Season-Extension Tips for Raising Pastured Poultry

| 1/13/2016 9:54:00 AM

Tags: pastured meat, raising livestock, poultry, chicken coops, backyard chickens, young farmers, Kristen Kilfoyle, New Hampshire,

Up here in New Hampshire and New England in general, we farmers (be it animal, vegetable or what have you) are all about the season extension. We routinely risk snow in April and frost in October, which isn’t optimal when it comes to raising pastured broilers as our livelihood.

I vividly remember our first batch of chicks arriving in late April of 2015 and it was 36 degrees outside. Since baby chicks during their first few days need temperatures upwards of 86 degrees, this was unequivocally uncool. Having come through a season of raising around 3,000 pastured birds, there are some season extending tidbits we learned along the way from both personal experience and colleagues that I would like to pass along.


In the cool temperatures of late April, we found ourselves worrying about chicks being chilled. October presented the similar issues, as we encountered our first hard frost towards the middle of the month and cold nights in the end of September and were concerned about putting birds from the brooder directly into the harsher temperatures. In times like these, your brooder is extremely important.

For our April brand new chicks, we worked very hard to keep these babies warm. Very young birds who have not had a chance to grow feathers are extremely susceptible to cold. Being exposed to temperature fluctuations at a young age is stressful for birds and can impair development then and later in life.

I suggest heating up your brooder several hours before your chicks arrive so they go straight from transport to a warm dry area with food and water. Turning on the heat source a few minutes prior will most definitely result in chilly chicks crowding around the heat instead of eating, drinking and sleeping. Keep an eye on your birds, and make sure they don’t get too hot either.

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