I have decided to try my hand at broilers or meat chickens. We have had a good experience with egg laying chickens called “layers.” Well accept for half of them being eaten by coyotes last winter. Now we think are ready to try our hand with broilers. I shared with you in the post Why are building a moveable pen for your broiler chickens why I thought it is important to move chickens and actually all animals. Essentially they put down a lot of waste, which is very good for the soil if you move them around. With the understanding, that animals, especially chickens put down a lot of waste, and that you can use their waste to fertilize your land by moving them around. The New Farming professors created or at least popularized the hypothesis of “mob grazing.” I am currently most interested in this theory as it is applied to poultry.
The theory of mob grazing or Managed intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) suggests that you can improve, heal, and build soil by moving animals around on the land. The animals eat the grass, taking in those nutrients, and then through their waste, put down very rich additions or “inputs” to your land. You do not need to buy “inputs” to add nutrients back into your land. The animals do it naturally. Moreover, you eat the animals after they have provided a lot of good work.
How this hypothesis came to be was trying to duplicate how the Lord grows the earth. The theory is that before any immigrants, including the First Immigrants (so-called Native Americans) this area was full of remarkable healthy soil, and grasses. How did that happen? The theory of mob grazing suggests that this was done by large herbivores, in our case bison would move through an area, eat a lot of grass, lay waste, and crush the remainder under their weight. And then here is the key part, they would move on.
After the large herbivores or more accurately ruminants moved through, what would come next? Birds. Birds would pick through the growing fly larvae (maggots) in the manure and spread the herbivore manure around, and then add their own. This process, large herbivores, add “the brown” followed by birds adding their highly rich waste obviously with good sun, wind, and rain, actually grows more soil and grows nature. At least that is the hypothesis which does have some data suggesting it may be right.
What we do now, is the opposite of this. We grow hay (or another crop), which removes nutrients from the soil every year, getting two or three crops out of one field. We sell those nutrients in the form of hay, grass or money crop to someone. In the case of animal feed that animal, which drops his waste somewhere else. Our soil is depleted because we keep mono-cropping it and stripping the nutrients from the soil. To add insult to injury the place where the animal is usually housed is dealing with excessive waste.
Obviously smart people have said, hey lets sell farmers the “inputs” or herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, nitrogen and phosphorus the Lord gave them for free if they kept animals on the land producing crops. Thus once more the farmer and ranchers are being stripped of wealth. This “new way” of mono-cropping and buying inputs enriches large companies and the banks. By adding these costs, it allows the farmer to “scrape by” always keeping his head just above water. This does not sound attractive to me. Thus I am trying mob grazing and adding poultry in the form of broilers to my land. And I get to eat the boilers after they have worked the land.