What an exciting time to be on the farm. Spring used to be my least favorite season. So much cleanup, endless landscaping, and outside projects to get ready for summer. Operating a farm completely changes my perspective of the season, this is when everything comes alive….
Now I’m not saying that the laundry list of chores has gotten any smaller, quite frankly the exact opposite. Getting the hog area prepped and ready to receive baby pigs, prepping and checking over the prairie schooner to make sure it’s ready for the baby chickens, checking feed supplies and of course the normal landscaping duties that spring always brings.
The Chicks Have Arrived
The baby chicks arrived about two weeks ago and have gone through their process of stabilizing in the brooder, We just put them out on pasture in our 800 square-foot mobile chicken coop called a prairie schooner. Prairie schooners are a unique way of raising chickens. I fell in love with the concept the very first time I saw it. We have approximately 35 acres of non-registered organic hay. That hay is harvested by the Fereichs family every year in 2 cuttings and fed to the cows and hogs that become our beef and pork for the butcher shop. Fertilizing a hayfield is an expensive but necessary task for achieving maximum nutrients in the hay and giving our animals the best food possible. By using a mobile chicken coop you’re killing two birds with one stone.
Why We Raise Our Chickens On Pasture
Here is the short version of the process our chickens goes through. The Baby chicks are put into brooders to transition from being hatched to being in normal outside temperature and environment. Then, they are moved out onto the Prairie schooner. They are givin fresh water in a closed system and unlimited access to locally sourced grains. But the real magic happens when you move them across the hay field. Being on fresh grass and being moved every day allows them to forage for bugs and a mix of grass, But keeps them in an enclosed space safe from the endless predators that are looking for a free meal. The chickens will always eat the grass before they eat the grain-based food. It’s what they want.
Super Fertilizing Machines!
By moving them daily they fertilize the ground … And when I say fertilize, I mean fertilize. There’s almost a 3-foot height difference between fertilized and unfertilized areas of our hayfield. And the color of the grass is deep rich green rather than a light green or yellow When it’s time for processing the prairie schooner is moved within 50 feet of our 5a licensed facility. Birds are not transported off property they live their entire life here at the Hollow feeding and grass and bugs. We value every life on our property and try to make every animal is comfortable as possible by giving them what they want.
Worth the effort? Totally.
There is a third benefit of raising chickens this way. Naturally fertilizing the ground and at the same time giving the birds exactly what they want to eat should be bonus enough. We are making the animals happy and rejuvenating the soil at the same time. But the mixture of green grass and bugs creates a completely different tasting chicken. It’s hard to describe. As a chef, I’ve eaten so many different varieties of poultry but this to me taste like a real chicken. Crispy skin, no extra water and an unbelievably juicy texture. If you’ve ever had farm fresh eggs you know what I’m talking about. It tastes like a real egg this is the best way I can put into words the way the chicken taste.
This is just one of the many projects that are coming into full swing this spring at the hollow.
We are always looking forward to making new friends, so come visit us at the Hollow … and make sure to say hello to the chickens while you’re here.