Our family is 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. Raising our food in the most natural way that we can is also a huge part of that. We choose to raise pastured poultry for our family.
6 Tips For Raising Pastured Poultry
1- Choose quality feed
While the base of our feeding system is utilizing pasture, some livestock like poultry do need supplemental feed. Poultry can forage for about up to 20% of their diet. This amount of foraging creates a healthier balance of omega fats in their meat as well as providing essential nutrients and minerals to the birds.
We have done our own research and have decided that we want to avoid genetically modified food as well as soy for our family. Knowing that what we feed our animals will effect their meat, we feed them non gmo and soy free feed. Feeding a good quality feed will help your animals to grow properly and provides the highest quality meat for our family.
2-Have a safe setup for them
When you buy your meat birds as chicks, they require the same basic care as any other chickens. As they grow, you’ll want to move them to the pasture in a portable tractor. In our experience, meat chickens can be moved to a chicken tractor at around 2 weeks of age.
We’ve used a wood A-framed tractor with wire and wheels, for chickens in the past. Recently, we built a Salatin style chicken tractor. It has proved to be much better for our raising methods.
For turkeys, we built a lighter weight pvc framed tractor. This was really nice until the cows decided to play with it. If you have them in a pasture with larger livestock, using electric poultry netting is a good option for keeping the other animals as well as unwanted predators out.
3- Move them often
If you keep your birds in the tractor at all times (as opposed too 100% free range), it is important to move them frequently. In the beginning, we move them every couple of days until they are around 3-4 weeks old. As they grow and forage more, they will need to be moved more often, usually twice per day is plenty.
Another method that we used is to place electric poultry net fencing to make a large pen for more of a free range environment. This has been great for the birds because it enables 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. This method cuts down on having to move the chicken tractor every day.
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. (This is a nice large waterer)
We also like to add organic raw apple cider vinegar to our waterers to help boost the immune systems of the birds. The apple cider vinegar also helps to keep bacteria from growing in the watered.
5- 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 address the problem right away. You’ll be able to assess the symptoms and isolate any birds that aren’t acting normal.
It is also a good idea to keep 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
naughty little booger 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.
6-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.
It’s also very important to us to teach our children this respect for the animals. No matter what the destination of an animal on our farm is- be it dairy, eggs, meat, or a pet, we want them to treat the animal kindly and respectfully at all times.
These tips are what we have found the most helpful in our pastured poultry endeavors. I really hope they encourage you on your own meat raising journey.
Did I leave out anything important? What are your best tips?
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