Chickens for Eating

Farm-Fresh Frying/Roasting Chickens

Order Fryers
We take reservations for our fryers, so we know how many to raise, and to make sure our subscribers get what they want before the general public.

Download a Chicken Order Form here:

2014 Poultry Order Form

If you are not a CSA member of our farm, you will be put on our waiting list.

The first fryers will be available in June, and we should finish up in October, when the weather is too cold for them to be happy. We will only have about 25 birds available per week.

How We Raise Our Fryer/Roasters
Our chicks arrive, just a day-old chicks from a hatchery. They are a Cornish cross, which produces a very meaty bird in a short length of time. The chicks spend four weeks in a special brooder area that is kept warm with heat lamps. They have access to the outside world when the weather permits, but we have to be careful that the babies don’t get chilled or wet before they have grown a full set of feathers.

One-day old chicks in the brooder.

One-day old chicks in the brooder.

Once they are feathered, the chicks are moved into outdoor moveable wire pens. These pens are bottomless and set out on a special pasture of clovers and grasses. We move the birds every day onto a clean spot of pasture. This ensures that the birds have fresh greens and insects to eat every day and it prevents the buildup of manure that can lead to unhealthy birds. It also fertilizes our pasture, which will be planted in vegetables next year.

Three weeks old, fully-feathered, and ready to move outside.

Three weeks old, fully-feathered, and ready to move outside.

From the very first day we get them as babies, our fryers are fed Washington-grown corn- and soy-free feeds. We clabber our extra milk and/or whey and feed it to them as well, and have found that the chicks start out much healthier with this probiotic boost, and we rarely need to medicate them. Eight to ten weeks from the day we receive the chicks, the lean and healthy fryers are ready for butchering. They are slaughtered humanely and cooled immediately in fresh, clean water.

We charge $6.50 per pound for our delicious fryers, and they are worth every penny. When dressed and bagged, we expect the birds to weigh between 4 and 6 pounds each. It takes a lot of time and care to nurture these birds along in their short lives, and we butcher them ourselves to ensure quality all the way through.

Eight weeks old and at home on the range.

Eight weeks old and at home on the range.

Our Fryers Are Different from Supermarket Chickens
Commercial frying chickens are typically raised in large, overcrowded warehouse-type buildings, where the ammonia fumes from decomposing manure can cause eye and lung failure in both the chickens and the farmers. Regulations governing chicken feed are very loose and the birds may be fed dried manure, animal by-products, feathers, and even plastic. They are routinely fed antibiotics to boost their growth rate and to prevent disease and infection caused by living in overcrowded conditions. The birds rarely see daylight or smell fresh air, and they don’t get to eat anything green.

At slaughter time, the birds are packed into cages, stacked on an open trailer, and hauled—in snow, rain or hot sun—to the nearest slaughter facility, where they are hung by their feet on conveyors, stunned with electricity, then plucked and gutted. The birds pass through these factories at an incredible rate–only about 30 seconds are spent on each bird—so it’s not unusual to rupture the intestines and spill fecal matter inside a bird or on its skin. In fact, the USDA has set the tolerance level for salmonella in chicken processing plants at 20% (it’s 50% for turkeys). To make up for any contamination, the birds are soaked in multiple baths of chlorinated water, spreading the bacteria to the entire batch of birds. No wonder supermarket chicken costs $1.70 per pound—that’s all it’s worth. 

Stewing Hens

While a mature hen has a natural life expectancy of eight or ten years (and some biddies have lived to the ripe old age of 20), we don’t keep our hens that long, and there are a few reasons for this. Although a hen will continue to lay eggs throughout her life, she lays fewer and fewer and she gets older.

A hen that lays five eggs per week at her peak of two or three years-old may produce just one egg per week at four years old. This is costly for us, as a mature hen eats about 2 pounds of feed per week, regardless of how many eggs she produces. Also, the older the chickens are, the more likely they are to contract diseases or become ill. We keep our hens for two or three years, before their egg production declines too much, and while they are still in good health.

Rather than throw these old girls in the garbage, we turn them into stewing hens. Given a few hours in a stock pot, they make an incredible, full-flavored broth. We charge $15.00 per bird, including butchering. These stewing hens weigh about five pounds, dressed.

Turkeys

Full grown turkeys, just before Thanksgiving.

Full grown turkeys, just before Thanksgiving.

We raise our turkeys in the same way as the fryers. Organic grain, fresh air, and room to move.

Day-old turkey poults, just arrived and warm in the brooder.

Day-old turkey poults, just arrived and warm in the brooder.

Turkeys love fennel, as well as other market leftovers.

Turkeys love fennel, as well as other market leftovers.

One response to “Chickens for Eating

  1. Pingback: 2013 CSA Information is Ready | Whistling Train Farm

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