Cackellac 1312
Cackelac 812
Cackelac 322
Raising Poultry

Pasture Poultry
Production Pointers

A New Production Model
In the last several decades, in a movement pioneered by Virginian grazier Joel Salatin, many country folk are going back to raising poultry outdoors. But we have advanced beyond the chicken wire run, or free ranging barnyard birds in Old MacDonald fashion. Moveable shelters offer protection from weather and from predators. Moving them daily also gives the chickens a controlled portion of fresh pasture instead of the dusty run or barnyard of poultry that stays close to the shelter of the farm buildings. Chickens raised in a portable pen and moved regularly, eat grass, legumes, forbs and insects to supplement their diet, and typically consume less grain. If they are crowded or not moved regularly, the feed consumption will noticeably increase. We will give some suggestions for raising the most common types of poultry.

Laying Hens
Egg layers are probably the easiest to raise and are very popular. Their basic needs are feed, water, a place to roost for the night, and a place to lay their eggs. Layers consume up to 50% less feed when they are moved out to pasture. Pullets can be bought ready to lay, usually 19-20 weeks old, or you can buy chicks and raise them yourself. Raising layer chicks is the same as for meat chickens – they need to be brooded with a heat lamp or thermostatic-ally controlled propane brooder for a few weeks. Then you can move them outside in a pasture poultry shelter. Pullets are fed starter and grower feeds until they start to lay eggs, then you switch them over to layer ration. Always try to switch gradually by first mixing in the new feed for several days. Layers need less feed than meat chickens, so they also require somewhat less feeder space. One of our 4-foot long feeders is enough space in a 1312 shelter if you move the shelter and fill the feeders twice a day. If you want to have over 75 hens in a 1312 shelter, or if you will only move them once a day, you should have two 4-foot feeders. We put about 60-100 hens in a Cackellac model 1312 shelter and move them twice a day. Model 812 does 25-40. The more you crowd them, the less pasture they get, so they’ll need more grain. If you put 100 in a 1312 you should definitely plan to move them twice a day. You should allow a minimum of 6 inches of roost space per hen. In the 1312, that would mean one 14-foot roost bar for no more than 28 hens.
We prefer the nests without dividers, which have proven to accommodate more hens for their size. A four-foot nest serves up to 45 hens, so the 812 needs one, and two will do the 1312. Roll-out nests are a good insurance against hens pecking and eating eggs. The eggs roll out of the nest and under a cover at the front of the nest box where you can later gather them. The nests are lined with a special easily-cleaned pad, which eliminates the need to use bedding, and lets the eggs roll out easily.

Meat Chickens
It takes about 10 weeks on commercial feed to grow out one flock of White Rock meat birds to about 8 lbs, so you can do at least two flocks in
one season. The White Rock (Cornish cross) cockerels are the most commonly used for high production. These are readily available at standard hatcheries and will have a larger amount of breast meat. Specialty hatcheries have traditional ‘dual purpose’ breeds and crosses, that grow slower than White Rocks and therefore have tastier meat.

You need a brooding room that is safe from cats, rats and weasels, etc. In the summer you can even start the chicks right in the pasture shelter, if you have the End-Closure kit installed. We also highly recommend that you add a layer of double-bubble foil insulation under the tarp. This can be gotten from a local building supply store, in 4' and 8' widths. The 8' width is easier to work with. Cut the pieces to length and tape them together. You just need to loosen the tarp, and work this sheet between the hoops and the tarp. You may want to tape it to the hoops to keep it from sliding around. This greatly increases heating efficiency, and keeps condensation from dripping from the roof. Be aware that it will be a little darker with the opaque layer in the roof, but we do leave it in for the summer; the light still comes in the ends.
It is important to get rid of any source of drafts at ground level. Eliminating square corners is also a good idea, so they don’t pile up in the corner to keep warm and end up smothering each other. Bed them with newspapers to start, or fine shavings. Later you can use coarser shavings or straw if you want. The chicks need to be brooded under heat lamps, or better, a thermostatically controlled propane brooder. Start at 33 degrees Celsius and adjust as needed as they grow mare hardy. They usually need 2-3 weeks of heat before moving them out to pasture, depending on the weather.

Use chick starter ration for 3-4 weeks, then you can gradually switch them over to grower feed. Feed them as much as they want, being sure to provide enough feeder space per bird. Two of our large 4-foot feeders are enough for up to 100 meat birds. The round hopper feeders have more feed capacity but only half the feeding space of a 4-foot pan type feeder, so they may restrict the feed consumption. Also, if you are moving the shelter before the feeder is empty, you have to move the extra weight of the feed as well. Therefore we prefer the pan type feeders. We grow them to 5-9 pounds dressed weight, which is 7- 13 pounds live weight. Dressed weight is about 70% of live weight. Chickens prefer short forage, preferably less than 10 inches; this is also higher in protein.

Turkeys are notoriously hard to start off, but after they have been brooded for 3-4 weeks they can be moved out to pasture and usually will have minimal problems then. They need more heat when brooding, starting at 35-37 degrees Celsius and adjusting as needed. If they all huddle under the brooder, raise the temperature; if they avoid being under the brooder they are too warm, and you need to lower the heat. It's best not to use fine sawdust for bedding, as they may eat it. Be sure to have lots of feeders and waterers close to them, because turkeys have trouble learning to eat. You can try putting marbles in the feeder to attract them to the feed. Give them a high protein diet to start. Turkeys are agressive foragers, so once they are on pasture, they won't need as much feed.
If you plan to raise them to 15-20 lbs dressed weight, you can put about 45 turkeys in the Cackellac 1312, or 15 in the 812. If you want to grow them bigger you would reduce the amount accordingly.

Ducks and Geese
Use a higher protein diet for starting ducks and geese. After moving them out, they get some protein from pasture. They eat lots of grass, so you need to move them regularly. Put about 60 ducks or 40 geese in a Cackellac model 1312; and 25 ducks or 15 geese in the 812.

Further Information
The purpose of this article is to answer from our perspective some commonly asked questions. But do make use of the many specific resources
that are now available on the subject. We will mention a few to get you started. Joel Salatin’s book, Pastured Poultry Profits, has been the standby reference for several decades (www.polyfacefarms.com).  Raising Poultry on Pasture by American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) is another excellent newer guide. The APPPA itself has good information as well. (Phone : 570-584-2309, website 
To read more, sign up above to get our complete "Cackellog", which contains a section on marketing and profitability and other helps to your pastured poultry enterprise.
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