Pastured Chicken

I’m back here on the topic of agriculture, specifically livestock.

As we seek to do more brand building and marketing and getting our name out I want to blog about some of our enterprises and try to show the importance of grass fed poultry.

Pastured broilers are meat chickens raised on grass, moved daily for 5-6 weeks before being processed. Initially they arrive as chicks and I raise them in a brooder box with heat lamps, chick feed, and water, usually adding in electrolytes and nutrients into their water in the first week to really boost their systems and reduce stress.

After 2-3 weeks they are old enough to handle being out on grass. Usually closer to 3 weeks if the weather is cooler or really wet. Chickens really don’t like being wet and will quickly develop sores on their feet and reduce their feed intake and thus their profitability goes down. As the farmer I have to maximize everything I can with these birds. If I can reduce the feed by 15% for every bird and minimize stress and maximize nutrition and freshness of feed I may be able to gain an extra 10-15% in feed conversion. Suddenly your end profit gains an extra 10-20% which is pretty big when you’re profit margin is not very big to begin with.

It’s a fairy tale story of the free range meat chicken that gets it’s protein and energy from foraging in the grass and eating bugs, it’s simply not scaleable if you’re trying to make a profit. There’s no farmer who is paying mortgages or making a salary wage who is not feeding birds chicken feed. 

That being said we raise our chickens on fresh grass inside their ‘chicken tractor’. It’s moved twice a day over our pasture to encourage foraging of grass and bugs. It reduces their overall feed intake and makes them much healthier. We give them a non-gmo feed ration from a local mill Resaca Sun Feeds which has high quality grains.

After we factor in feed, labor, processing and chick cost we’re looking at a net profit of between $5-10 per bird. That has to go back into the business to cover the next batch of chickens, build more infrastructure and cover unexpected expenses. Compared to layer chickens they are a much faster turn around of investment and higher profit too. 

After 8 weeks our chickens are ready to be processed. They usually are going to be a dressed weight of 4-5lbs. We order all males right now which means overall slightly better weight gain as opposed to a mix of males and females.

On processing day I get up extra early and get chores knocked out and crate up the birds. We put them in a pickup and head to our on farm processing station. We have counter top space, sinks, over head sprayers, a chicken plucker and scalded, and kill cones. With practiced hands we can usually knock out 50 chickens in 3-4hrs with 3 people. That doesn’t include my time of setup and clean up, usually another 2 hrs and maybe 2-4hrs if we are cutting up any chickens for selling. 

As much as I hate killing any animal, especially one I raise it’s a necessary part of life in this world, and if I don’t raise or know who raises the meat I eat, I don’t want to eat it. I hate factory farming and the way conventional farming treats animals and people and I don’t want to support that industry.

How much is a chicken? 

This year we’re giving everyone a flat rate price for two reasons. One, it’s easier to presell a chicken that you know the exact price of and two, it’s a slightly better deal for our customers. If we average 4lbs per bird and are selling for $22, that’s $5.5 per pound, if it’s a 5lb bird that price quickly drops to $4.40 per pound. 

This year we’re doing a few things differently. We’re still only dabbling in pastured poultry farm scale but we’re learning as we go and growing our customer base to support what we raise. We’re offering a farm-to-door delivery in the Chattanooga area if you sign up and pay for our Chicken Buyers Club. It’s 12 weeks of chicken, bi-weekly delivered. You can select ahead of time if you want all whole birds or cut up or a some of both. They are delivered frozen in coolers to your front door. We also offer downtown drop off sights for one time purchases or buys.

We would love to have you be a part of our farm and what we do! We’re excited to involve the local community in supporting those who are raising or growing food worth eating. If you need more info on our Chicken Buyers Club please email us or give us a call or text. naturalwayshomestead@gmail.com or 980-622-6884

We’re committed to raising birds on pasture eating bugs, enjoying sunshine and eating non-gmo grains! Help us ‘presell’ as many birds as we can to make this undertaking happen!

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