Locally Produced Chicks for Use in Pastured Poultry System
Pastured Poultry is a new concept to southern producers, but it has been catching on fairly quickly because of its simplicity and low start-up cost. However, obtaining suitable chicks is a problem because chicks are bred for confinement chicken house production. The chicks produced by the majority of the hatcheries in the country have been bred for standard commercial chicken houses and not for production on pasture. Birds bred for this type of production model may not perform as well on pasture.
This Producer Grant will focus on raising reliable chicks for use in a pastured poultry system. In this project we propose to raise parent stock on pasture in south and central Kentucky. Then we will hatch chicks (we call them pastured peepers) from the best of the parents for use in a comparative trial with the same breed of chicks from a commercial hatchery. The trial will also include a different breed of pastured peepers from a small commercial hatchery. The same trial will be repeated on three separate farms.
Each farmer will raise 75 hens and 25 roosters purchased from the same hatchery. Out of these birds we will keep the best 50 hens and the best 10 roosters for raising hatching eggs. Farmers will all start their trials at the same time. At eight weeks all chickens will be processed and carcass weight will be taken for comparison. Conclusions on which chickens prove best for the two trials will be based on the following criterion: 1. mortality at brooding, 2. mortality in chicken pens, 3. carcass weight, 4. total feed consumption, 5. health problems.