Monday, July 31, 2006

The pastured poultry scam

Late in my second season of raising pastured poultry on a small scale, I have become aware of some fundamental, fatal conceptual flaws in the operation. The implication of these is that, unintentionally and without malice, pastured poultry producers are foisting a scam on their market. The problems stem from basic lack of understanding about what words like "sustainable" mean and to some extent from denial about the realities of chicken production, both industrial and on the small farm.

The two biggest unintentional lies are about pastured poultry's being environmentally friendly and its being humane. It is neither. In fact, I have realized that it is actually worse than a well-managed confinement operation in both respects.

Environmentally friendly, sustainable production of livestock is first and foremost a function of what and how the animals are fed. A sustainable farm animal is one that eats things people do not or cannot eat: grasses, bugs, wild range and pasture foods; and in some cases garbage, offal, etc. Feeding livestock on grains, soybeans, and other intensively-raised crops that are perfectly good human food is not "green," no matter how you do it. Even if these crops are raised organically, it is still a waste of food and farm resources to grow this high-quality food then feed it to animals that will turn 90% of it into waste and only 10% of it into human-usable protein and calories. The second concern for sustainable livestock raising is stocking (number of animals per acre). Sustainable animals are raised at low enough density that they do not degrade the pastures and rangelands on which they feed. Stocking rates need to be adjusted based on particular local circumstances to avoid doing this.

Pastured poultry fails on both of these. Producers will sometimes give the impression that our birds are dining on fresh greens and bugs. In fact, they are getting the vast bulk of their calories from conventional poultry feed. Even generous estimates are that the birds might get 20% of their nutrition from foraging; my experience suggests more like 10%. Add to this the extra feed waste in an outdoor operation from spills and weather, plus the lowered feed-to-animal conversion ratios during hot or cold spells, and the average pastured chicken probably has used MORE conventional feed than a factory-raised bird of the same size.

As for impact on the environment, pastured poultry are overstocked. How do I know this? Well two reasons. First, when, for some reason, I wind up with a pasture pen that has fewer birds in it than usual, those birds grow noticably faster than identical, same-age birds kept at the standard stocking rate. Second, pastured poultry producers have told me that they need to lime their fields from time to time to counteract the increasing acidity from the accumulated effects of manure. In other words, the fields are overstocked. An additional problem is that all this manure on the overstocked pastures represents one of those unregulated, unmonitorable, untrackable sources of non-point source polution for groundwater and stream water.

Another impression that pastured poultry producers like to give is that our birds are happy birds, treated humanely. But if our birds are treated so well, why are our mortality rates so much higher than those of conventional confinement operations? The chicken that is almost universally used by pastured poultry and conventional producers is the Cornish cross, a collection of hybrid strains bred for extremely fast growth rates and extreme laziness. These birds do not benefit from outdoor raising. Indeed, they suffer from it. They have very poor tolerance for heat and cold. They are terrible foragers. They are easy pickings for predators. Humane raising of a cornish cross chicken would be in climate-controlled confinement with a reasonable stocking rate. It is most definitely NOT outdoor raising exposed to the elements and the carnivores. Some other (probably just about ANY other) breed would be a better choice; but the market demands the big fleshy breasts and fat chubby carcasses of the cornish cross, so that is what we raise. It's true, we don't debeak our birds. We let the raccoons do that for us when they try to chew our birds' heads off through the sides of the pens at night. And well-run confinment operations do not debeak either.

The final marketing claim for pastured poultry is the quality of the birds. And it is true, a fresh pastured chicken has a juiciness, texture, and flavor that grocery store chickens rarely approach. But this is a function of freshness, not outdoor raising. Fresh birds that were raised in well-managed confinement also have this excellent quality. Much is made of the fact that our pastured birds are antibiotic and hormone-free. Well, no one gives their chickens hormones; not us, not Tyson. The Cornish Cross already grows dangerously fast (if overfed they tend to keel over from cardiac failure); hormones would be an extremely bad idea. Many pastured poultry producers DO feed medicated feed (with coccidiostats, technically not an anibiotic but still a drug) for the first 2 or 3 weeks of life, same as everyone else. And, again, a well-run confinment operation with good litter management can do without coccidiostats as easily as pastured birds can.

Pastured chickens are not green birds or happy birds, any more than the conventionally raised chickens are. A real green chicken could perhaps be raised; but it will not be a cornish cross raised in a little bottomless cage or open-air day-range pen out in an over-manured field.

Sigh... back to the drawing board.

27 Comments:

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous chicken keeper said...

As person who has raised her own pastured poultry for over twenty years I take issue with some of your statements.
1. True "free range" poultry is not raised in a tiny crowded bottomless cage.
2. Loose chickens, of any breed, free to roam in a clean field- ARE HAPPY!
3. Predators can be a problem but an electric fence at night can help. A field with some cover is help against arial predators.
4. Animal protien is an important source of nutrition for humans. Useing grains to produce protien for humans is a good use of grains.

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

I agree with all your points except the last, but they are not relevent to the Salatin-style pastured poultry operations that are predominant.

Animal protein is NOT an essential part of human nutrition, and it is not a sustainable use of intensively grown grains to produce it. I am not a vegetarian. My point is that free-range or pastured poultry that get the large majority (>80%) of their nutrition from intensively farmed grains are not in any way an improvement in ecological sustainability from confinement or feedlot livestock fed the same diet. Sustainable animals eat things that humans cannot use, such as grass-fed beef or range-fed goats. I think a true range-fed chicken that gets almost all its nutrition from foraging is possible; but I have not seen anyone actually implelent this on even the smallest commercial scale.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger PM said...

Chicken? National Security!
For a few months now, I have been raising my own small flock of chickens (Six hens and a rooster). I live on a 1/2 acre permaculture demo site in the city of Los Angeles (www.sustainablehabitats.org). Until I started my own flock it was hard to imagine how much value these chicken can be. It goes way beyond just meat,eggs or money!
They provide me and two families with enough eggs, the soil fertility is way up, plus as a neighborhood attraction they have been such a great show educating both kids and their parents with basic knowledge they just did not know. Getting connected with my neighbors on many levels is invaluable. The chickens are very happy, they don't eat grain or chicken feed they much prefer foraging on whatever is there. To my astonishment they are feeding off grass and insects all day long while totally ignoring their chicken feed. If this continues, I will be very happy too!
Considering that in the US we waste more than half of the food we buy. I can see how these chicken can feed on some of that waste if need be especially that few of us compost their food waste. I highly recommend and think it is necessary for all of us to keep chickens in our yards if not for their intrinsic value for our food security! think about it.

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger Laura said...

Seems like there are some distinctions to be made:
1) Salatin's "chicken tractor" model is very specific and not what most folks think of when they think of free range or pastured poultry.
2) Chickens on a pasture during the day perhaps enclosed by electronet fencing and in a coop overnight are much happier and are usually a heritage heavy breed.
3) While most chickens on pasture or free ranging do eat some grains, they generally eat one third less than confined chickens.
4) If the flock is moved frequently enough, pollution isn't as much of a problem.

I've always thought Salatin's chicken tractor operation looked too much like confinement.

 
At 2:55 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

I think you mix up egg and meat production. So far as I have been aware, almost no one has a commercial meat operation based on heritage breeds. I have tried Dark Cornish, with adequate success for homesteading use, but not for commercial sale. The Cornish Cross still is the vast majority of birds raised for sale as meat birds even by small-scale pastured operations. Heritage breeds are used for egg production, which is not what I was addressing. Your other statements are oft-repeated claims for which I have never seen any data to support. Commercial confinement operations have mortality of 1% or less; pastured producers routinely expect 5 times this. And I have never seen data indicating that pastured cornish cross birds get 1/3 of their calories from pasture. Most data (including my own) indicate much less than this. And even if these numbers were true, it still makes pastured poultry primarily based on conventional, unsustainable, fossil-fuel based agricultural commodities (corn and soybeans).

The marketing claims of pastured poultry producers are by and large anecdotal and as yet unsupported by hard data. This is a chronic problem with many supposedly "greener" food production methods.

 
At 6:43 AM, Blogger pippinstar said...

To argue that pastured poultry does not completely undo the fact that eating meat is less sustainable than a vegetarian lifestyle does not argue that pastured poultry cannot be MORE sustainable than confinement. I run heritage breed Barred Rock x Delaware x Orpington crosses at 1/4 the stocking rate of Salatin. I am able to produce much fewer chickens per acre this way, and by the nature of heritage breed birds I do not save on grain over Cornish Crosses (over an 18 week grow out it's just not possible), but I do manage to raise perky happy heritage breed birds that preserve the genetic diversity of heritage breeds without having to spend 4 times as much on feed to raise them. Depending on the time of year, I still see around a fcr of 3 which would horrify a Cornish Cross breeder, but for heritage that's the best I've ever heard.
I have no trouble finding people interested in buying heritage chickens (I also raise heritage turkeys who really do pull a good 50% from the ground at some times of year and those sell like crazy) On pasture the usual fcr of 6-6.5 for the turkeys averages out over the months to about 4, though at some points it goes as low as 3.
Feed prices being what they are at the moment, I am producing pretty expensive birds, but people seem to pay whatever I ask for pastured heritage chicken. I can't raise enough on the side (I also teach high school) to meet the demand in Winston Salem NC.

 
At 12:08 AM, Blogger Sloov said...

I realize this was 2.5 yrs ago, but I agree with much of what you said, and as a pastured poultry grower, I make no ignorant claims and it frustrates me when other new growers do. Fortunately pastured poultry practices vary from farm to farm and it's not a monolithic way of doing things. We're not scamming anybody.

Our cornish crosses are treated humanely and suffer from little stress, kept warm on cold nights and cool on hot days, and kept safe from predators. This took a couple years to learn. We feed nonmedicated feed but do use coccidiostat in the rare occasion when the birds are sick. This is all out in the open for our customers on our website and in a pamphlet, which also points out that confinement operations produce much more food in a smaller area than we can.

But our birds are most definitely of higher quality - we sell them to 2 high end restaurants and have to turn down chefs all the time. and it has nothing to do with freshness. I imagine we get our birds to market in about the same time as Tyson gets theirs to the grocery store - chicken will be inedible after 10 days. But even after having been in the freezer for 4 months, they taste better than a Tyson or Perdue chicken. I imagine this has to do with lower stress, and the access to plant material and fresher air than most of the houses have.

finally, heritage breeds on pasture eat much more for less carcass weight and take up much more space than a cornish cross.

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger Sloov said...

Also on broiler mortality rate, you claim the industry's mortality rate is 1%. I thought that was low and found two industry sources, one claiming 5% and the other a little over 4%. For us, a 5% mortality is unusually high. That is about what we got before we knew how to control predators.

http://www.allbusiness.com/manufacturing/food-manufacturing/854936-1.html

http://www.worldpoultry.net/article-database/us-broiler-market-down-but-not-out-id1833.html

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger Serenity Rachel said...

This is an old post I realize, but I just wanted to point out something that no one has mentioned, and that is that pastured poultry is healthier for the humans that eat them because of the increased vitamin content and improved ratios of ALA fats and such that comes from eating a lot of greens and bugs (similar to the improvement of ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats in grass fed beef). That, more than anything is why I prefer to purchase pastured versus conventionally raised poultry and raise my own this way as well (though only for personal use) I also believe that as pastured meat becomes preferred that new breeds will be developed that can still gain quickly but that are better foragers and hardier than the Cornish crosses. It will take some time though.

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger lorriebelle said...

How much grain does a hen who is free on green pasture all day need? I am trying to estimate cost of expanding my small flock and doing an organic egg business. Thanks!

 
At 5:42 AM, Blogger Angela said...

Not sure what you were doing wrong--we have had a great success with pastured broilers. They have vastly improved our soils, they are delicious and there ARE solutions to the feed--one is raising maggots in a composter that collects them for you, convenient for throwing to the chickens. And you can get tons of compost from local willing restaurants, recycling the food waste and keeping it out of the landfill:

http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/the_biopod/--

Another is to run them behind cows so they can pick the fly larvae out of the cow pies and help control the fly problem. I'm considering maybe seeding some amaranth in the pastures to contribute to the feed. We already have partridge pea which is very popular.

It really is too bad they have bred the Cornish Cross to be such monsters, but we've found that with good nutrition they thrive and have less problems. We are in Florida and it gets very hot but have not lost any to heat.

We actually have one that is approaching a year old and is laying really nice brown eggs--one every other day, but they are twice as large as our normal layers eggs. (she wasn't slaughtered because we accidentally ran over one of her legs with the coop before we were good at moving it properly, and she was taken home to heal--my children named her and she became one of the backyard chickens...)

We are going to run broilers over our pastures this spring because the quality of grass and forage they produced I have never before seen in Florida with our sandy soils. We had bahai grass that reached up to my hip. Our animals were getting out just to go graze on the flowing trail of tall, lush green grass.

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger Scott Schneider said...

Bill, I dont agree, but very well said. www.helixfarms.wordpress.com

 
At 5:06 AM, Blogger Common Wealth Farm said...

Maybe you don't know much about agriculture, rural living, or things like what the word "scam" means, but you sound quite pompous posting this "article". I raise thousands of birds on pasture each year. We contribute both to the ecology of the land and the economy of our state. Sustainability comes in many forms. Do you think your two seasons of small scale pastured poultry informs you enough to make such grandiose claims about agriculture? Do you understand how large scale agriculture works?
Your claims are so obvious that it makes me think you never thought about eating habits of living things before. OF COURSE BIRDS THAT ARE OVERSTOCKED DO NOT GROW AS WELL! Of course the birds get most of their feed from grain! No shit! That is how poultry works. That is how people make a living. Not all of us can have a big-headed blog.

I can tell that you, like every other human, has never been a chicken. So, with that said, let me ask you how the hell you know what it feels like to be a chicken? How do you know whats humane? Is it humane for birds to be outside foraging on grass (obviously not eating ONLY grass- because everyone understands that this isn't possible), breathing fresh air, absorbing sun, etc... I don't know. That sounds like hell to me.

You need to understand that people in agriculture raise animals in different ways. Some people use broiler houses to feed larger populations of people at a lower price. With that comes a lower quality food. That is fine! Eat that if you like! Eat pastured poultry if you want a higher quality bird! Or, just sit on your ass and blog about things you don't understand. Whatever, to each her or his own.

 
At 6:25 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Let's go through this rant piece by piece:

Maybe you don't know much about agriculture, rural living, or things like what the word "scam" means, but you sound quite pompous posting this "article".

Ah, the old "If you disagree with me you must be ignorant or stupid because anyone with any sense or knowledge would obviously think the same way I do" argument.

I raise thousands of birds on pasture each year. We contribute both to the ecology of the land and the economy of our state.

Weasel words -- "contribute to the ecology of the land." What exactly does this mean? Have you improved the biodiversity? The groundwater and streamwater quality? This sounds like a marketing claim, not a statement of fact.

Sustainability comes in many forms.

Yes, but as I will say later (and said above) raising chickens on fossil-fuel produced grain is not sustainable by any logical definition of that word.

Do you think your two seasons of small scale pastured poultry informs you enough to make such grandiose claims about agriculture?

My claims were ONLY about the type of agriculture I have personal experience with and ample observation of. Unlike you, I am not extending my arguments to cover the entire world.

Do you understand how large scale agriculture works?

I wasn't talking about large-scale agriculture, obviously. It's a stupid-debating-trick to attack someone for arguments that they didn't even advance.

Your claims are so obvious that it makes me think you never thought about eating habits of living things before. OF COURSE BIRDS THAT ARE OVERSTOCKED DO NOT GROW AS WELL!

Now here is where it looks like you did not understand my argumens at all...

Of course the birds get most of their feed from grain! No shit! That is how poultry works.

No, that is how unsustainable fossil-fuel-based poultry work. At present I have laying hens that get almost no grains at all. We ae swimming in eggs. They raise their own chicks with no supplemental feed at all. I might ask how much YOU know about the wide range of potential poultry feeding other than just throwing tons of corn and soybeans at them. For most of their 8000 year existence, domesticated chickens have NOT been fed primarily on intensively-farmed, petroleum-based grains. They have been fed on forage, waste, scraps, bugs, manure, with small amounts of supplemental grain.

That is how people make a living.

If that is how you chose to make a living, then you are making your living off of petroleum, fundamentally. This is fine if you chose it, but don't claim otherwise. Don't claim to be "green" and "sustainable" when you are just another operation turning oil into chicken.

 
At 6:29 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Continued (blogger length restrictions)...

Not all of us can have a big-headed blog.

Us "big-headed" folks call this an "Ad hominem" attack, which means attacking the man not the argument. It's a tactic used by those who can't actually attack the argument logically.

And we also call comments like this "anti-intellectual elitism."

I can tell that you, like every other human, has never been a chicken. So, with that said, let me ask you how the hell you know what it feels like to be a chicken? How do you know whats humane? Is it humane for birds to be outside foraging on grass (obviously not eating ONLY grass- because everyone understands that this isn't possible), breathing fresh air, absorbing sun, etc... I don't know. That sounds like hell to me.

I'm not even going to bother with this paragraph, it is so absurd.

You need to understand that people in agriculture raise animals in different ways. Some people use broiler houses to feed larger populations of people at a lower price. With that comes a lower quality food. That is fine! Eat that if you like! Eat pastured poultry if you want a higher quality bird!

Never argued otherwise, other than this: DON'T make claims about your agricultural practices that are not true. Claiming that pastured poultry where the birds are confined and fed primarily on grains is "green", "sustainable," "earth-friendly" or whatever is a LIE. From an ecological perspective they are the same old petroleum-fed chickens. They might taste better (indeed they do), so market them than way. Not with green-washed lies. Maybe you don't make these claims, in which case I was not even talking about you in the first place so all this angry ranting was kinda pointless.

Or, just sit on your ass and blog about things you don't understand. Whatever, to each her or his own.

Or post rants on other people's blogs because you didn't undertsand their points, and because they challenged something that you make money off of.

Rule number one of understanding just about anything: NEVER trust the person who is making money from something to give you accurate and reliable information about that thing! This applies in the "green business" world just as much as anywhere else.

 
At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting discussion! I didn't see anyone talking about the Salatin approach as he defines it. He calls himself a grass farmer. His whole approach to sustainability involves using all his animals to grow grass to overwinter his livestock etc. (way over simplified) He has chickens, pigs, bulls/steers. etc.. They all work together. Using deep bedding overwinter to compost etc.. Has he claimed that his poultry operation, by itself, is sustainable? I don't recall that he has, but I have not read every one of his books. I have visited his farm. It is an impressive operation.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger JEKS said...

Thought I'd add my two cents. In the comparison of pasturing versus confinement, you make some good points but miss many more. What about seasonality? Pasturing doesn't work in the winter, but confinement operations do. There is really no comparison in terms of efficiency of energy use. Confinement ops use all manner of petroleum-based energy whereas the pastured pens use relatively little. You pointed out the petroleum used for the production of feed, but missed all the other uses of energy present in confinement but absent in pasture systems.
I do agree with you that its not so simple as pasture is perfect, confinement is terrible. Salatin's methods may not be the perfect answer to chicken farming, but certainly you couldn't rightly argue that confinement is better!? I mean, what about diversified farming? Surely, we can all agree that more numerous and better diversified farms would be better than what we have now, no? Would you rather the diversified small scale farmer have a broiler barn, a hen barn, a hog barn, etc? We have to think of extremely low investment farming models if there is to be any kind of increase in the number of small farms.
If you can think of a better way of raising chickens with equivalent or less infrastructure and investment, SHARE IT, because I'll try it this spring along side my salatin-style pens and report back to you.

 
At 6:38 AM, Blogger rudyhaveman said...

"At present I have laying hens that get almost no grains at all. We are swimming in eggs. They raise their own chicks with no supplemental feed at all."

I am interested in your efforts to raise laying hens without off farm inputs. Did you have success? Have you tried raising meat chickens this way?

 
At 6:59 AM, Blogger TheSitRep said...

I think the author is talking about some commercial growers that claim free range etc.

People raising small flocks, ranging from total free range even managing semi wild jungle flocks to me where I free range by day and coop at night and only supplement their diet with Commercial feed, mice, worms, rabbit manure, scraps etc. know that we get a lot of meat and eggs from happy birds with very little $ input..

There is no way to tell how many pounds of frogs, lizards, skinks, worms in protean my birds eat that is not to mention, the wheat, buck wheat, flax, amaranth and wild seed. I just know that I spend very little on feed and feed is high as a cat's back here in Hawaii.

I raise BRs but I have friends that manage a semi wild flock of jungle birds and they don't spend a dime and have all the eggs and meat they want, granted those are some wirey birds.

 
At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see it this way. Pastured poultry provides many small scale "farmers" a cheap entry point into production with existing resources. No debt, no contracts and the ability to scale down with the hope of growing a business of their own. It is a decent way to raise birds. Also the chicken manure - derived from petroleum based grains does offset or eliminate the need for petroleum based fertilizers on the pasture which they are grown.

 
At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a confusing issue for the consumer who wants to purchase fresh organic pasture-raised chicken. Are you saying the pasture raised chickens are also eating grains, non GMO I hope?

Where can I purchase that chicken in Los Angeles?

Also, should I assume that the organic pasture raised eggs I purchase are worth the $8.99 per dozen?

 
At 6:03 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Anonymous -- if you are in the U.S. and the chicken is not explicitly labeled as organic, GMO free, you can bet that it has been fed conventional (not organic), GMO-containing corn and soybeans as its major calorie source. even if it is labeled "pastured," "free-range," etc. Never assume organic or non-GMO on anything. If it does not explicitly claim it, it isn't.

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

Cornish crosses cannot be expected to forage or even walk to water....I'm an egg guy myself....10 ft per bird....movable dome

 
At 6:10 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Anon -- we have a name for people who post insulting ad hominem rants on 8 year old blog posts without signing their names: Assholes.

Thing is, if you had just stuck to your points and left out the sarcasm, arrogance, and insults, I would have approved the actual content of your comment and responded to it. But as is, get fracked.

 
At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Sarah Hannon said...

Bill, Well Done! I just now came across this wonderful post. Better late than never.

There is no such thing as pastured poultry. Birds are not ruminants (cows, sheep, goats), and have a very difficult time deriving nutrition from grass.

Birds are natural omnivores and are designed to get protein, fat and minerals from insects and grubs formed on organic decomposing matter.

It is considered brutal to raise cornish cross or any other variety of production and fast growing chicken breeds outside, and they suffer. They are designed by companies such as AVIAGEN to be grown in temperature controlled environments while consuming cheap commodity grains (2/lbs consumption to 1/lb. growth weight gain).

Heritage chickens do well on open ranges (once fully feathered), providing they have proper protection from predators (squirrels, rats, snakes, raven, owls, hawks, etc.)

Clean up is a major part of growing chickens, and keeping the environment clean to prevent disease.

Joel Salatin is not an expert in growing pastured poultry. Polyface grows production breeds of chickens and cornish cross meat type birds (not sustainable). He is a man who filed for a corporation, to get investors, and in turn those investors wanted to be paid back and thus.. The corporation began to write books for income related purposes. In addition, Joel Salatin/Polyface Inc. uses many interns to operate the day to day operations on the corporate farm.They feed corn, soy and wheat to livestock, and is not a sustainable farming operation. Simply put, Polyface has a great marketing team and puts a lot of money toward advertising (again, not sustainable, just notorious).

Sustainable is when there is a full cycle of production.
Cornish cross chickens do not breed. They do not lay eggs. They do not go broody.

BTW: A chicken produces 3 parts Amylase(a necessary digestive enzyme to break down seeds and small grains). Corn, soy and wheat require at least 12 parts Amylase to begin the breakdown process. How are those grains a good part of a chickens diet?

ALL GRAINS are sprayed with fire retardant to prevent explosion during elevator-storage. All grains are sprayed with pesticides to control rats and mealy worms during the drying and storage process (YES! even certified organic). There are endless issues with grains, from GMO's, storage to distribution.

ONE POSSIBLE SOLUTION:
Grow heritage chickens.

Grow worms, grubs and larvea.

Build a compost.

Grow a garden.

Build a secure chicken run with an overhead net (flight netting), and a floor (hardware cloth)that squirells can not burrow under.

Provide fresh, clean bedding.

Keep run clean and free of manure.

You can feed the dried manure and old bedding to the worms, and feed the worms back to the chickens.

Use the finished compost and worm castings to enrich your garden soil.

Collect eggs daily and throw the egg shells to the worms.

Feed the grown worms back to the chickens.

When the hens go broody and hatch out new baby chicks, butcher the older hens and make a nutritious meal. Turn the bones into wholesome bone stock.

Sell excess eggs and whole chicken to your family or neighbors to pay for fresh bedding and more composting bins for your chickens to use as forage areas.
The chickens will turn your compost, aerate and add fresh manure to your compost.

Use the compost for growing a garden and feed the garden spoils to your chickens and sell the excess food from your garden to your neighbors and family.

With the money from the sales, improve your poultry run, provide upgrades and expand your poultry operation.

This is a first step to sustainable farming.

Thank you for your great post.

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Thanks for commenting and for understanding the actual issues I was raising! Now you can expect follow-ups from people who make money off this stuff telling you that you are an idiot and know nothing.

About sustainability (again). Sustainable means (and there is not much argument about this among people who actually understand agriculture in a systems context) being based upon renewable resources that are not being depleted faster than they can renew, hence SUSTAINABLE indefinitely over the generations. In our present world this especially means not dependent on fossil fuels. Conventional feed is essentially made of petroleum, being almost entirely dependent on chemical fertilizers, petroleum-fueled machinery, and often unsustainable irrigation water. Chickens fed this feed for a significant portion of their diet cannot be sustainable no matter what else you do with them. Claiming otherwise is at best greenwashing, and is really just plain lying. And telling lies to sell somebody your products is the essence of a scam. We also call this fraud.

 
At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Sarah Hannon said...

Bill, You nailed it! That is a very understandable definition of sustainability. You are amazing. Keep up the great work!

I learned all of this while volunteering and learning about where our food comes from at a small family farm in Pinon Hills, CA. Rainbow Ranch Farms (My family subscribes to a csa program), so I can not take credit for any original content.

I must share your site with the main farmer/rancher, she is also passionate about this topic. She trusts that the pop-culture is brain washed through clever marketing to be drawn toward "greenwashing".

Thank you for allowing me to participate in your blog. It is a great site and I am enjoying your posts.

 

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