I have been reading Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin who runs Polyface Farm. We could not get this book through inter-library loan but fortunately it was someone’s birthday. This book is a must read for anyone interested in a unique system of poultry production.
We are trying to implement Joel Salatin’s system of “perennial prairie polyculture” on our property in Kamloops. As I stated in another blog, we are fortunate to have over an acre of land in the City of Kamloops and thus can have chickens on our property. I believe it would be a very good thing for the City of Kamloops to allow all single family zoned properties this same right. Unfortunately, this is not the case at the moment. If you are wanting backyard chickens contact the Kamloops Urban Hen Movement and work to change this bylaw or you may have to consider civil disobedience.
We have been running the Cornish Cross breed, which is known for its incredible feed to meat conversion ratio. They go from the egg to the freezer in eight weeks. Watching these chicks is a lesson in sloth and gluttony. The chicks gorge on feed, then fall over and pass-out until the next session of gorging. My sister Christine has been horrified watching these selectively bred birds do what comes natural to them. The trick with these birds, when it comes to pasturing, is to make it easy for the birds to get to the pasture. The birds do not like walking much.
Joel Salatin has designed a system of “chicken tractors”, which are small pens that are moved daily to new pasture. This solves the walking problem for the birds. The farmer does the moving and the birds do the eating. The fresh pasture provides diversity of forage and a variety of insect life which makes for very healthy birds with incredible flavor. With daily movement of the pens there is no smell and the birds are not living in their excrement like what is typical for industrially raised chickens. With fresh air, a clean environment, and good food these birds do not need to be given medicated feed just to survive.
In Kamloops we have what Joel Salatin called “brittle” grasslands. The area will produce well if irrigated but some of his methods will not work here. So far, moving the chicken tractors to new pasture has worked on our property. We don’t have what I would consider good pasture and I would like to lease pasture in the area if we were to do more birds.
We will be producing enough birds to have chicken dinner, twice a week, all winter long. Slaughtering day is not a fun experience but at a store price of $20 to $25 for an organic bird, I can find a way to do it. These birds done with Joel Salatin’s method are considered “beyond organic pastured chicken”, and are another product not available through the industrial food system.
We are in week four of our production cycle. I will keep you posted regarding outcomes of our research in using Joel Salatin’s methods in Kamloops.
Update September 7, 2009: For an update please go to the posting called Slaughtering Chickens dated September 7, 2009. We lost one turkey within the first few days and one chicken about a week ago. I found it breast up in the hoophouse. Cornish Cross chickens are prone to heart attacks. We had under 2% death rate. A hoophouse, also known as a gobbledygo, is another Joel Salatin method of chicken rearing. It is used during winter and in areas where pasture is limited. It requires a deep litter to fix nitrogen and not loose it to the air. This system worked well for us.