Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where's the Chicken?!?

For the last year and a half I have been raising a handful of hens for eggs. I started with 5 pullets (2 Rhode Island Reds, 1 Golden Sex-link, and 2 Plymouth Bared-Rocks) in expectation of gathering a few eggs each day. Not enough to sell but enough to feed our family and occasionally give some to friends.

The goal was to allow them to free-range during the day on our 3 acre yard and return to a coop for laying and roosting at night. What I quickly learned is that everything loves to eat chickens, including several neighborhood dogs. I have had to replace 2-3 hens at a time on 3 different occasions now, and have spent hundreds of dollars on fencing. Currently we are down to 5 hens, none from the original 7, but we are getting an average of 4 incredibly delicious eggs every day.

Living in a rural community we have been spoiled with grass-fed beef grown and butchered locally. But we eat a lot more chicken than beef. Last year we bought several whole chickens from a friend that raised them as "All Natural" without hormones or medications and fed an all vegetable diet. This year I have decided to try raising some meat chickens ("broilers") on our own. After doing some research I decided to try the "Pastured Poultry" method as promoted by Joel Salatin.

I am planning to raise a single test batch of 50 chicks on one acre of fenced pasture with a movable 8x12' hoop house shelter. I would like to keep half of the processed chickens for our family and then sell the rest to recover some of the expenses. If all goes well I will consider expanding to second batch later this year, or maybe 2 to 3 staggered batches next year.

I think the deciding factor will be if I can break even or not and still provide some good quality meat for my family and friends. I know that with initial start-up costs (hoop house, brooder box, losses from inexperience, etc.) that will not happen with this first test batch of only 50 chicks. I am pretty sure that I will have to buy feed in bulk (1000lb totes) to get the price down enough to make this a practical venture. But I am unsure how many chicks will survive to processing, how much feed each will eat, or how many chickens one acre can support at a time or how long it will take the pasture to recover between batches. That is why I will be tracking all of this here, and sharing my experience and lessons learned with any one else that may be considering raising broilers.

No comments:

Post a Comment