We are deep into our chicken season and it seems like there is a chicken at every turn. This year we decided to raise and process 200 chickens. Hmmm, what to do with almost 200 chickens?! That is the question. For now we are going with the ‘if we build it they will come’ attitude.
Mike: Yep, cause’ that has worked so well for us before!
Molly: Alright, we are out at the Farmers Market in Eldorado on Fridays through June and a new totally awesome market on your way out to Las Campanas at the wine store.
We started this a few years ago to see what it was like to raise our own food.
Molly: Having raised chickens for eggs for over a decade I wanted to challenge myself. When I researched how chickens are raised for food my eyes were opened to the great wide world of the industrial poultry business. I just could not see being a chicken farmer using these industrial techniques where the conditions seem awful and disease was a huge issue. Right away I read everything I could get my hands on small scale chicken farming. This education sent me to the conclusion that I would raise my own chicken using these guidelines:
- Chickens raised in the outdoors
- No pesticides
- No meat by-products
- No antibiotics or drugs
- No growth enhancers
- No hormones
The first year we raised 75 selling about half to friends. Now we do batches of 50 chickens spaced three weeks apart. After seeing how we were doing it a friend and her husband started raising their own meat chickens along side their small flock of layer chickens. It was infectious!
Last year Mike visited his cousin in Maine who raises over 8,000 chickens a season out on his pasture. He was able to pick up tips on how to care for this delicate meaty breed and faster ways to dress a chicken. After that we felt inspired to up the number of chickens we were raising.
We will always be a small chicken raising operation. With 50 chickens at a time there is space to let them roam, scratch and sunbath (yes they love to stretch out in the sun). It’s more difficult for disease to spread because many of the diseases that are typical in industrial chicken farms can be knocked out by the ultraviolet rays from the sun or the ventilation called ‘the outside’. We’ve been lucky not to have disease problems but if it did happen it would be contained to only 50 chickens.
What breed of chicken do you raise? Why?
Cornish XCross. Although you can eat any type of chicken CornishXCross are by far the most popular. They have a lot more meat on them than heritage or dual purpose breeds. If you buy poultry in the store this is the kind of chicken you are getting. Even though there are some 9 billion chickens consumed in the US, the word on the street is that they all come from only 4 hatcheries in the US. I order them from a hatchery in Eastern NM but they get them from Iowa.
What do they eat?
Bugs, greens from weeding the garden and feed that has been formulated for the needs of the fast growing nature of these animals. We change the type of feed based on the age of the chicken. Over the last few years I’ve tried several different feed companies. I’ve stayed with Ranch Way because of the success I’m having but also when ever I have any questions I have the direct phone number of their nutritionalist.
Are they pasture raised?
No. The first year we used mobile pens that we moved daily over our grassy areas. The issue was predators. The coyotes and raccoon attacked the pens nightly causing stress to our chickens and very little sleep for us! They spend 3 weeks in the brooder and then move to a large fenced area where they spend the next 4 weeks. At night they sleep in a coop that is secured against predators.
Where are they processed?
We process them at home. We follow the guidelines set by the USDA for chicken farmers raising less than 1,000 chickens per year. The last time I researched it there was only one chicken processing plant open to small chicken farmers in New Mexico and it’s a few hundred miles away. It’s a lot of hard work but we have friends that come and help and make a day of it.
How much are they and how do they come?
We sell whole chickens for $4.50/lb. They range from 3- 5lbs and come bagged and frozen.
How can I get one?
- Contact us and set up a time to pick up your poultry. If you’re in the Albuquerque area we have a pick up there too! We deliver if you live in the Santa Fe area and order 3 or more chickens.
- Come by Eldorado Farmers market at the La Tienda Mall on Friday June 15th, 22nd or 29th.
- Come by the Farmers market at Arroyo Vino’s on Thursdays from 2-6pm in June. They are located at 218 Camino La Tierra.
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