Sunday, January 8, 2012

Making Money Mondays - Pastured Poultry






Before we raised our own meat chickens, I remember putting a Tyson or Perdue roaster in the crockpot all night, planning on making chicken soup the next day.  I woke up that night to a putrid smell, but, being half asleep, wasn't quite sure what it was.

The next day, the kids woke up and came in the kitchen and all exclaimed how it smelled like, well, I want to be proper, but, the word they used was, "poop."  Joel Salatin calls it "fecal soup."  He's about right.

I hated to admit it, but, it was the chicken.  My stomach churned. I couldn't bring myself to eat that chicken.  So, I set out to find chicken that we could eat, something healthy, something that was raised as it's Creator intended it to be raised.

This was hard to find where I lived.  There was organic or pastured poultry at the health food store, but they were a little too pricey for me.

So, we set out to raise our own.  Now, we can eat chicken without holding our noses!  We have a chicken tractor (a movable pen) to keep our meat birds in.  They get fresh grass, seeds and bugs daily along with grain.  Before my husband built the tractor, we put them in our shed out back at night, and then let them out in the morning.  As you can see by the pictures, they knew that people meant food!  It was a little unnerving to have 50 chickens chasing you.  My son, R.J., thought it was a fun game!

After much chicken manure on our sidewalk, we made it a priority to build a tractor the following year. Words of wisdom that my husband would tell you:  Don't use 2x4s!  They do not need to be that big and it is very hard to move!

Enough of our little story.  Let's talk business!  Why pastured poultry?

Joel Salatin, a well-known organic farmer, says that pastured poultry is a wonderful way to make money on your farm.  It has a low start-up cost.  Buying chicks, feed and watering equipment along with the chicken tractor building supplies are the essentials.  This is something that can be done in a backyard or pasture.  It isn't that time consuming until butchering time!  He has written a great book on everything you could possibly want to know about pastured poultry and how to turn it into a profit.  You can purchase his well known book here:


This is an enterprise with a quick cash turn around.  In around 8 weeks, you will get your rewards.

Of course, you do need to learn how to butcher the chickens yourself, or if you know of a facility that butchers chickens, that is an option.

Check your state regulations as they can differ from the federal laws.  Many states will allow you to butcher chickens without having an inspector present and sell them as long as you stay under a certain amount.  Go here to find out about federal laws and state regulations:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/40877305/Legal-Issues-For-Small-scale-Poultry-Processors

Before you dive into this, please do your research and make sure you have a market.  Also, if you have not butchered chickens, I highly suggest that you raise your own before you make it a business.

As more and more people have seen the conditions of the chicken that ends up on their plates, they are looking for healthy, natural chicken.  If this is something that interests you, I encourage you to read Joel Salatin's book.  You can also go to The American Pastured Poultry Producers' Association or APPA for some great info.

Another great book on this is Raising Poultry on Pasture. by APPA.



Do your homework.  Learn all you can.  Check and see if there is already pastured poultry growers in your area. Learn the regulations.  It is important to find potential customers.  You can even have your customers preorder chickens to work around some regulation loopholes.

This is a wonderful opportunity that even your children can get involved in!  Here, my husband is giving a chicken butchering demonstration at our yearly Memorial Day Campout.



Can you see meat chickens in your farm enterprise?


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16 comments:

  1. Good morning. I love your blog. What is a chicken tractor, specifically? Also, are your chickens fenced in at all. We live in the woods. I am concerned about foxes and coyotes in the day time. Do you have that trouble? Thanks!

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  2. Thanks, Andrea! A chicken tractor is a movable pen(usually square with no floor that you keep your chickens in. They can't get out and nothing can get in. We just move it everyday so that they can get fresh grass. We have Great Pyrs that protect our chickens, but if you make your pen sturdy enough, a fox or coyote will not be able to get in. I will have a picture soon with another post:)

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  3. My mom has owned chickens for 20+ years, up in north central Wisconsin. We lived IN the woods, the chicken coop is actually in the woods on the border where the lawn ends. Her chickens never went far, they always stayed in safety and never ventured real far. They preferred the lawn areas and only occasionally would they go up to 50 ft into the woods. We never had problems with foxes or coyotes, only the occasional hawk. My mom would do her nightly count and if there was one missing it was either a cluck that found a place to start a family or a hawk came in. Chickens put up a LOUD ruckus when danger is near, so my mom would always run outside and see whats going on. It is maybe worth mentioning that my mom's birds were all non-meat breeds, she raises them for eggs and as pets, so that may help keep them from wandering too far. I am interested to see what others say about your question!

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  4. After having more than one "fecal soup" experience of our own, we raised meat birds two years ago. And while I didn't exactly love the experience of pasturing them on our front lawn (yes, our rather large front lawn) it was a joy to watch our birds grow, to watch my children move the pen each day, to watch our lawn grow greener and greener as it was fertilized, and to fill our freezers with delicious, healthy, nutritious meat! :) Because of time limitations, we didn't raise a flock last year, but I assure you that raising meat birds is on our homestead to-do list for this year. If our family of former suburb dwellers can do it, anyone can!

    Blessings, ~Lisa

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  5. Ahhh yes. Fond memories of that Memorial Day! ;)

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  6. Wow... the fecal smell on commercial chickens. Scary stuff. Once again, I'm so glad we raised our own meat chickens this year.

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  7. You know I'm with you here!! Ever since I watched the famous little movie, "Food, Inc"--it's pasture raised chicken for me!

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  8. Yep, fecal soup is about right when you think about those jam-packed meat chickens standing, laying and sometimes dying in it. Nasty. Food Inc was an eye opener.

    Megan, well, let's just say that Megan had a little mishap with the chicken butchering attempt last year at the campout. Don't worry Megan, we will be learning something new this year!

    As always, thanks for sharing, ladies!

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  9. We definitely want to do this, I just need to get the supplies and the nerve! Around here organically raised chicken costs $13 a bird and seeing I have a husband and at least 4 kids to feed (depending on who is home)so that's so not going to work!

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  10. Yes, food, Inc. was just sickening! We loved having our own chickens and since then we have found someone who raises and sells them. It is chicken like God intended! Susie, do you need a picture of a chicken tractor? There is a good picture of ours at the farm on one of the older posts if you want it.I always love to see what you are cookin' up!!

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  11. Another inspiring post thank you so much :)

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  12. We raise our own birds for eggs and meat. We changed last year to Freedom Rangers because we were having too many issues with the Cornish cross. It IS important to have a market for your pastured chicken. It's been a slow road here to get people to purchase pastured chicken at $2/lb when they can buy chicken for .69/lb at the store. Not everyone has the mindset of healthy chicken. They are more focused on making sure bellies are full. We started our natural food journey when my daughter was on meds. I figured if I had to give her chemicals I should make sure she wasn't getting anything else in her body. We started purchasing local pork after watching an episode of Criminal Minds, and just had two of our home raised pigs butchered. I like the security of knowing how the animals were raised. We started raising our own beef when I saw a sign for Jersey bull calves $20. I bought one and took it home...then called hubby. Thankfully, he said why didn't you get two. We are fortunate to have a couple acres and he was grass fed( the steer not my Hubby). Raising him for a year cost us about $200. Like I said people are slowly catching on that spending more on healthier food will save them more later. Getting things in place for yourself and then slowly expanding is a good idea.

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  14. Hey. Got a dumb question.. I have a 5*8 layin house with a 40*50 run.have bout 30 chickens. am I maken fecal soup? Lol thanks

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    1. Lol! Not if you are giving them good, fresh things to eat. Can you move the run at all?

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    2. No mam.. they get layer pellets and plenty of clean fresh water.. was think of planting something I could grow and give em ..

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