My broiler chickens are pastured raised. Much like the rest of the livestock on the farm. But raising Cornish Rock cross chickens, which is the standard breed for the dinner table, brings about some challenges that the average chicken does not. Cornish Rock’s grow quickly, very quickly-8 weeks is more than enough time. Compare that to the laying hen who takes 4-6 months to reach full size and begin laying eggs. Cornish Rock’s are also built differently. In order to get the full breast that is typically seen in the grocery store, these chickens have been bred to be “double breasted.” This means that they also have more muscle and more weight to carry around.
All this to say, these chickens don’t walk, they waddle. They are some big critters and don’t like to move around too much. They eat, they nibble on grass, catch a few crickets, preen, and just generally hang out. My laying hens dance and scamper all about the pasture most of the day, scratching for seeds, unearthing insects beneath hay, scattering dung to find larva. In other words, the laying hens are some busy ladies while the broilers are more interested in a laid back sort of life and they don’t wander too far from home base like the laying hens do. In order to make sure that the broilers get onto fresh grass every day so that they have a clean area, don’t burn the ground and to prevent pathogens from building up in the soil, a nifty concept was created.
It’s often called a “chicken tractor.” These mobile “coops” keep the chickens dry and safe while allowing them to be moved to a fresh spot once or twice a day. They are light enough to be lifted on wheels and pulled into position, but sturdy enough to keep out predators and wild weather. The broilers are moved into the chicken tractor when they are about two weeks old and no longer need the warmth of the heat lamps. It takes them a couple days to learn the concept of the daily moves, but once they do, they get pretty excited for the move! They hop and waddle along, hunting for bugs and rushing to beat each other to munch down seed heads and delectable blades of grass and other pasture plants.
So that’s how they’re raised! Now you know! Be on the look out for more “How They’re Raised” and we’ll touch on each species of animal raised on the farm.