Poultry farming



Poultry farming

Beck-Chenoweth, H. Free-range poultry production & marketing: A guide to raising, processing, and marketing premium quality chicken, turkey & eggs. Back Forty Books, Creola, Ohio, 1997.
This manual gives all the details on how to raise, process and market free-range poultry and egg products. The information given is based on several production models put forth by other farmers and by the author himself, who is a full-time farmer in southeastern Ohio, living in an income-sharing community dedicated to living a simple life in harmony with nature. Herman Beck-Chenoweth produces hay, beef and dairy cows, vegetables, poultry, eggs and furniture. His birds are started in barns and are moved to pasture at 4-6 weeks. They are kept in skid houses, range around the skids, and are moved to fresh pasture in general every three to four weeks. "Our goal, is to give our birds the best life they could have, honor that life by consistently producing the best tasting, cleanest, healthiest meat or eggs we can, all the while improving our soil. If we can do all that AND make a reasonable return for our efforts, we are satisfied."
Beck-Chenoweth, H. Free-range, pastured poultry, chicken tractor--What's the difference? In: Free-Range Poultry. Web Site. Free-Range Poultry Production and Marketing, Creola, Ohio, 2001.
Today there are three leading systems for producing poultry outdoors on pasture with significant differences between the systems. "Free-Range is a non-confinement system that uses a perimeter fence to deter predators. A variation of this system, known as DayRange, uses an Electronet portable fence to keep the birds safe from dogs and coyotes during daylight hours. The large-scale access to pasture combined with the low stocking rate (400 chickens or 100 turkeys per acre) allows the birds plenty of area to exercise and deposit manure.
Pastured Poultry, as researched and taught by Virginia farmer, Joel Salatin, is a confinement system with a grass floor, using portable pens approximately 8 x 10 feet in size. The pens, each containing about 80 chickens, are moved by hand and must be moved twice daily.
A third system, the Chicken Tractor was developed by Andy Lee and is a useful system for raising 50 or so birds for home use. By placing these pens in the garden, soil is tilled and manure can be placed exactly where desired. This is not a commercial sized system, and is also a confinement system. A recent refinement of the Chicken Tractor is the addition of a pop-hole door to allow the birds to range at least part of the day."

Beck-Chenoweth, H. Free-Range Poultry. Web Site. Free-Range Poultry Production and Marketing, Creola, Ohio, 2001.
Free-range essentials and a production budget are given. The three systems of producing poultry outdoors on pasture are compared.

Berton, V. and Mudd, D. Profitable Poultry: Raising Birds on Pasture. USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Washington, DC, 2001.
This bulletin features farmer experiences plus the latest research in a new "how-to" guide to raising chickens and turkeys using pens, movable fencing and pastures. With examples from farms from all over the country it touches on the system's many opportunities to improve profits, environment and rural family life. Poultry system options, many of them outdoors, that raise chickens for greater profit with less environmental impact and better conditions for the birds, are examined and alternative poultry systems such as pastured poultry pens, day range, yarding, chicken tractor and free-range are described. The bulletin also covers potential for profit, production basics, environmental benefits, quality of life and marketing options. This document provides an excellent comprehensive overview of alternative poultry farming with many color photos.
Bowman, G. 'This is real chicken' : Iowa farm women forge links with thankful consumers. The New Farm; 15(6), Sept/Oct 1993.
The members of Homestead Pride Poultry Cooperative raise chickens on non-medicated feed in existing outbuildings that give the birds plenty of room to run. Farm-raised broilers are a viable alternative, when costs are kept low by selling directly to consumers. Co-op members do everything except hatching chicks and processing.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Large-Scale Pastured Poultry Farming in the U.S. (Research Brief #63) Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 2001.
Results of a survey involving 9 producers raising at least 4,000 pastured chickens per year across the U.S. First all nine raised their chickens in 10' by 12' pens, moving them at least once a day. Five of the producers switched to a day range system to reduce labor. The chickens are allowed free range inside a fenced paddock during the day and are enclosed in a weather-tight and predator-proof shelter at night. The greenhouse-type buildings that house the chickens are moved about once a week and electrified netting is moved daily around the greenhouse to rotate pastures. Questions relating to labor, marketing and income are addressed.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Pastured poultry study addresses broad range of issues. (Research Brief #46). Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 2000.
This research brief is a summary of the pastured poultry study. 'Five diversified farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota are providing the data for the study. Diane Kaufmann, a pastured poultry farmer from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and one of the producers participating in the study, says: "I see the pastured poultry model as a farming method that requires low investment, with labor that can be provided by almost anyone, and provides a healthy life for the bird and the person who consumes it."
Cicero, K. Homes on the range: Portable poultry pens are proliferating. The New Farm; 17(4):13, May/June 1995.
Tips for building portable pens for pasturing poultry.
Cramer, C. Pastured poultry resources . In: Cramer, C., Sustainable Farming Connection: Where farmers find and share information. Web site. Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, © 1997.
This page lists various resources: a pasture poultry discussion group to share tips with other pasture poultry producers; a quarterly newsletter published by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, sharing information on production practices, processing equipment, marketing, legal issues, and more; books, guides and information packages, press releases, new equipment, and additional sites.
Dolinski, M. Raising Organic Pasture Poultry. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Alberta, Apr. 2000.
"Producers are choosing to grow pasture poultry because they believe it is the most ethical way to grow poultry. The birds are handled in a low-stress way and are always in the fresh air after three weeks of age. They are not subjected to living on and pecking at their own droppings and have fresh, green, growing grass available to them at all times. Another reason for choosing organic is that some producers do not want people to consume the medications and by-products that a conventional bird receives. They also want to avoid the herbicides and pesticides that are sprayed on conventional grains. These producers want people to have a choice when purchasing their food and feel they are offering a healthy alternative." Includes sections on growing season; birds; brooding; feeding; on pasture; pasture; moving to pasture; causes of death loss; labor.

Fanatico, A. Range Poultry Housing. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Apr. 1999.
Pastured poultry field pens: In this system, birds are housed in a field pen that is moved daily to fresh pasture. Seventy-five to one hundred chicks (two to four weeks old) are placed in 10'x12'x2'pens. Since the pen is floorless, the birds are able to forage on plants, seeds, insects, and worms in addition to their concentrate feed. Water must be provided. Some producers use a field pen, yet open it during the day to give the chickens free range. Others provide access to a portable corral. It may not be necessary to move the field pen daily if this method is used.
Free-range colony housing: In this production system, birds are housed at night for protection and released during the day. Housing can be more substantial than a field pen since it is not moved daily by hand–the housing is towed (by tractor, pick-up, or horse) every week or so to prevent wear on the pasture. Beck-Chenoweth uses a shelter on skids enclosed with chicken wire with litter-covered floors, tarp-covered gable roofs, and doors on both ends. The only fencing required is perimeter fencing to deter daytime predators such as dogs.
Semi-fixed or fixed housing: The traditional "yard and coop" system is one that most people are familiar with. If stocking density is low and birds are allowed to roam freely during the day, this can be a simple system.

Fanatico, A. Sustainable Poultry: Production Overview. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., March 2002.
"This publication provides information on raising poultry on pasture, including descriptions of production systems and facilities, as well as detailed nuts-and-bolts information."
The following operations are described:
semi-intensive (chickens in semi-intensive operations are raised in non-moveable buildings with access to outdoor grazing in pens that are used in rotation.)
"yard and coop" (Some producers let chickens, mainly layers, roam the farm at will, shutting them up at night to protect against predators.)
field pen: pastured poultry (Broilers are pastured in floorless pens, which are moved daily to fresh pasture.)
net range or day range (Net-range uses portable net fencing around a house to make multiple yards.)
free-range ("Free-range" refers to operations using non-contained access to pasture and moveable housing such as the eggmobile or skids.)
colony production system (uses multiple small roosting houses scattered on pasture)
Most of these models feature access to pasture but with modifications.
Fanatico, A., compiler. Pastured Poultry: A Heifer Project International Case Study Booklet. National Center for Appropriate Technology, Little Rock, AR, 2000.
This booklet summarizes the experiences of 35 Southern farm families who from 1996-1999 participated in a project titled "Integrating Pastured Poultry into the Farming Systems of Limited Resource Farmers." Introduction to pastured poultry, farmers' experiences and guidelines on how to raise poultry on pasture are available on the site. Highlighted are brooding, pen construction, weather, pasture management, feeding, mortality, processing, marketing, labor and earnings, and quality of life.
Geissal, D. Free-range poultry. Small Farm Today; 13(3):20-21, June 1996.
The organic or natural market is an ideal niche for small farmers. Consumers are becoming concerned about the lack of a normal llife for factory birds, or the way chickens are pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. Birds, and eggs from birds raised on pasture, free of antibiotics and hormones can be sold at a premium price. The author gives advice on how to start chickens on pasture. She has solved the predator problem by having Great Pyrenees dogs on the farm.
Klober, K. Sustainable poultry for pasture. Small Farm Today; 15(2):21-22, Apr/May 1998.
The author suggests developping one's own strain of broilers for pasture, using crosses of two different pure breeds, rather than using the Cornish-X broiler that is a high performance bird, whose needs are not being met on pastureland. A purebred breeding flock to produce home-raised broilers can be begun on nearly any small farm. Suggestions and advice are given.

Kuit, A.R., Ehlhardt, D.A., and Blokhuis, H.J., eds. Alternative improved housing systems for poultry: Proceedings of a seminar in the Community programme for the coordination of agricultural research, held at the Spelderholt Centre for Poultry Research and Extension, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Netherlands, Directorate of Agricultural Research, Beekbergen, 17 and 18 May 1988. Commission of the European Communities. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 1989.
The seminar primarily makes an inventory and a comparison of the housing systems that have been developed in European countries, as a result of consumer concern about the well-being of poultry. The seminar focuses on animal welfare research, inventory of systems developed, welfare and utilization of space in new housing systems, zootechnical and economical aspects of alternative housing systems for poultry.
Lee, A. and Foreman, P. Day Range Poultry: Every Chicken Owner's Guide to Grazing Gardens and Improving Pastures. Good Earth Publications, Buena Vista, VA, 2001.
Information about raising poultry on pasture from egg to processing. "In the day range system, the poultry are sheltered at night in mini-barns or portable units that have floors with deep bedding. The floor and bedding that keep the birds warm and dry during wet and cold weather. The birds are protected from predators and weather, and allowed to graze in the daytime inside temporary paddocks that are fenced with portable, electric poultry netting. The netting keeps the poultry in, and the predators out... The area for poultry to graze is moved regularly by repositioning the poultry netting. This eliminates over-grazing, and gives the poultry continual access to fresh, growing pasture."
*Riddle, J. Alpine chicken tour. The New Farm (Web Site). Rodale Institute, 2003.
"A photo tour of a Swiss organic poultry farm, with a detailed look at innovative production techniques": 'None of Mr. Dieters laying hens are de-beaked. Pecking is prevented through a variety of strategies. The house and outdoor areas are subdivided into units of 500 birds. There are equal numbers of brown and white breeds, breaking up the pecking order. There are a few roosters in each flock. Birds are given plenty of space, both indoors and out. They are provided with a variety of roosts and activities to satisfy their natural behavior. They are provided a balanced ration, ensuring that they have plenty of protein. The building is well ventilated, with excellent air quality.'
Salatin, J. Pastured poultry profits. Polyface, Swoope, Va., © 1993.
"In this book a proven production model is described, which is capable of producing an income from a small acreage equal or superior to that of most off-farm jobs. Salatin keeps his broilers in 2 foot tall pens that are moved over fresh grass every morning and his layers free-range around a portable hen house called an eggmobile. The book gives details about getting started, choosing a breed, starting the chicks, ration, the pasture, processing, problems, marketing, possibilities. "Pasturing allows chickens to be grown without damaging substances. Out on pasture, with fresh air, sunshine, green material and wholesome feed, broilers will outperform their factory counterparts in every way. ... They will possess a superior taste. That makes them easy to sell and easy to eat. It allows competitive production costs, all the while producing a more nutritious, clean product." Not only are his chickens healthier but they are also happier. "The long term benefits for society are greater because we are treating our animals better. But we don't do it for business reasons. We do it because it's right." says Salatin.
Thear, K. Free-Range Poultry. Farming Press, 1997, 2nd ed.
Practical and comprehensive guide to the free-range management of chickens. Every aspect of poultry husbandry is covered, including non-intensive systems, both small scale and larger scale; chapters on equipment, land management, breeds, nutrition, egg quality, table poultry, breeding, rearing, health, and marketing.
Traupman, M. Profitable poultry on pasture. The New Farm; 12(4):20, 23, May/June 1990.
Broiler and layers follow beef cattle in this rotation. On Salatin's Polyface Farm, 50 head of beef graze pasture first. Controlled by portable electric fences, the cattle leave a trail of manure and 4 to 5 inches of grass stubble in their wake. Four days after the cattle chow down on the grass, the chickens are put on that pasture to clean up after them. Both the layers and broilers love to pick through fresh manure for insects, and undigested food particles. Salatin keeps his broilers in movable pens and his layers free-range around a portable hen house called an eggmobile. Pasturing has cut Salatin's feed expenses up to an estimated 60 percent on layers and 30 percent on broilers. Also, the boilers reach market weight two weeks earlier than normal.


Fanatico, A. and Born, H. Label Rouge: Pasture-Based Poultry Production in France. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Nov. 2002.
"Pasture-raised poultry is increasingly popular in the U.S. American farmers and small companies can benefit from studying the French Label Rouge program. Started as a grassroots movement and now commanding 30% of the French poultry market, it has helped boost incomes for small farmers... This program provides premium products to consumers, increases farmer income, and strengthens rural development. It consists of many regional producer-oriented alliances, called filieres, which produce and market their own branded products under a common label. A third-party certification program ensures that strict standards are being followed." All birds have access to range and their feed is non-medicated. See one example at http://www.fermiers-landais.fr/anglais/elevage.htm
Good Natured Family Farms
A Cooperative in central and southeast Kansas and west central Missouri, selling all natural beef, now also sell eggs. To qualify for membership, a producer must be a small family farm, raise hens free ranged without hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics.
NC SARE Office. Pastured poultry, co-op style. Field Notes. NC SARE Quarterly Fact Sheet; May 1999.
Nebraska farmer David Bosle got inspired by Joel Salatin's book on how to raise chickens naturally on pasture, but he expanded on Salatin's example by buying and processing birds cooperatively with other Nebraska producers. This fact sheet profiles Bosle's model. His system "mirrors Salatin's in supporting local economies, clean environments, profitable farms and satisfied poultry consumers. But Bosle's collective enterprise adds a cost-share twist while meeting a high demand for pastured poultry." "There is a huge, untapped market for pastured poultry in Nebraska", says Cris Carusi, executive director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society." Lots of people remember what farm-raised chicken tastes like, and they jump at the chance to serve that kind of quality to their families."
Organic Valley Family of Farms. Web Site. 1999-2002
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative members number over 190 small to mid sized family farms in 10 states. The purpose of CROPP Cooperative is to give market support for sustainable agricultural practices that are beneficial to the environment thus providing consumers with quality products. All animals must receive adequate access to fresh air and sunlight. Cattle are pastured in certified organic fields, chickens are free roaming with outdoor access, and hogs are not confined and are allowed to pasture. Livestock is considered an essential component of a healthy sustainable agricultural system. Careful handling of waste material recycles nutrients back to the earth to grow the grasses and feed while protecting natural waterways. Hormones, like rBGH, or antibiotics are never used in production. The products are certified organic by Oregon Tilth.
Back to table of contents

See also Organic Valley

See also Niman Ranch