How We Raise Our Chickens

The way in which we raise our chickens is very different from what the large confinement operations do.  We place the emphasis on the health of the chicken, the soil, the pastures, the farmers, and the customers who will consume them.  It has to work for each of those areas in order for it to be sustainable.  Below we outline each step along the way so you can know exactly how your food is produced and processed.  At the very bottom, you'll see a complete "What's The Difference" chart showing the primary differences between our chickens and the industry confinement chickens.

 
 
Megan unloading the chicks into the brooder.

Megan unloading the chicks into the brooder.

Day 1 - Chicks arrive

Chicks are shipped directly from the hatchery to our farm via the US Post Office airmail.  They usually arrive within 24 hours of hatching.  We pick them up from the USPS office where they arrive in boxes containing 100 chicks each.  We then take them directly to our brooder and unload them so they can start warming up as well as find their food and water.

 
Chicks in the brooder.

Chicks in the brooder.

Day 1 through 21

The chicks stay in the brooder for the next three weeks, growing and developing the feathers they will need to survive once they are moved out to pasture.  The brooder has heaters that keep the floor temperatures around 95 degrees for the young chicks so they stay nice and warm.  The chicks get a daily ration of certified organic, non-GMO, soy-free feed.  They also have automatic watering systems that give the birds as much water as they need.

 
Chickens living in their portable field shelters.

Chickens living in their portable field shelters.

day 21 through 56

At three weeks old, the chicks have developed the feathers that help them survive outside and they are moved out to pasture where they will remain until 8 weeks old.  Our chickens live in portable bottomless shelters that are moved at least once per day so the chickens are constantly getting fresh grass and bugs.  These shelters provide them with access to the pastures while at the same time protecting them from the weather and predators.  This also allows us to control exactly where the poultry manure gets spread and the reason that is important is because their manure promotes healthy pastures and soils, which ultimately sustain everything on a farm.  Without healthy soils, you don't get healthy pastures and without healthy pastures, you don't get healthy chickens.

 
Healthy Hen Farms' facility for processing their pasture raised chicken.

Healthy Hen Farms' facility for processing their pasture raised chicken.

8 weeks old

At 8 weeks old, the chickens are loaded up and brought from the field shelters to the processing facility located on the farm.  This reduces stress as much as possible by providing a short transport to processing.  It is here that our great team of folks process each bird by hand right on the farm.  The birds are passed through a Quality Control process, packaged, weighed, and priced.  Then they are immediately frozen to ensure the freshest possible product.  The commercial industry can try to sell fresh chicken for up to 7 days before they freeze them.  However, the quality of the meat begins to deteriorate every hour that bird is left unfrozen.  By freezing immediately after packaging, we stop that process and ensure a top quality finished product.  This also allows us to provide pastured poultry year round to our customers.  We have almost 20 freezers on the farm to store chicken, all backed up by generators.

 

Pasture Raised Chicken Products

The following is a list of poultry products we sell:

  • Pastured Whole Chickens (average 4 lbs. each)
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast (2 per pack)
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenders (8 per pack)
  • Bone-in Chicken Thighs (4 per pack)
  • Chicken Drumsticks (4 per pack)
  • Chicken Leg Quarters (2 per pack)
  • Chicken Wings (8 per pack)
  • Chicken Backs/Necks - Great For Making Broth
  • Chicken Feet - Also Great For Making Broth
  • Chicken Livers, Hearts & Gizzards
 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PASTURE RAISED AND CONVENTIONAL CHICKEN

* Indicates a typical USDA certified organic chicken as well.

Healthy Hen Farms Chicken

Conventional Chicken

Unvaccinated

Vaccinated

Full beak because we don’t deal with cannibalism due to the low stress levels in our animals

De-beaked because cannibalism is a major issue due to high stress on the animals

Given probiotics which are immune-stimulant Given antibiotics which are immune-depressant
Composting litter in the brooder house which is sanitized through decomposition Sterilized litter which is sanitized through the use of toxic fumigants
Carbon/Nitrogen ratios kept at least 30:1 Carbon/Nitrogen ratios may be 12:1 at best
Practically no ammonia vapor which is what causes bad smells when raising poultry Hyper-ammonia toxicity*
Skylights and windows in the brooder house to provide natural sunlight which stimulate the chick’s pituitary glands and lead to healthier chicks No access to natural sunlight in the brooder house*
Chickens are given natural rest cycles at night – lights off! Artificial lighting 24 hours per day
No medications Routine medications
No synthetic vitamins Routine synthetic vitamins
No appetite stimulants Routine appetite stimulants (such as arsenic)
Natural trace minerals (sea kelp) Manufactured and acidulated trace minerals
Small groups of 500 birds or less Massive groups of 10,000 birds or more*
Low stress due to group divisions and humane handling High stress*
Clean air Air hazy with fecal particulates. This damages the respiratory tract and pulls vitamins out of the body, overloading the liver*
Fresh air and sunshine Limited air and practically no sunshine*
Plenty of exercise Very limited or no exercise*
Fresh grass and bugs daily No green material or bugs*
Short transport to on-farm processing Long transport to off-farm processing, adding to the stress*
Killed by slitting throat which allows the birds to completely bleed out Killed by electric shock. This stops the heart which inhibits bleeding after the throat is slit and is the reason your supermarket chickens often have a lot of blood in them*
Carefully hand eviscerated by us Mechanically eviscerated (prone to breaking intestines and spilling feces on the chickens)
Guts and feathers are composted and used as natural fertilizer Guts are cooked and rendered, then fed back to the chickens
Effluent used for irrigation and fertilizer Effluent treated as sewage*
Farmer and customer inspected Government inspected*
No injections during processing Routine injections including anything from tenderizers to dyes
Dead birds are composted Dead birds are incinerated or buried which could lead to a possible contamination of water
Sick birds are put in a “hospital pen” for a second chance and most get well Sick birds are destroyed
Manure falls directly on growing forage and active soil for efficient nutrient cycling – converted to plants Manure fed to cattle or spread inappropriately which leads to ammonia vaporization, air pollution, nitrate leaching, and water pollution
Fresh air, sunshine, and organic cleaners sanitize processing area Toxic germicides are used to sanitize processing area*
Cooking loss is approximately 9% of carcass weight Cooking loss in excess of 20% of carcass weight due to the cook off of water and injections
Long keepers (safely freeze more than a year) Short keepers (safely freeze less than six months)
No drug resistant diseases Drug resistant diseases such as R-factor salmonella
Low saturated fat High saturated fat
No chlorine baths Up to 40 chlorine baths to kill contaminants
No irradiation FDA approved irradiation (label not required)
Environmentally responsible Environmentally irresponsible
Promotes family farming Promotes feudal/serf agriculture
Consumer/producer relationship Consumer/producer alienation