Let’s talk about raising chickens!

We will start with preparing for a new flock that has just been hatched and is being immediately transported to the farm.

The house preparation actually started two weeks ago, when the last flock went to market. The manure was immediately removed. The house was de-dusted and the concrete floors swept. Disinfecting the house and letting it set empty for two weeks really helps kill bacteria, break virus cycles, and put a fix to rodents that would contaminate the birds with salmonella. Two or three days before the new flock arrives, we spread new clean wood shavings over the entire floor for a nice comfortable bedding. Baby chicks have very sensitive feet and need to start on a warm comfortable floor. We start the heat in the house a day or two before the flock arrives to bring up the floor temperature and provide a comfort zone of about 90-92 degrees. We do not need to start day one with any extra stress if we are going to raise clean, natural chickens honestly without antibiotics or other crutches.

It is very sad that the cost and profit pressures have forced most of the brolier chicken industry into alternative production methods and I do not know how they get natural labels approved. Most of these lower cost alternative production methods use ground dirt floors. If you have ever tried to clean a ground dirt floor, you know it is difficult. In the case of our organic production, we let the birds go outside and scratch in the grass and dirt but they sure like to come back into their clean protected house where their feed and water is kept. Once I tried a dirt floor in my chicken house until the rodents drilled a hole in the ground from the outside and came up in the inside of the house and attacked my chickens. Well that was enough of that!

Just to give you some idea what these alternative methods are, I will start with the flock that just went to market. The house is immediately prepared for the next flock that may be started as soon as the next day. Most of the old manure stays in the house to compost, and maybe some new litter is added. They usually take a machine through the house to break up the manure. There may be five to ten flocks of chickens in the house before the manure is taken out. By leaving the manure in the house flock after flock, there is a big challenge to manage the ammonia coming out of that composting manure that can and will cause blindness and serious respiratory problems to the chickens. I feel sorry for the chickens being raised that way.

The result of these alternative methods of production can be horrible and these chickens should not be labeled natural. I think I wrote enough for today, but there is a lot more to come.

10 thoughts on “Let’s talk about raising chickens!

  1. This is SUCH a great blog! Whoever had this idea should get a raise! AMAZING writing skills! Hormone free chicken!

  2. It sounds like you really have your processes down. When you compare the two methods for raising chickens it makes you really wonder about just what we have been eating all this time. I agree with you about the labeling too.

  3. Scott,

    I’m wondering how you manage to get your chicks trained to go in and out of the coop? Chickens would not naturally go out of doors unless “driven” out and coaxed back in on a daily basis for at least three days (this is the voice of experience speaking). Once trained they will go out and come back in on a daily basis. Pray tell, what percentage of you typical flock does actually go out?

    How many hours per day do you keep the lights on in your houses? One way we reduce the possibility of leg damage from too rapid a growth cycle is by allowing your chickens to go to bed and wake up with the sunrise and sunset. Granted this increases the time to market and reduces the number of life cycles you can fit into a house in a single year, but it is better for the birds, don’t you think?

    Finally, how much living space does each mature bird get? In other words how many birds do you raise in a traditional 33,000 bird sized house?

    I look forward to you candid and honest replies.

    Thank you!
    Ron Shurie

  4. Ron-

    Thank you for your comment! We do not force the chicken outside. The older they are, the more likely some will venture out if the weather feels good to them.
    We leave the lights on in the house 4 to 8 hours. This does eliminate some stress and gives the birds a rest. Birds will have rest cycles even in the lights. The problem coming out of the dark periods is they all want to eat at the same time, which creates a more aggressive enviroment.
    In response to living space for the chickens- we start our baby chicks at just under 1 per square foot and market those birds at 6 to 7 weeks of age.

    Thanks again for your comment, and I hope this answered your questions!

  5. hi scott,
    i was glad when i came across your blog. the blog posts are really informative. raising chickens is really something that i am used to since i grew up in a farm where chickens were always in the backyard. more power to you!
    Will

  6. Congrats Scott !!!

    Your blog is really a big help for me. You nailed them all with your dedication and information. Now, my long search about raising a chicken comes to an end. Thank you so much and advance Merry Christmas to you !!!

  7. Raising chicken in your backyard can be a very interesting and unique hobby. Many people have different reasons as to why they choose to raise chicken. Some do it to get fresh eggs, other raise chicken for the meat, chickens are also invaluable for pest and weed control and finally they provide nitrogen rich manure for the soil.

  8. Chicken as a meat has been depicted in Babylonian carvings from around 600 BC.[3] Chicken was one of the most common meats available in the Middle Ages. It was widely believed to be easily digested and considered to be one of the most neutral foodstuff.”

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