The day chicks arrive on the farm is always an exciting day. Not only because it requires a lot of preparation to receive 300 baby chicks, but also because it starts off a race!
You see, Chicks grow fast. REALLY fast. within three weeks they will have feathered out and outgrown their brooder. You better have pasture pens ready at that time or you will have a serious crowding problem on your hands. Crowding isn't pleasant for the birds and will have a significant negative effect on their health and growth. We never want our birds to be crowded.
Once on pasture, these birds have to be moved to fresh grass every. single. day. We raise our birds in 10'x12' floor-less pasture pens that can be moved by hand. That means every day one of us is out in the pasture moving the pens to a new spot with fresh grass. (actually we are out there twice a day tending the birds, but we only move the pens once each day). The pens are floor-less by design so that the birds can have all the health benefits of being raised on pasture. They can consume grass and bugs and even pick up small rocks and grit for their gizzards. No man made chicken feed ration can impart health like good old fashioned mother nature. But making sure there is enough clean grass for the pens to be moved onto each morning takes some planning. The birds will live in these pens for around 5 weeks. That is 35 days of space all lined up in front of the pens with grass at the right stage of growth at the right time when the birds arrive. It is important to plan ahead. It might sound simple in theory but there are plenty of problems that can come up. And if you can't move the pens the birds manure will build up quickly resulting in unsanitary conditions. We don't want that to happen ever.
Once on pasture, they will eat a lot of bugs and grass. That is what gives them such good flavor, texture, and nutrition. But they also eat a lot of feed. Hundreds of pounds per day in fact. You better have the feed on hand or you are in trouble. Making sure feed is ordered with enough lead time to be there when you need it (while also trying to keep as little on hand as reasonable for cash-flow and freshness reasons) along with handling and moving large amounts of feed from truck to storage to the pasture takes some forethought. Especially since we do not have a tractor and all that work has to be done largely by hand. It is really easy to waste a lot of time and energy moving things around on a farm. Generally speaking, if you have to touch a bag of feed more then twice you are losing money.
And then there is the end of the race. Once the birds are up to weight they need to be butchered. That day involves a lot of logistics and you better be ready for it. Honestly, I can't even begin to list off all the details that need to be coordinated for a smooth butcher day. Its enormous.
Once we get a batch of birds in the freezer we could theoretically take a breather. Only problem is when one batch is done it just means we get going on the next batch! Actually, we typically start the next batch before the first one is done. To get the most value out of our brooder and pens we are typically moving birds out of the brooder (3 weeks old) and into the pasture pens on the very same day that we are taking full grown birds out of the pens for butchering (8 weeks old). And often the next batch of chicks (1 day old) is arriving in the mail and moving into the brooder that same day or the next. One batch moves out and one moves in. Summer is short in Minnesota--gotta keep rolling!
Though the logistics are complicated, we love producing these birds. For one, they are incredibly flavorful. Secondly we know they were grown under healthy conditions and fed the best food ration available (local, organic, and soy-free). And our customers love them. We have sold out of chicken every year since we started producing them. And demand is only increasing.
If you want to stay in touch as this race unfolds throughout the season, just subscribe to our site for blog updates and keep an eye on our social media pages.
And stay tuned here if you are interested in our thoughts or the details that can't be communicated in a picture.
And of course, if you want to pre-order some of our chickens for your own dinner table, you can head over to the store on our website to place an order.