We are all about raising our own food. Be it produce or meat, we firmly believe this is the best way that we can ensure that we feed our family the highest quality food possible. We have raised both chickens and turkeys for meat for our family.
Here are my top tips for raising pastured meat birds:
- Choose quality feed. While the base of our feeding system is utilizing pasture, poultry animals do need supplemental feed. We have done our own research and have decided that we want to avoid gmo’s and soy for our family. Knowing that what you feed your animals comes through in their meat, we choose non gmo and soy free feed. We have been able to purchase our feed from a local feed mill. Feeding a good quality feed will help your animals to grow properly and the quality of their meat will be high.
- Have a safe setup for them. When you buy your meat birds as chicks, they require the same basic care as chickens you buy for laying eggs. As they grow, you’ll want to move them to the pasture in a portable tractor. We’ve used a wood framed tractor with wire and wheels, for chickens. This is a little heavy and not as easy to move as others but it works well. For turkeys, we built a lighter weight pvc framed tractor. This was really nice until the cows decided to play with it.
- Move them around often. If you keep your birds in the tractor at all times, it is important to move them frequently. In the beginning, we move them every couple of days but as the grow and forage more, we move them more often, once to twice per day. We have also used electric net fencing and made a large pen. This has been great for them to forage even more. We lock them in the tractor at night to keep them safe from predators. Each morning, we let them out to free range in their pen. We just move the pen around as needed.
- Fresh water. Keeping clean, fresh water is vitally important for raising any animals. When an animal gets dehydrated, their health quickly declines. You definitely do not want sick birds.
- Observe them often. By keeping a close eye on your flock, you will be able to detect if anything is “off”. If any of the birds begin to act unusual, you can find out quickly and handle the problem right away. It is also a good idea to keep up with a head count, sometimes a bird or two will get out and wander off. If you know how many are supposed to be there, you can find the little adventurer and return it home, safely. It’s better for you to find it rather than an animal that wants to make a snack out of it.
- Appreciate and respect them. When you raise your own animals for meat, you gain a true appreciation for everything that goes into raising them. The time, the effort, the money, and the passion. You also appreciate the cycle of life and what it takes to nourish yourself and your family. We raise our animals respectfully and humanely. This follows through to how we butcher them as well.
These tips are what we have found the most helpful in our meat bird endeavors. I really hope they encourage you on your own meat raising journey. Did I leave out anything important? What are your best tips?