Raising Chickens 101|
We are in the business of connecting people to their food — we want you to have full disclosure about your meat source! So here we go . . .
Tending animals is a 24/7 job. Our livelihood depends on the success of each flock of birds. For Kevin, growing up on a farm meant the livestock and birds come first. He has never known any different. The barn is his first stop every morning and last one at night before lights out – just to make sure all is well.
Prior to a new flock of chicks, the barn is washed, disinfected and fresh straw bedding is put down. Drinkers and feeders are cleaned and new feed is unloaded into bins.
Our chicks arrive shortly after hatching from a hatchery near Grandora, SK, about 64 km from our farm. We quickly unload them into a warm barn, bedded with fresh straw, near full feeders and readily available drinkers. The barn temperature is about 32 degrees Celsius for the new chicks.
· Temperature – As the chicks mature and grow feathers, the barn temperature is reduced daily and eventually the doors are opened to the outside, weather permitting, so the chickens can go outside.
· Free Run – Chickens are free run in the barn and outside within a fenced area to keep predators out.
· Access to outdoors – We do not let the chickens out in cold or wet weather (they’re just like us, they don’t like it!) nor do they go out during major bird migration periods to minimize the risk of exposure to avian influenza.
· Lighting – Chickens are bred to grow extremely fast. If they eat too much too fast, their hearts and legs can’t keep up with their growth. To manage their growth, we provide the chickens with 8 hours of darkness at night. When it’s dark, a chicken will simply sit down and not eat. It will rest. This helps slow the bird’s growth so that it’s heart and legs can keep up with its weight gain. This is why it takes us longer to raise a bird to market weight than a conventional producer.
Our chickens have free access to a 100% vegetarian diet comprised mainly of wheat, flax, peas, canola and/or soybean meal, vitamins and minerals. We do NOT use any growth promoting medications or hormones (hormones are not allowed in chicken production in Canada), nor animal byproducts in our feed.
We also believe that the flax and peas provide a probiotic benefit to the birds with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid additions. This is helpful because we do not medicate our birds.
We check the barns and chicken runs twice per day, monitoring the environment, health and growth of the birds. All of this is recorded on a flock sheet kept on file.
OFFSAP – On Farm Food Safety Assurance Program
We are the only OFFSAP certified Free Range poultry farm in the province! This nationally recognized, third party audit system by Chicken Farmers of Canada analyzes and approves all our production practices for animal welfare and food safety.
Transportation to processing
If there is a lucky side of this for the chickens, it’s the fact that they travel only about 100 metres from the barn to the butcher shop — no lengthy truck ride. From an animal welfare perspective, this is less stressful!
Birds are processed in our on-farm butcher shop once they reach about 5 lb. live weight. It takes us three weeks to clean out a barn and by the end, the birds are close to 8 lb. or more so we have a range of bird sizes for customers.
A third-party government inspector examines every bird and audits our facility for cleanliness, work flow, air flow, product movement and freezer/cooler temperatures. This is all recorded and reported through Saskatchewan’s Domestic Meat Inspection Program administered by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Note: Contrary to popular belief, it’s currently not the law in Saskatchewan to have meat inspected pre and/or post slaughter; it’s a voluntary system, but we believe that animal welfare and food safety are of highest priority. Inspection assures you, the customer, that we are doing exactly what we promised — someone else verified it!
Cost of Production Pricing
Finally, we base our pricing on what it costs us to raise a chicken (feed, labour, utilities etc.) plus a margin so that we can support our family farm. Our prices only change when our cost of inputs changes.
We employ 5 full-time and approximately 20 part-time people on our little farm and butcher shop. We strive to provide meaningful, safe and well-compensated work to those folks, earn a living for ourselves and provide sustainably raised, delicious meats to our customers at a reasonable price that reflects the provenance and quality of the meat.
At the end of the day, we are all responsible to YOU, our consumer-bosses, who choose to “buy what you believe” and support local farm food. Without you, none of this would work.
The best part of our day is when we hear stories of how a shared meal brought people together, or how the chicken tasted “just like I remembered when Grandma would roast a chicken” or how guests raved over the juicy, tender holiday turkey.
So, from our family’s farm to you, we thank you and say, “welcome to our farm”.