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Happy Hens

Our passion is for pasture raised meats.  If you’ve been to the meat counter, you’ve probably heard Todd, Adam, or I talking about grassfed beef or heritage pork roaming in the woods.  But have you ever thought of our chickens?

Our meat chickens – referred to as broilers – are raised only in the summer time when there is green grass to rotate them on.  This means they eat not only their feed ration of milled grains, but also the green grass, bugs in the soil, and seeds. They really, really like the bugs.  For the meat chickens, we freezer them and work off of a frozen inventory in the winter.  We feel this is a better option than a barn raised bird without access to grass and bugs.

The laying hens, however, live longer than a summer so they must go inside in the winter.  Our birds have a 5,000 sq ft chicken house with perches, water troughs, and nesting boxes. They have access to go outside, but there isn’t much for them to get when the ground is covered in snow or frozen.

So as farmers we try to simulate a more pasture like experience.  We add alphalpha meal and haylage to their feed rations.  But the thing they really enjoy are bugs – a form of meat.  In the summer, when the skid steer comes around, they go scrambling for the tire tracks as the tires may have turned up a bug.

In the processing room at Ohio City Provisions, we have lots of meat scraps.  Connective tissue, soft fat, and the bones and meat from the stock pot.  So instead of filling our dumpster, we always have “chicken buckets” laying around.  These 5 gallon buckets are for any food bi-products – produce scraps, meat scraps, you name it.  We take those and dump them in the chicken house and the birds go crazy.  After a few weeks, the chicken house is scraped out and the straw used for bedding, the left over bones, and chicken droppings are thrown on the compost pile.  In the spring, the bones will have broken down and the calcium and nutrients left in them will be spread again on the produce fields.  –  Trevor