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  • Writer's pictureKarl

Into the Swing of Things

Gears are moving here on the farm. While I wouldn’t yet call it a well-oiled machine, we’re taking what we’ve learned and putting it to use in creating systems that make sense. It’s been a steady build with a fair share of setbacks, but after three years on this land we’re heading into the fourth season full steam ahead! It finally feels like the drawn-out, damp spring we’ve been slogging through is ending, which means the grass is suddenly growing a lot faster…

The biggest change around here is the lack of sheep and goats and much greater numbers of chickens. While some farmers buy composted chicken manure from industrial operations to add fertility to their fields, we’d rather apply that fertility directly with birds that enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. The 10’ x 10’ coops are moved twice daily onto a new patch of ground, where the birds scarf up their breakfast or dinner of organic grain before moving on to the bugs and plants now within their grasp. We’re running these coops over ground that is clearly lacking fertility, on one of the farthest slopes from the barn. I’m so excited to see what it looks like moving forward, and excited to be able to cover more ground raising so many more birds this season. With chicken tractors (moveable bottom-less coops), it’s possible to apply fertility very specifically. In a similar fashion, we’re trying to move our cows into a new paddock every day, though smaller paddocks throughout the day would be even better! This is much easier on a larger scale than when you’re only grazing four animals…

Four-week-old broiler chicks with our cows in the background

As of right now, we have one hundred seven-week-old chicks due to head to the new USDA processing facility in Sunderland on the 22nd, one hundred four-week-olds, one hundred two-week-olds, and one hundred more babes that arrived in the mail Wednesday morning. With this model, the chicks are raised in a brooder in our barn for two weeks before the next batch arrives and the older ones are moved into a larger adjacent room for about another week before they transition to the outdoor life. We will have six chicken tractors working through the bulk of the season, each holding fifty birds. There are currently four in action and two more in the works. Our tractors are made of 1” PVC, chicken wire, a tarp, and a helluva lot of zip ties, making them incredibly light and relatively inexpensive to build. We use ½” fiberglass fence posts stuck in at an angle above the bottom of the frame to keep the wind from moving them around. While it’s more plastic than I’d otherwise care to use, the heavy wooden tractors we built last season did a number on my back and are a challenge on our uneven terrain.

Seven-week-old birds sizing up!

We could raise as many as one thousand chickens this year, though we may cut out the last couple batches depending on interest and the weather. If you want to be sure to get your share of pasture-raised, organic-fed chicken, get in touch with us about joining our preorder program. And please, spread the word! Tell your friends and family that we’ve got the best darn chicken around! That’s what I hear, anyway.

Waiting not-so-patiently for dinner...

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