From happy, healthy hens raised on pasture have yolks that are dark yellow, orange, packed with vitamins and minerals and rich in flavor. We rotate our hens through our pasture using egg wagons and electric netting. The electric netting gives the hens about a 1/4 acre circle of protected area from predators. Depending on pasture conditions, they are moved to fresh forage away from their manure, at least two times weekly. The wagons are used by the hens to lay their eggs, seek shelter from bad weather and roost in at night. On our farm, the hens follow the cows. In about four days time fly larvae are ready to hatch from cow patties. By striving to move the hens three days behind the cows, they are able to search out the fly larvae before it hatches, helping to stop the fly cycle and providing the hens with much needed protein. By rotating the hens pasture area they sanitize our paddocks, they have access to fresh forage, and are never in constant contact with their manure. The nitrogen load on any one area is just enough to be utilized by the grass as a natural fertilizer.
We keep our laying hens for two full laying cycles. At the end of their productive life they are retired to the stew pot. This meat is most flavorful and the broth is unsurpassed with its deep amber color and nutritional value, but must be cooked slow and long to achieve maximum tenderness. Chicken soup, stock and chicken and dumplings are traditional fare for the spent laying hen.
Our broilers are raised in floorless hoop structures that contain 50-75 broilers each. They are moved forward daily, on fresh pasture that has been mowed by the cows. Our birds receive fresh air, sunshine, a GMO free ration containing probiotics, and no synthetic vitamins and minerals or appetite stimulants. A wholesome grain ration in combination with fresh forage and bugs produces a delicious chicken dinner in just 8-12 weeks depending on the variety.
We raise the broad breasted commercial turkey and a heritage breed. These birds are incredibly active and tremendous foragers. We move them through our pasture in a way similar to our laying hens, using electric netting to protect them from predators. For shelter from the elements they are provided an open shed on skids made up of roosts. The turkeys prefer grass taller than the other poultry, so in our rotation, when the turkeys are on pasture, they go ahead of the hens or broilers.