Now that we are generating more eggs than we can use, we are moving on to trying out chickens for meat which are called “broilers.” For me, there are three stages of planning, principles, strategy and tactics is one way to think of it. Thus I start my plan on bringing meat chicken onto our homestead with this approach.
First, my thought is why do I want meat chickens? Well because my family eats a lot of chicken. Second I think we can reduce the work to grow and harvest a crop of chickens to something I can do in the morning and afternoon before and after work. I have also decided to try the things I have to learn from the “professors” as I call them, Gabe Brown, Joel Salatin and others I have pointed out previously in the post Salatin, Brown & Seis The Professors. A couple of primarily Salatin concepts I have found is:
Chickens put down a lot of waste. One chicken puts out approximately 8 – 11 pounds of manure monthly. Let’s say 10 pounds. 50 chickens put down 500 pounds per month or (50 * 10). 500 * 12 = 6,000 pounds of waste per year from 50 chickens. One ton is 2,000 pounds. That is three tons of waste from 50 chickens in one year. For a rough comparison a Toyota Tundra truck weights approximately 4,920 pounds, let’s say 5,000 pounds. 50 chickens produce waste that is more than the weight of a Toyota Tundra truck. Per year! That is a lot of waste.
Chicken manure is made of a lot of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Actually, of the typical animals found on a farm, chicken manure has the highest concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. That is why it is such a good practice to put chickens into your garden after they have been harvested, such as in the winter as they are providing a lot of excellent fertilization to the soil.
Another principle is that the chickens need to be moved. Many people will build a fixed chicken coop for their layers, or chickens that primarily produce eggs. The problem with this is that chickens will spend more time around the fixed chicken coop than the rest of the yard, especially if that is where the water and food are kept. Thus think of the tons of waste that hit the ground around that fixed coop. If you have even a few chickens, say 20, this will eventually kill the ground around that fixed chicken coop.
Then the area around the chicken coop becomes mud or dirt. To avoid this, we must move the locations. This is why I keep my chicken layers in a mobile chicken coop behind an electric fence. Thus for my broiler, I will move the chickens or pastured. I will try that each spot on our land will only have chickens on it, once per year. Joel Salatin talks about this a lot to limit the number of rich nutrients which are added to the soil.
To move the broilers around I will try out a pastured poultry pen. As many will know the electric fence is high maintenance. A poultry pen may be higher security for chickens from predators and less maintenance per day. Thus we build a prototype of a Joel Salatin styled pastured poultry pen.