Free Range/Pastured PoultryLaboratory Analysis/Demonstration with an Organic Feed Component

Final Report for FNC99-006

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1999: $3,850.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $8,900.00
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


I used five of the fifteen acres of my horse riding ranch as pasture for the poultry. My sister and I constructed four pens in which to raise the pastured poultry on our farm. Before receiving this grant, we were raising rabbits, ducks, cattle, and horses, but were not practicing sustainable agriculture.

[Editor’s note: The objective was to introduce sustainable agriculture, free-range and pastured poultry production to a group of African American farm families to supplement their income and put food on their tables. Over 92 percent of the township’s population is black and more than 50 percent of the township’s population lives at or below the poverty line. These farm families have very limited land, financial and educational resources available to them. The goal of introducing free-range/pastured poultry production to this underserved rural community was to develop a production/marketing opportunity that could raise the incomes of the African American farmers in Pembroke Township, IL. The project included rural youth with a goal of getting enough participation to demonstrate to other youth that there are opportunities available in rural America.]

Project Goals:
A. Learn about and implement sustainable agriculture
B. Encourage youth participation
C. Improve our family economics
D. Treat animals with respect
E. Improve our soil quality
F. Provide a product to the Community

Process: Before the chicks were delivered, we ordered the brooder, feeder, waterer, and pen equipment we needed for the project. In order to build the pens, we ordered and received the kits, purchased additional materials necessary, and constructed the pens (3 adults and 2 youth) from a diagram.

The chicks were delivered when they were one day old and were kept in the brooder for four weeks. While in the brooder, the chicks required daily attention that included: clean out and refill waterers, rotate and add shavings to the brooder, inspect the birds, check the brooder lighting, and weigh the birds after the first week.

Once the chicks were four weeks old, they were moved to the pens on the pasture for another four weeks. While on the pasture the birds required daily attention that included: remove, clean, refill, and replace the feeders and waterers and move the pens to fresh pasture. Two or three times a day we inspected the birds, inspected the pens, and gave the chickens fresh water.

After their four weeks in the brooder and four weeks in the pens, the chickens were taken to a federally-licensed processed facility to be slaughtered.

1. Merrill Marxman, USDA-FSA: introduced SARE project, assisted with grant application, located inputs and resources, conducted on-site inspections, provided overall leadership, instrumental in planning and implementation of field day.
2. John Thurman, Pembroke Farmers Cooperative: located the chicks to be purchased, provided on-site inpections.
3. Bob Curry, University of Illinois Extension: provided educational resources through a visit to his farm and alternative pen diagrams, reimbursed for poultry served at field day.
4. Dr. Trish Welch, Southern Illinois University: assisted with food safety analysis
5. Joann Dickman, local pastured poultry raiser: provided advice on poultry raising
6. Pembroke Farmers Cooperative: provides an outlet for bulk purchasing and marketing

I successfully raised 300 of the 325 birds I purchased for the project. I learned how to prepare for, care for, and maintain the chickens. I anticipated losing more than the 25 we lost, as this was our first time raising chickens with this method. The results from the study of salmonella and campylobacter found in the birds indicated that mine were 99% free of bacteria. Therefore, the birds were cleaner and healthier than we anticipated. We have continued to raise pastured poultry on our farm and are using the same method we learned during this project.

Through this project, I learned how to raise a healthier chicken in a process that is more economically beneficial. Raising pastured poultry is now a major part of our farm operation.

We were successful in overcoming the barrier of utilizing a new farming concept of sustainable agriculture. Not only was our project a success, but we have been able to continue poultry production and teach community members about raising pastured poultry.

The advantages to implementing a project such as ours are: learning how to implement sustainable agricultural practices, creating an opportunity to supplement my income, building an educational opportunity for myself, my community, and youth.

The only disadvantage to a project such as this is that it requires an input of land and time. This project required a large investment of time and effort however we found it to be very worthwhile. I would recommend raising pastured poultry to those interested in raising high quality, healthy chickens.

In order to inform others about our project, we hosted a field day. Over 100 other farmers, community members, agency representatives, and youth attended our field day. We spoke to the group about our project, what went into completing the project, and our results. We had additional speakers that discussed their experiences with raising, processing, and marketing poultry. These discussions led to several community members expressing an interest in beginning to raise free-range/pastured poultry in the spring of 2001.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with the SARE program. The only difficulty we encountered with the program was that the budget did not allow for the purchase of chicks. Therefore, the modification that I recommend is for the purchase of livestock to be allowed in the budget.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.