This article was first published on backyardchickenscoop.com.
There are only a few fulfilling experiences in our lives and one of those experiences is the pleasure of doing things yourself and seeing results out of it. One of these fulfilling experiences is the idea of having your own organic farm in your backyard with a variety of organic plants and not to forget organic poultry.
But is it really possible to start an organic poultry farm in your backyard? Or are your backyard chickens organic?
In this piece, we will look at some of the major aspects of growing organic chicken poultry in your backyard and will try and find answers to all such pertinent questions around the same. To begin with, let us find out more about organic poultry.
What is organic poultry?
The majority of the poultry in the United States makes use of the conventional methods of raising chicken and as such in these conventional methods, the food that is used to feed the chicken is of the conventional nature as well.
More than 95 per cent of the chicken in the US is obtained from conventional poultry methods, most of it from the backyards of conventional households. Until recently it was all good and nobody bothered that much about where the food was coming from. But ever since the rise in the cases of health and hygiene concerns out of many food materials there is a lot of focus around the source and the manufacture of food.
So what is organic chicken? Organic chicken basically is the chicken that is fed organic food. Apart from that, there are certain other conditions that make your farm an organic poultry farm. In order to be certified with the Organic label, chicken farms are required to follow a strict set of guidelines along with an annual inspection that is conducted by a third party body that certifies the farms.
These standards that are required to be met include the following:
- The chicken must be raised following the organic methods within two days of their hatching which mean as soon as they are ready to be fed, they are to be fed organic food right from the word go.
- Then the next thing that is checked is the feed that they will be eating for the whole of their lives. The chicken is to be fed organic feed for their entire life spans.
- The next important thing that you will need to ensure as the owner of an organic farm is the fact that no chemicals or drugs or hormone injections are to be given to the chicken during their growth.
- And the most important thing that makes your chicken really organic is the fact that they must have access to outdoors. They must be allowed to roam in the open in nature at least for some duration in the day.
What is an organic feed?
I spoke about organic feed above. So what exactly is organic feed? Organic feed is basically the feed that is made from animal waste or by-products, and other food that is not grown or is subjected to pesticide use. So, basically, organic feed is the feed that is obtained through natural means without any artificial chemicals or hazardous substances being used.
Having seen the pre-requisites of an organic poultry farm, let us now find out how chicken can be raised organically.
How do you raise organic chicken?
Raising organic chicken can be a really satisfying experience, given the fact that almost everything that it involves is organic and brings one closer to nature and embracing natural ways of doing farming. When it comes to raising chicken there can be certain things on the basis of which the entire poultry raising activity can be divided which can be described as under:
1. Choose the right chicken breed
When it comes to raising organic chicken in your backyard, you need to understand that there will be a limitation of space and availability of other predators such as dogs which can hamper the free and outdoor movement of your birds. Also, you need to ensure that you choose the breed based on the requirements you have. If you are raising chicken for eggs, there will be different breeds and if you are raising chicken for meat, the breeds of the chicken would be different. And these different breeds would have to be taken care of and maintained differently.
The egg-laying ones would be lighter in their weights and can take a flight or jump through your backyard fencing, so you might need to clip their wings. The meat yielding ones would be heavier and more docile so they would be easier to control and keep but basic hygiene and upkeep are still required.
2. Determine the right number
The next thing that is important to be determined is the number of chickens you are needing to raise in your backyard. You would not want to overcrowd your backyard with more chickens than you can possibly handle. So, deciding on a number to fulfil your needs is important.
If you are raising organic chicken purely for eggs then a layer of 6 should suffice for a family. However, you will have to take into consideration the fact that your hens would not be laying eggs all around the year. So egg production would decrease. And when it comes to meat, you would know how much by when would you need and accordingly you can plan your purchase.
3. Buying the chickens
The next step rather is to buy the right breed and the right numbers from the right place. Here we are talking about everything being organic and so you will need to make sure you buy the kittens from an authentic place where only organically raised and fed kittens are available. You will also need to consider the cost and the budget and how many you actually need to buy to fulfil your consumption requirement.
A few other things that you need to consider while buying your chicken is, of course, your willingness to wait. You would need to determine if you can wait till the kittens grow to harvest meat from them.
Based on that you can either buy 2-day old kittens or pullets which are at least 20 weeks or elder. Buying the 2-day old kittens is a cheaper option however it might not be the best one. The 2-day olds have a high mortality rate and may die if not taken care of properly or while in transit.
While if they survive and are raised organically they grow up to become a fit and fine organic chicken, if they fall ill or are not maintained, they die without any warning or chances of recovering. And one very important thing is to buy the chicken at the right time. The best time to buy them is the spring as they would be far happier to find a new home with greenery and new shoots than to find bad weather at a new place.
4. Choosing the right kind of chicken coop
If you want to grow your chicken organically and in the best way, you need to ensure that you provide them with good shelter. Providing your chicken with appropriate shelter or a coop is thus extremely important. These coops can be either very simple homemade arks or custom made coops. Your organic chicken farm coops should be able to provide the following few things to your chicken which are as follows:
- Protection from bad weather and predators such as foxes and other animals.
- A coop that is large enough to provide enough space that can provide them with the right space and enough warmth to each other.
- The coop should be well ventilated and should not be too much dry air.
- The coop has to be rightly faced to allow the morning sunshine but avoid the direct afternoon sun.
- A part of the coop has to be properly shaded so that the hens can rest when they need to.
You will need to however ensure that you have the right number of coops to accommodate your chicken in your organic farm. You will also need to separate the sick ones from the rest so that all of them do not get sick.
5. Choosing the best chicken feed
The next and one of the most important of all things is, of course, to choose the best organic chicken feed to feed your chicken. The best organic chicken feed comprises feed made from animal by-products, organically grown food grains and other food materials. This organic feed can also be made from fish and other items such as oysters, grit, etc.
As we mentioned earlier, organic simply means the food that is produced from organic, non-chemical methods. So make sure you provide your chicken with the best feed whatsoever.
6. Providing enough water
This is another important aspect of maintaining an organic chicken farm. You will have to ensure that you maintain a proper and constant supply of clean water for your birds. Your chickens are more than 50 per cent water. So, make sure you give them a proper supply of freshwater to drink. They are unable to perspire and sweat as well and as such, they need water to cool themselves down. If they do not get water, they will probably die.
7. Taking proper care
This is something that you must do without even mentioning it. I have had instances where not paying heed to early signs have led to the death of many of my birds. Hence, it is important that you do not neglect any signs of sickness. If you find early signs of sickness in any of your birds, just examine them carefully. Opt for some natural and home remedies at first to avoid any kind of chemical or antibiotic intake. If that, however, does not work, then the next step would be to ask an expert to visit.
That covers pretty much how you can raise chickens on an organic farm. All of this revolves around the use of organic methods, feed and products during the entire life cycle of your chicken and obviously some basic care that involves feeding them little and in small intervals, clean shelters and coops, proper water supply, and regular monitoring to recognize any sickness.
You must have by now observed the importance of organic feed in organic chicken farming. How is organic feed different from the non-organic feed?
Let us see the differences in the next section.
Difference between the organic and non-organic chicken feed.
By now you should be able to tell the differences yourself, there are some very prominent differences between the two.
Organic feed means that the grains are naturally grown and are not grown from genetically modified seeds or are not contaminated in any way by the use of pesticides or insecticides. However, these organic feeds can be allowed to be spiked with non-organic nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, amino acids, etc. However, there can be no use of drugs, antibiotics or any kind of hormones in the feeds.
Organic chicken feed obviously is far more beneficial for the health of the chicken and obviously to the end consumers of chicken that are human beings. You are what you eat. So if the meat that you eat is organic, you are surely going to reap the benefits of it.
One major difference between organic feed and conventional feed is, of course, the price. Organic feed is comparatively more expensive than conventional feed because of the costs of production of such feed and making it commercially available and viable.
Having seen the differences, let’s find out which organic chicken feed is the best.
You can however do your own research and pick the best one that suits your chicken’s needs and requirements.
If you want to learn more about raising organic chickens you should read this amazing post over at backyardchickenscoop.com…