness to adopt a new production and marketing model and livestock. A minimum number of acres are required.
- Acquire used equipment (start-up is approximately $1,000 or less).
- Start developing your customer list.
- Start slow with only 100 birds.
- Concentrate on learning the production and local marketing model.
- Set up a brooder house (10 square feet for 100 chicks).
- Build pens (before chicks arrive).
- Set up processing facility
- Continue developing your customer list.
You are ready to go!
- Direct; highly profitable; customer inspected product builds customer relationships, easy for the whole family to do.