Playing chicken

Today was a day that revolved around chickens. The sun rose to chickens and the sun set to chickens. And in between? You guessed it: Chickens.

Similar to a rare eclipse, the three main events in the life of a pasture-raised meat chicken all occured today, even though we typically try to avoid such a pile up.

In the life of a pasture-raised meat chicken the three big events are 1) arriving on the farm via USPS in a ventilated box. 2) being moved out of the brooder onto pasture at roughly three weeks, and 3) leaving pasture for the great freezer in the sky when they become tablefare.

At the crack of dawn it was out to the pasture with the truck, trailer and chicken crates, to load the full grown birds and head off to processing.

Early afternoon was spent driving the next batch of chickens, via trailer, from the brooder out to pasture to pick up eating grass where the last batch of birds left off. Waterers were refilled and feeders were fully stocked. Electric fence re-engerized. Back in business.

Then off to the post office to pick up the day-old box of chirpers who were about to drive the postal employees nuts. “We put them in the back room because they wouldn’t stop chirping,” one of them commented.

The brooder, still full of three weeks worth of deep bedding, needed to be emptied and cleaned before the new batch could move in.

The brooder was driven out to pasture and the contents were spread out as wonderful fertilizer. A full cubic yard of nothing but carbon and nitrogen, bonded and ready to add to soil organic matter and soil life.

The feeders and waterers in the brooder were cleaned and refreshed, and after spreading 12 cubic feet of fresh, locally-produced wood shavings, the boxes of chirping chicks were introduced to their new home.

The sun began to set and then it came back to me that there was indeed one last significant chicken chore that just so happened to fall on this eventful day: doing the rounds for the laying hens who had just moved out to pasture this morning.

When the laying hens move from their winter quarters back to the mobile egg mobile on pasture, they take a day or two to get back with the program.

While nearly 90-percent of the hens made their way back up the egg mobile ramp and on to the roost, 10-percent just hunkered down underneath it. Enter the farmer. Time to get on your belly and crawl around under the coop (in fresh chicken manure) to grab the stragglers and move them inside the coop. This is an important step which makes sure they use the roosts inside the egg mobile and stay safe from predators.

A change of clothes (and a shower) later, and it’s time to look forward to a rather chicken-less day tomorrow. Make no mistake, there will be plenty of chicken chores tomorrow (as there are every single day), but no major life events for the next few weeks.

Time to tackle a stock trailer re-flooring.



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