Questions? Call Us: 540-333-1867
4010 Swover Creek Rd, Edinburg, VA 22824
On-Farm Store Hours: TUES, WED, SAT 9-5p.m.
FRI 3-7p.m.
                                                    

What is Special About Our Pasture-Raised Chickens


Pastured chickens are not just “given outdoor access”; they are constantly outdoors after they reach three weeks of age. From May-November in Virginia, we take great care in raising and producing healthy, humanely raised chickens on our farm. As you can see from the pictures, the chickens are directly on grass, pecking on the weeds and eating worms and bugs. They are enclosed in a large “pasture shelter” which keeps predators like foxes, weasels and raccoons from coming in and attacking the chickens. The water bucket is refilled for them to drink, and they are supplemented with non-GMO (not genetically modified) grain and fishmeal. Once or twice every day, we move the chickens to fresh pasture.  This rotational grazing enables the chickens to fertilize the soil with their manure and to eat the grass, forage and bugs before moving on to fresh pasture. Since our farm is small, we are able to slaughter the chickens right on the farm, which ensures they are not exposed to any chemicals before they’re frozen.

What to expect from our chickens:

  • No antibiotics ever, or any growth promotants, DRUG-FREE

  • Raised on our sheltered, airy farm brooder to 3 weeks of age

  • From 3 weeks on, they live in portable shelters on untreated pasture

  • Moved daily to new areas of fresh grass

  • All-natural diet high in grass and bugs

  • Supported by GMO-free feed from local producers/mill

  • Harvested humanely, by hand, on our farm under VA exemption


The Life-Cycle of Pastured Chicken


We get our Cornish broiler chickens as day-old chicks from Ridgeway Hatchery. For the first three weeks, they live in our brooder house, which is a building set up as a chicken nursery. The baby chicks are too fragile in these early weeks to survive outdoors and must be constantly checked. The brooder house has a deep bedding of wood shavings on the floor that we freshen for every batch. This builds up a deep anaerobic pack of compost that we then spread on the pasture at the proper times, efficiently recycling our farm on a continual basis.


Inside the brooder, we keep the chicks warm (around 95 degrees) and have feed and water close by. We use a custom blended ration of feed produced by Sunrise Farms located in Stuarts Draft, VA. The grains used are oats, peanuts, and GMO-free varieties of corn and soybeans. Fish meal is also used to provide additional protein and minerals. We never add hormones, steroids or antibiotics, a practice that is commonplace in conventional chicken operations.


Handled with Care

When the birds are close to three weeks old, we take the chicks out to pasture. We use a Polyface-style shelter that holds about 80 birds at a time. The shelters measure 10 ft. x12 ft. and are about 2 ft. tall. With aluminum sheet metal on the top and half of the sides it provides shelter from the sun and rain. Chicken wire on the balance of the shelter keeps the predators out and the chicks in!


Moved Daily to Fresh Pasture


The shelters that house the chickens are moved every day to fresh grass. If you watch closely, you can see the birds run into the new spot and start plucking the grass and eating it. We harvest the birds at seven to ten weeks of age depending on what kind of chicken we want (7 weeks for a nice 3-4 pound roaster or up to 10 weeks for larger cuts such as breast & tenders, leg & thigh, etc).  We humanely process the birds on our farm, by hand.


Broiler chickens are a seasonal production for us. It is way too cold for the birds in the winter and the pastures are dormant. All the manure put down by the chickens wouldn’t be metabolized by the soil (because it’s frozen) and we enjoy having some time off too!

We stock up the freezers from the bounty of the summer so we do have chicken available year round.



Isn’t Organic Cage-free Chicken Just the Same as Pastured?


Unfortunately, there are a lot of shortcuts being made in the poultry industry, so even chickens marked “certified organic” and “cage-free” are actually not given any access to pasture whatsoever. They eat no bugs (which is part of their natural diet), and instead are only given grain as their main nutrition. According to an in-depth article on chicken on World’s Healthiest Foods, “With respect to organic standards, no minimal amount of days spent outdoors or time per day spent outdoors is required for production of organic chicken. Nor must any minimal amount of chicken feed be obtained from a pasture setting.” As opposed to their conventional counterparts, the organic ones are not stuffed in cages; however, they are still stuffed in large poultry houses, with not much room to move and no access to fresh pasture. You’ve likely seen the proud claim on the grocery store package of organic chicken which says “fed an all-vegetarian diet”. That’s when you know that they were given no access to the outdoors and haven’t eaten a bug in their lives!

Conventional chicken, on the other hand, are often given rather nasty stuff to eat, including rendered animal byproducts (not to mention the antibiotics, growth-promoting additives, and highly processed GMO grain as the mainstay of their diets). So, of course the all-vegetarian claim of organic is way better than that, but it still pales in comparison to the way nature intended chicken be raised: out in nature feeding on bugs and naturally fertilizing the land, as we strive to do. It has been noted before that the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio is much better in pasture-raised chicken as compared to its store-bought organic and conventional counterpart, and this balance is one important factor to get right for good health. Similarly, vitamins A, D3, and E in pastured chicken were also found to be significantly higher than in store-bought organic or conventional chicken (American Pastured Poultry Producers Association).


Some Delicious Chicken Recipes to Try


Easy Baked Maple-Mustard Chicken Thighs

Minimalist Roast Chicken

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Masala Skewers

Crispy Spiced Chicken Livers

Chicken Coleslaw with Tahini, Mint, and Dill

Quick and Easy Creamy Herb Chicken

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