Weekly Newsletter

April 2021 vol. 4

Chicken Troubles
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Having raised over 4,000 chickens, you'd think we'd seen it all, but last month was devastating.  Of the 200 chickens we started with, only 70 of them were finished out, and those 70 weighed only half as much as they should have.
Things got off to a rocky start as we lost about 16 in the brooder.  We returned from vacation to find that some birds had been without water for a few days because the "sitter" had forgotten to remove the plug at the base of the waterer.  Two weeks later, when I was moving them to pasture, I had a feeling something wasn't right. The birds just seemed smaller than usual.  It was then that calamity struck; a cold front moved through, bringing rain.  It wasn't anything extreme, mind you - we've seen worse, but I woke up to find 95 dead chickens that morning. I was shocked!  We lost another 25 a few weeks later, during a storm that had tornadoes dancing all around us and 6 inches of rain flooding the pastures.  We’ve had losses before due to weather, but never more than a half dozen.  Something was definitely happening - but I couldn't put my finger on what it was.
Then came graduation day.  As I was loading up the chickens into the crates, I could tell that they were way undersized,  but it wasn’t until we got them back from the processor that I realized how big the impact would be.  Normally our birds dress out at around 3.5 pounds, but the birds in this batch were only 2 pounds!  Instead of a nice plump breast, we had thin breasts weighing in at 1/4 what they ought to weigh.  Not only did I have 70 out of the 200 I started with, but they were half the size they should have been.
Throughout this whole experience, I was scratching my head wondering what I was doing wrong. Initially, I blamed it on the lack of water during their first weeks in the brooder, and I'm sure that contributed, but it would have affected only half of the batch.  After we lost 95 chicks to a minor cold snap, I wasn't sure what to think, but when I looked at the packaged birds and saw how small they were, something clicked.
This spring, when I went to pick up feed, my organic feed supplier told me he couldn't get organic soy, so he substituted a fermented rice brand with the same amount of protein.  He told me he was getting reports of great results despite the substitution, so I didn't think much of it.  Trust the experts, right?  But as things started coming together in my addled brain, I was once again panic-stricken. I already had 200 chicks in the brooder and they had been on the non-soy grain for two weeks.  Two weeks is one quarter of the broiler's life, and it's arguably the most critical time.  I immediately called my feed supplier to express my concerns.  He assured me he had not heard of any other customers experiencing problems.  Fortunately, he had some soybean meal in stock, and offered to make it right.  So I dropped everything, got in my truck, and headed to Gonzales to pick up 4,000 pounds of my regular feed.
As soon as the chicks switched feed, they started growing fast - too fast in fact, since some started experiencing muscular-skeletal problems.  Initially, their growth was stunted, then they put on lots of weight and their little legs couldn't handle the sudden increase in weight.  As a result, we had to cull 2 or 3 out. 
They are out on pasture now and seem to be doing well.  I anticipate that they will come in lighter weight than normal, but I hope I don't lose money on them.  In addition, because we were short on chicken, I had to adjust my production schedule to include another batch.  Because I don't have the equipment to run more than 200 chickens, I'm scrambling to assemble another chicken tractor.  As soon as I build out the infrastructure, I'll be able to run batches of 300 birds at a time.  Due to the increasing demand for our delicious chicken (thank you), this was going to have to happen sooner or later. 
Now you know why we haven't had chicken at the markets.  Hopefully, this will be resolved soon.  God willing, we’ll be restocked on our delicious, organic-fed, pasture raised chicken around May 15th.  We thank you for your patience.


Weekly Markets

Join us for the 2022 Pfarmers Market Season! 
Early market dates are scheduled for 
April 26. 
The regular season runs every Tuesday 
from 3-7 pm from May through October.

Monthly Markets

Be well, 

stay safe,


John & Molly