There is nothing new about raising chickens, whether for meat or for eggs, on pasture. I recently saw an old black and white photo of chicken tractors on pasture in the 1930s in Jefferson County, WV. Humans have had chickens with them long before we began writing and recording our histories. It is easy to confine a flock of chickens in a coop and run and let them scratch around on feed, dirt and the bugs that run around in there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and more people should have chickens. They are fantastic!
But why on pasture?
Deep Mountain Farm gets their chickens out on pasture where they not only eat fresh grasses, scratch through cow and sheep dung, but also eat more varieties of bugs and dead animals that give them a more diverse diet. We know from the start that eating a diverse diet is not only healthier for us, but makes us more encouraged to seek out and try new or different things. Well, in that regard, we aren’t that different from the chicken. We rotate our small flock in our egg-shack, which is a mobile coop on wheels, around our pasture where they often follow our small flock of sheep and herd of cows. This not only gives the chickens more varieties of bugs and fresh grasses, but it helps reduce the amount of flies and other parasites that are born from cow and sheep dung, all the while filling their bellies. It also makes them forage more than in a simple confinement run, which in turn reduces the amount of fat in the hen. Remember, a healthy chicken lays a healthy egg. And a healthy chicken means no antibiotics and other growth hormones that are routinely given to hens in large confinements or CAFOs. We don’t give our hens any of these, because we don’t have to!
It should come without saying that better raised foods are better for you and the environment. Pasture raised eggs contain twice as much omega-3 fat, three times more vitamin D, four times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene than eggs from hens raised on traditional feed alone, according to a study by Pennsylvania State University. Rotating chickens on pasture also helps mix their manure into the soil. Chicken manure is high in lots of things, but really high in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (more than cow, sheep and horse manure). We practice regenerative agriculture methods and use our chickens to replenish a depleted and poor soil from years of neglect and haying. Chicken manure is also a great way to add organic matter and increase water retention.
We sale our 100% pasture raised eggs by the dozen and are available for on-farm pick up, or at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. If you are interested in coming and learning more, please contact us to schedule a farm visit.