Before we even meet our tiny chicks, we must prepare a space for them called the brooder room. We lay down wood shavings, set out clean feeders and waterers, and make sure we’re stocked up on sugar (which gives them an extra kick the first few days) and vitamin supplements. We use heat lamps to warm up the room to a welcoming 90 degrees. Once we get the chicks, at just a couple days old, we help them acclimate to their environment. Pretty quickly these lil’ guys (and gals) are zipping around, chirping, and having a grand ol’ time. To me, they look just like you’d imagine the Easter Peeps to look!
The chicks spend the first three weeks of their life in the brooder room because outside temperatures are still too cold for their tiny bodies. They are given fresh bedding regularly and extra room every few days. Over the course of the three weeks we gradually lower the heat, and eventually have the door to the room open all day long. Fresh air and sunlight shining through! It is truly an amazing thing to see our buddies grow so quickly!
OUT TO THE PASTURE THEY GO!
We base our poultry tractors off of Joel Salatin’s design, giving a 12’ x 12’ pen, with covering on half and a shade cloth on a quarter. It is a bottomless, open, and protected pen that we move every morning to a fresh plot of grass. The chickens and cattle are in the same pasture because the chickens peck and eat the fly larva in the manure, keeping the fly population down.
Pasturing our chickens allows them to eat grass and legumes; which are rich in vitamin A and Omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients known to reduce cholesterol. The room provided allows them to get exercise and helps create a much healthier and happier bird than a factory farmed chicken. Which, in turn, makes a very happy and healthy consumer.
Like all living creatures, our chickens need more than just bugs and grass. They need protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals. At least 18-20% of their overall diet must be protein. We achieve this by giving them supplements and feed. Interesting fact: since chickens are not like ruminants – mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions – they cannot efficiently digest cellulose.
When the chickens reach nine-weeks old we process them here, on Date Creek Ranch, with the help of family and friends. The whole process takes an entire weekend. We move slowly and methodically as to not upset or stress the chickens. Oddly enough, the whole weekend is quite peaceful. We love our chickens and provide them with the utmost respect through their entire life cycle. We believe it is through this careful process that we get the highest-quality pastured chickens for our customers and ourselves. – Savannah