Another plan hatched during our time away from the farm in July was the decision to raise broilers, that according to Wikipedia, are chickens bred and raised specifically for meat production. Until recently I had only raised broilers to fill our own freezer, particularly last year when we did not process many ducks.
Lilac Hill needs the fertility that moving poultry across a field daily can bring. I have witnessed that one pass with a poultry tractor improves the density and variety of grasses and legumes in a field.
In the next few weeks we will construct a Salatin style tractor. The plan is for a larger and lighter pen than the multipurpose pen with egg boxes and integral feed hopper that we have used in the past. We will start with one tractor and dolly, building more next year if there is a consumer demand for chicken, guineas or duck.
I will buy Cornish Cross chicks, generously made available by a local poultry farm. Thanks to Joe's success I know that his supplier breeds a chick that does well here in central PA. Cornish Cross chickens are a broad breasted hybrid, not a genetically modified organism (GMO), developed for fast production and efficient use of feed. Removing their grain ration at night and making fresh pasture available should moderate their growth and reduce the incidence of overly large birds with underdeveloped skeletons.
As well as grasses and legumes, fresh daily with each move of the pen, I will feed certified organic starter feed and pastured poultry grain mix from Bucky Zeigler. The cost of organic feed is twice that of the local feed mill's blend, not an insignificant amount. I believe that in a bird that grows from a handful of fluff to a butchered out, 4-7 # bird for the table in 56 days, feed and what it is made from matters. I do not want to eat meat that was grown on feed with even acceptable levels of pesticide residues, so organic feed it is.
Eli Reiff will butcher, bag and vacuum seal the chickens in October. For those who wish to cut up and bag their own birds, arrangements can be made in advance. I like the ease and delicious taste of one our own roasted chickens. Thanks to the pasture pen arrangement, the meat is not overly fatty and without the industry wide practice of injecting the carcass with water, our birds are as plump coming out of the oven as when they go in.
Honestly, I do not like the looks of the Cornish Cross chickens, they are not sleek and dark reddish brown like my Buckeyes. Yet in spite of their looks, their chicken pecking and scratching and their prodigious amount of manure will benefit our fields which will in turn better feed our sheep and cows and eventually us.
Contact us to reserve your birds or ask any questions.