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.