We have a quota for producing 500 laying hens and we are allowed to produce 300 broilers per year.
Our laying hens live outside when the weather permits and they eat surprising quantities of grass and bugs. They also fertilize our fields. In nature, birds often follow herbivores to clean out the patties and thus they reduce fly populations and prevent diseases like pinkeye in cattle.
The biggest challenge is predation, even with electrified netting and frequent rotations.
We have long been conflicted about raising meat birds on pasture. Modern meat birds are highly susceptible to temperature and humidity changes, and virtually unable to walk after 40 days. Subsequently, mortality is unacceptably high, and animal welfare compromised from the start.
We turned to genetics to reduce mortality. We tried to raise (overly) expensive Bresse chickens for a while, but settled on a hardy red meat chicken. Mortality is now very low, but growth is slower. Therefore, it costs about twice as much to raise these birds.
Because our production is limited by law, we are always looking for other small farmers who want to raise these chickens for us.
We get multiple calls every week from people looking for 100% grass-fed chicken. Sorry folks, but it makes us a little cranky. Before you are call us, please please please understand that chickens are not herbivores. Despite what Steven Gundry says, chickens can no more survive on grass (and insects) alone, than you can! Shame on those who lie to you.