All poultry on the farm, from the ducks and geese to the meat chickens and layer hens, are raised as naturally and humanely as possible. All meat chickens are day ranged on pasture and guarded by guardian dogs to protect them from predators. The layer hens have a more permanent home, but are allowed to range as far as they want and then return home at night to be locked up. Ducks and geese, likewise, are allowed to roam free all day then they return to be locked up at night.
I use no medications or growth stimulants in the feed to enhance feed conversion. Most of the grains are grown locally and then with the help of a poultry nutritionist, a balanced feed ration is formulated to supplement whatever the chickens can scratch up in the pasture. I use antibiotics only as a last resort and then band that bird for later identification.
I process small batches of birds here on the farm for ‘on farm’ sales and take larger batches of birds to an approved facility for processing for consumer sales. The birds are aged in bags to retain moisture on ice for 2 – 3 days to be sold fresh, then they are vacuum sealed and frozen to be sold later. The birds are bled out completely and cleanly eviscerated so you won’t have to worry about finding anything that doesn’t belong there!
Meat Production Birds
I raise 2 types of meat birds for use as fryers, broilers, roasters and capons. I use a scale of 0 – 12, with 0 being bland taste/soft texture, and 12 being gamey taste/grainy texture to help you know what you are getting. Typically, grocery store chicken falls in the category of 0 – 2.
My preferred bird is a standard slow growing Label Rouge type bird that will finish out in about 9 – 10 weeks for about 4 – 5 pounds of meat. I can let these birds grow longer to reach approximately 8 – 10 pounds for a nice roaster size without any problems. I especially like the slow growing birds as they are easy keepers, graze quite aggressively and as a result have a firm texture, a great chicken flavor and good breast size. On the above scale, this bird is an 8.
The other bird I raise is a heavy breasted Cornish Rock hybrid. This bird has been bred to finish out in approximately 6 weeks for about 4 – 6 pounds of meat. Unfortunately, the problem with these hybrids is that since they were developed to put the meat on fast, their bone and circulatory systems have a difficult time keeping up, so a small percentage suffer leg and heart problems sometimes resulting in an early death. I can mostly avoid this problem by day ranging them on pasture and limiting their supplemental feed which forces them to be more active in their search for food. You will find a vast difference in taste and texture from this same bird you purchase in the grocery store and we rate them around 5-6 on the scale.
Egg Production Birds
I offer eggs from day ranging geese, ducks and chickens. Usually duck and geese eggs are only available in the spring months, but chicken eggs are available all year around. While I have mostly production hybrid layer hens, I also have several standard/heritage layers also. I have an assortment of ducks including Khaki Campbells, Pekins and production ducks. My geese breeds are White and Brown Chinese, Toulouse and American Buff.
Goose and duck eggs are excellent for baked goods such as breads, cakes and cookies; if you have never baked with them, you will definitely notice the difference. Goose and duck egg whites don’t tend to whip as well as chicken eggs so they are not a good choice for meringues and angel food cakes. They are excellent eating in any other way one would use chicken eggs.