Winter isn’t the best time to have chickens on pasture, but this has been a year of change and challenge and one of our challenges was meeting an increased demand for pastured chicken. Throughout the past few months, we grew our chicken production from 1 tractor of 100 chickens per rotation in March to two tractors in June, and now three in November. Regular readers will recall photos of John welding frames for the new tractor (the first was all wood) and making feeding troughs by hand because the ones we normally purchase were out of stock.
We added two livestock guardian dogs to help protect the chickens and turkeys and began putting in fencing around our orchard to add another layer of protection for the birds. Which leaves us with the challenging chore of keeping 300 chickens fed, watered, and healthy during cold freezing nights and a few wet cold days (not that we’re complaining about the rain). Fortunately, this bumper crop will be headed to Dewberry Hills Farm for processing on the 15th of December and we’ll be done with meat birds for the year. Production begins again in February 2021.
That being said we have 100 chicks arriving on the 16th of December that will be added to our laying hen flock. Our egg production has decreased in the last month due to lack of sunlight and the molting process most chickens go through twice a year. In the winter months, changes in the amount of available light are a chicken’s signal that winter is coming and it’s time to replace their feathers. During molting, the majority of a chicken’s energy stores are used up through losing and replacing feathers, so egg production falls off dramatically or stops altogether. This process can last up to two weeks and can dramatically impact the amount of eggs we have available for sale, which our regular customers don’t always appreciate. So, as with the meat birds, we are increasing the size of our laying hen flock this year.
The 100 chicks arriving December 16th (an assortment of brown egg layers) will be the fuel to fire increased egg production in 2021. They won’t start laying until around May, but we look forward to their contributions to our market offerings as well as to the overall character of our ranch.