Small scale poultry production was one of our first farm operations, and it still forms the core of our fresh foods product list. Our free range eggs, pastured broilers and turkeys have been very well received by customers. We have also added geese and ducks to the farm, and enjoy their services doing slug patrol. Most of our birds are heritage breeds. Check out the various poultry types below for more information.
January 2014: We have just released our very first book, The Chicken Coop Manual. Please click here to jump to the page where we talk about why we wrote it, what the book covers, what formats are available, and how to buy it.
Layer flocks have traditionally been a solid source of either protein and/or income for families and small farms. Granted, egg production has gotten a tad more complicated in recent years, thanks to increasing feed costs, new food safety regulations, and additional licensing and insurance requirements. Happily, surging demand in local foods and farm-to-consumer relationships has balanced out those complications, by dramatically increasing demand for products from small-scale producers. As a result, small scale egg production can still provide cost-effective, high quality protein, and profitable sales, if flock owners are careful with their costs, their infrastructure and their practices.
We have put together the Laying Flocks portion of the website to provide information on laying flock nutrition, housing, pastured production, and other topics - all to help small laying flock owners sort through the options, navigate the issues and make informed choices.
This has certainly not been merely an academic exercise for us; we're right there trying to navigate a path through these various mine fields just like other small scale egg producers. So we provide this information not only in the spirit of sharing what we've learned, and what we're doing, but also to help other producers succeed in their communities as we are finally succeeding in ours.
As with egg production, broiler production has had its ups and downs over time. Chicken as a meat source certainly has long been a mainstay for both homesteaders and small-farm-scale meat production. Yet feed costs, liability issues, food safety regulations and zoning laws have all made broiler or roaster production a lot more challenging. Thankfully, the recent increase in demand for local foods, has opened up new options for broiler producers just like it has for egg producers. Additionally, recent developments in mobile poultry processing has given producers some processing options which were not available even a few years ago.
We are working to put together a Broiler Flocks section of the website to cover many of these new developments. While we are still building out this section of the website, much of what we have gathered for the Layer Flocks section pertains to broiler production as well. We invite folks to check back here frequently as we build out this new section.
The single highest cost for a flock owner is almost always feed. It's an important investment - the right feed can provide strong healthy birds, profitable meat and/or egg production, and healthy chicks for the next generation. But the wrong feed can result in poor health, poor growth, lackluster production and/or poor hatch and chick survival. There's a lot to know about poultry nutrition - options for purchased versus home-grown feeds, which chicken feed recipe to use, even things like protein sources. We have started to compile a great deal of information about this complex topic, so that flock owners can review their options and choose whatever makes the most sense for their particular operations. Whether folks are raising a few layers for backyard egg production, starting a small scale layer or broiler operation, or want to provide optimum nutrition to preserve some rare poultry breed, nutrition is one of the best places to really invest time, effort and money to ensure the flock has what it needs, in cost-effective forms. Start on the Poultry Feeds page for an introduction to this all-important topic.
Pastured poultry production is both a traditional method, and a cutting-edge new approach. Turning birds out on seasonal pasture was commonplace back before we had terms like sustainable agriculture, intensive grazing, nutrient management and best practices. However, it is still only practiced by a tiny fraction of the poultry industry at large. It is also most practical for micro, small and medium-scale applications. This makes it a valuable niche market for those small producers who have access to the land, and want to capture that market.
We'll cover some topics unique to pastured poultry production, such as pastured flock nutrition, fencing, predator control and health issues. While some of these issues have already been well defined and solutions are readily available, other issues are still evolving quickly with no clear solutions yet apparent. We'll provide the best information available to date, and update pages as warranted.
Seasonal holiday turkey production has many of the same challenges, and opportunities, as either egg or broiler production. Add in a few issues unique to turkeys, and this product category can be either very lucrative, and/or very challenging. Many times it is both. Turkey producers have to evaluate and decide every year whether they want to take on the burden of this demanding income stream. Some years, it can be a real toss-up on whether the income will be worth the effort.
We are putting together a combination of pages to help guide turkey producers through these various options towards profitable and manageable production. Holiday turkey production will probably always be demanding, but we will try to reduce the uncertainly and give producers tools to make informed decisions.
A relatively small handful of poultry producers have entered the realm of raising and selling chicks and young birds, to support local egg layer and broiler producers. These markets have their own special demands and opportunities. If producers are willing to invest the time, money and effort needed to go down this road, these niche markets could either nicely complement other poultry production or stand on their own merits. We'll explore this aspect of poultry production and put together information for producers who are interested in this option.