Last Spring, I took my first step into full-time chickenry (raising chickens for eggs and for meat) thanks to my good friend Andrew McEwing, a former farmer who’s been very generously schooling me in the process of brooding, harvesting, and processing chickens for meat. I’ve also relied heavily on the Joel Saladin videos and the Polyface Design book.
This year, I raised two batches of chickens: the first harvest was ~55 small chickens that was processed in July, the second harvest was ~30 large chickens that was processed in September.
These Cornish Cross Broilers are fed local (conventional) ‘chick starter’ feed from Poulin Grains (based in Newport, Vermont) for the first two weeks inside and then move outside where they eat grass, bugs, and a combination of grain and cracked corn feed from Poulin Grains until harvest.
At roughly two weeks — or as soon as the chicks have feathers — they are moved outside into a ‘chicken tractor’ which is a mobile enclosure that is moved regularly to provide the chickens with fresh pasture area to ‘graze’ and to distribute their manure to enrich the soil for future planting.
To minimize animal stress and maximize quality of meat, the chickens never leave the farm and are humanely harvested at approximately eight weeks old. All animal waste materials are recycled into fertilizer. In 2021, the first batch of chickens arrived in early May and were harvested in late July; the second batch arrived in early August and were harvested in late September.
Finished chickens include the necks and are packaged by shrink-wrapping and freezing to prevent contamination with weights varying between four and eight pounds.