Free Range/Pasture Poultry Laboratory Analysis/Demonstration with an Organic Feed Component

Project Overview

FNC99-007
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1999: $5,250.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:

Commodities

  • Animals: poultry

Practices

  • Animal Production: free-range
  • Education and Training: demonstration, youth education
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Summary:

    PROJECT BACKGROUND
    I used five acres of pasture for the poultry. My mother and I constructed three skids in which to raise the pastured poultry on our farm. Before receiving this grant, we had never raised any livestock nor practiced sustainable agriculture.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    Project goals:
    1) Learn about and implement sustainable agriculture
    2) Encourage youth participation
    3) Improve our family economics
    4) Treat animals with respect
    5) Improve our soil quality
    6) Provide a product to the community

    Process:
    Before the chicks were delivered, we ordered the brooder, feeder, waterer, and skid equipment we needed for the project. Before constructing the skids, we built a fence around the pasture. Then, we purchased the lumber and materials and constructed the skids over a six day period under the instruction of the Pembroke Farmers Cooperative.

    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 skids 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 let the chickens out of the skid so that they may access the fenced in pasture during daylight hours. 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 skids, the chickens were taken to a federally licensed processed facility to be slaughtered.

    People:
    – 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.
    – John Thurman, Pembroke Farmers Cooperative, built skid foundation, located the chicks to be purchased, provided on site inspections
    – Pharis Newburn, Pembroke Farmers Cooperative, instructed the building of the skids
    – 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
    – Dr. Trish Welch, Southern Illinois University, assisted with food safety analysis
    – Irene Seals, Pembroke Farmers Cooperative, provided advice on poultry raising
    – Pembroke Farmers Cooperative, provides an outlet for bulk purchasing and marketing

    Results:
    I successfully raised 450 of the 500 birds I purchased for this project. I learned how to prepare for, care for, and maintain the chickens. I had anticipated losing more than the 50 we lost, as this was our first time raising chickens. The results from the study of salmonella and campylobacter found in the birds indicated that mine were low in bacteria. Therefore, the birds were cleaner and healthier than we anticipated.

    We have continued to raise free range poultry on our farm and are using the same method we learned during this project.

    Discussion:

    Through this project, I learned how to raise a healthier chicken in a process that is more economically beneficial. Raising free range poultry is now a major part of our farm operation and we have now begun to experiment with different livestock.

    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 free range poultry.

    The advantages to implementing a project such as ours are: learning how to implement sustainable agriculture 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 free range poultry to those interested in raising high quality, healthy chickens.

    OUTREACH
    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.

    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.