As a part of our orchard management, we run chickens via a combination of chicken tractors and day ranging through the alleys between the fruit trees. The birds forage on pasture, diverse greens, and bugs.
We raise slow-growing broiler chickens that do especially well in pasture-based systems. Our chickens come from breeding stock imported from France developed in the 1960’s to meet the highest standards of the French Label Rouge free-range program. We get the birds as day-old chicks, raise them indoors for four weeks, until they start growing true feathers, then move them out to pasture.
We rotate the chickens daily through the orchard in chicken tractors, which gives them access to fresh forage everyday and naturally fertilizes our orchard pasture. Some summers, ahead of the chickens we move lambs, who help mow down the tall grass to a more chicken-friendly height.
We will be taking pre-orders for the chickens – contact us if you are interested! We butcher the birds on farm at about 12 weeks old. The slower, more natural growing period results in healthier birds and a superior, old-fashion tasting chicken with a deep, rich flavor our grandparents would recognize. On a butcher day, in the morning, we butcher and clean the birds, and cool them in an ice bath. They are available for pick up in the afternoon, direct from the farm. This way, if you want to cook it up fresh you can do that, or take it home to freeze whole or parted. From our experience in past years, the birds average 3.5-4lbs.
We are always happy to help with cooking tips and recipes. Additionally, here are a couple resources we really like on cooking with pastured poultry, among other ethically sourced meat: Deborah Krasner’s Good Meat and Shannon Hayes’ The Grassfed Gourmet. Here is a link to a helpful guide on how to break down a whole chicken with recipes. And here is a link to recipes for chicken on our Cycle Farm Kitchen site, a farm community cookbook.