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Chicken farming and meat quality


Nathan
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Interesting to read, and something to keep in mind. However, "battery" chickens probably sounds a lot like commercial chicken farming in the US. As one commenter on the article wrote, I'll take my omega-3 acids from another source than rely on commercially raised chickens. And if cholesterol is a problem then I'll eat fewer chickens.

The chickens may be raised solely for our consumption but that doesn't mean they need to be grown in deplorable conditions. Then again, to some this is an irrelevant.

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as someone who actually had chickens for three years while growing up (we lived on a hobby farm briefly in Vancouver)....I can assure you that chickens, especially hens, seem to prefer being inside, in the dark and in extremely close proximity to one another and to their own droppings. they just don't like open air.

indeed, my understanding is that "free range" chickens have access to the outdoors but very few actually avail themselves of it. that classification is a joke.

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as someone who actually had chickens for three years while growing up (we lived on a hobby farm briefly in Vancouver)....I can assure you that chickens, especially hens, seem to prefer being inside, in the dark and in extremely close proximity to one another and to their own droppings.  they just don't like open air.

indeed, my understanding is that "free range" chickens have access to the outdoors but very few actually avail themselves of it.  that classification is a joke.

I have read that "free range" can be something of a misnomer. However, there's a difference between having hens being indoors, in the dark, and in proximity to each other AND their droppings versus being forcefully cramped into steel cages, having their beaks and toes seared, cut off, or what have you. I'm sure it's quite different than the hobby farm you lived on.

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as someone who actually had chickens for three years while growing up (we lived on a hobby farm briefly in Vancouver)....I can assure you that chickens, especially hens, seem to prefer being inside, in the dark and in extremely close proximity to one another and to their own droppings.  they just don't like open air.

indeed, my understanding is that "free range" chickens have access to the outdoors but very few actually avail themselves of it.  that classification is a joke.

Well, Nathan, as someone who raised chickens in rural Malaysia, I had a very different experience. I found that none of the chickens hung out in the coop except to sleep at night, and all of them, male and female alike, loved to scratch and peck at food and walk around the yards. Maybe your chickens in Vancouver were taking refuge inside because the weather is a lot colder there than in equatorial Malaysia?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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...I found that none of the chickens hung out in the coop except to sleep at night...

I'm no expert, but the little I've seen of old-fashioned, rural chickens, they behave as you describe -- even in cold climates. The "free range" label might be a perfectly sensible, and honest label -- but only when applied to such small-time operations.

When it comes to the big factories, it really is a joke -- what Nathan describes is accurate: The chickens are hatched inside (of course), and spend their first few weeks inside. Then if a little door is opened, allowing the chickens to go outside -- voila, they're free-range all of a sudden. If they go outside, or stay inside, they're free range. And of course they don't go outside.

I mean, watch the Animal Planet and you see em trying to lure tiger cubs outside to go outside and explore -- that's scary stuff, going outside when you've spent your entire existence inside. And chickens are even less adventerous than tigers.

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My girls are outside all day, unless the weather is really bad. I guess technically they are free range, because they have a 30 by 30 pen, but the eggs taste better and are brighter orange when the girls are allowed the run of the place.

But, you can either have chickens running loose, or you can have flowerbeds and vegetables. Not both.

sparrowgrass
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One of the problems (or, heh, "challenges") in chicken farming is, when you start getting lots of chickens, gathering them when they are due to be gathered. Chickens do not like to be gathered for slaughter. Understandably.

In large-scale operations, if you read chicken farming magazines (don't ask :biggrin: ) they are always trying to come up with better methods for this. This is one reason for keeping chickens in cages. If they *are* actually free-range, running around loose, they must be captured. Right now there is a big vaccuum machine that does this job. You scoot around with this huge tractor-like thing, sucking chickens into the vaccuum extension. Not kind, to the birds. Some are mangled. But it is an easier way of management than to have ten or twenty guys running around in circles trying to catch their bird all day long.

There is an in-between method that is being advised for those who wish to have the chickens outside, actually being "free-range" while still maintaining a better control while avoiding the vaccuuming scenario.

You build spacious chicken coops in a pyramid shape from 2 by 4's, cover them with wire, fill them with your chickens, then hook up the coops to your tractor and drag them out to the field each day. The bottoms of the coops are mostly wire, so the birds can peck up insects and greens from the field. Then you haul them back in to the barn at night.

It's advised that the cages be taken to a different spot in your field each day to assure variety in the bird's diet. Of all the methods I've heard of in larger-scale chicken production for meat, this seems the most fair to the birds, keeping quality high in terms of being "free-range", while keeping the human owners from running around themselves like uh. . ."chickens with their heads cut off" while attempting, de facto, to do exactly that to the birds.

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my friends' chickens also enjoy walking about outside. i can't help but think that those conditions are preferable than factory farmed chickens' conditions. i'm not sure what "free range" means as a classification, but i have to think it's not entirely a "joke."

they do go in at night, as that's when the foxes come out.

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In large-scale operations, if you read chicken farming magazines (don't ask  :biggrin: ) they are always trying to come up with better methods for this. This is one reason for keeping chickens in cages. If they *are* actually free-range, running around loose, they must be captured. Right now there is a big vaccuum machine that does this job. You scoot around with this huge tractor-like thing, sucking chickens into the vaccuum extension. Not kind, to the birds. Some are mangled. But it is an easier way of management than to have ten or twenty guys running around in circles trying to catch their bird all day long.

I just had to check this out.

The Lewis/Mola model PH2000 can catch up to 150 chickens per minute!

Maybe raising chickens is one of those things like making laws and sausages; the less we know about the process, the better?

SB :huh:

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Right now there is a big vaccuum machine that does this job. You scoot around with this huge tractor-like thing, sucking chickens into the vaccuum extension. Not kind, to the birds.

This reminds me of the rabbit-capturing machine in Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Truth is stranger...

Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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(Nathan @ Dec 5 2006, 11:57 AM)

as someone who actually had chickens for three years while growing up (we lived on a hobby farm briefly in Vancouver)....I can assure you that chickens, especially hens, seem to prefer being inside, in the dark and in extremely close proximity to one another and to their own droppings.  they just don't like open air.

indeed, my understanding is that "free range" chickens have access to the outdoors but very few actually avail themselves of it.  that classification is a joke.

I have chickens and they leave their coop and roam around their large pen all day. One flies over the fence and escapes almost daily. Once the dogs are in they can't wait to go out for their evening "constitutional" around the property before dusk. They also show no interest in their own feces.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I have chickens and they leave their coop and roam around their large pen all day. One flies over the fence and escapes almost daily. Once the dogs are in they can't wait to go out for their evening "constitutional" around the property before dusk. They also show no interest in their own feces.

You, of course, have the more cultured Napa chickens - naturally they enjoy an evening passegiata and no interest in anything scatalogical. I would expect no less.:wink:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I have chickens and they leave their coop and roam around their large pen all day. One flies over the fence and escapes almost daily. Once the dogs are in they can't wait to go out for their evening "constitutional" around the property before dusk. They also show no interest in their own feces.

You, of course, have the more cultured Napa chickens - naturally they enjoy an evening passegiata and no interest in anything scatalogical. I would expect no less.:wink:

my friends' (non-napa chickens), too. not sure what the expectations would be there, however.

Edited by tommy (log)
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My girls are outside all day, unless the weather is really bad.  I guess technically they are free range, because they have a 30 by 30 pen, but the eggs taste better and are brighter orange when the girls are allowed the run of the place.

But, you can either have chickens running loose, or you can have flowerbeds and vegetables.  Not both.

Depends what you're growing. The chickens I was dealing with were completely free-range and wandered the equivalent of blocks away. Not only did various wild edible plants grow in the area (including wild lemongrass), but the following crops were growing, either in front of my house, in the side yard, or just outside the kitchen:

Cashew trees, limau nipis (fragrant lime) trees, coconut palms, a papaya tree, an asam gelugor (called "tamarind" in Malaysia, but actually a type of fruit) tree, long beans, chilis, turmeric, ginger, sweet potatoes, and probably some other things I can't remember (regular potatoes?). None of those crops were at risk from the chickens.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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My girls are outside all day, unless the weather is really bad.  I guess technically they are free range, because they have a 30 by 30 pen, but the eggs taste better and are brighter orange when the girls are allowed the run of the place.

But, you can either have chickens running loose, or you can have flowerbeds and vegetables.  Not both.

Depends what you're growing. The chickens I was dealing with were completely free-range and wandered the equivalent of blocks away. Not only did various wild edible plants grow in the area (including wild lemongrass), but the following crops were growing, either in front of my house, in the side yard, or just outside the kitchen:

Cashew trees, limau nipis (fragrant lime) trees, coconut palms, a papaya tree, an asam gelugor (called "tamarind" in Malaysia, but actually a type of fruit) tree, long beans, chilis, turmeric, ginger, sweet potatoes, and probably some other things I can't remember (regular potatoes?). None of those crops were at risk from the chickens.

I wondered about how devastating chickens would be on a garden. I've been thinking about adding two to my small, suburban yard for eggs (the eglu looks interesting albeit ridiculously expensive), but wouldn't want them to wreak havoc on my plants.

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In my experience, they love new greens and not so much the established plants. But they are going for bugs and if you have any kind of irrigation system, you can kiss it goodbye. They just aren't very considerate, which isn't wise considering how good they taste in a taco.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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A big part of the meat bird issue is breed. Just having a door open for birds to free range doesn't mean that a bird that has been breed to sit, eat, drink and sleep we go roaming around. We raised several hundred of French breeds this past season and there is a world of difference in their taste. SInce they roam around and forage they contain much less fat.

Eggs and meat from a well kept flock are not the same animal as industrial organic.

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A big part of the meat bird issue is breed.  Just having a door open for birds to free range doesn't mean that a bird that has been breed to sit, eat, drink and sleep we go roaming around.  We raised several hundred of French breeds this past season and there is a world of difference in their taste.  SInce they roam around and forage they contain much less fat. 

Eggs and meat from a well kept flock are not the same animal as industrial organic.

What he said.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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My chickens, when they are roaming free, love to scratch in any freshly turned dirt, with devasting impact on any plants nearby.

They roll in any dusty areas, making holes quite similar to those dug by medium sized dogs.

They also see any type of mulch as a gift from heaven sent down to chickens, and scratch it ALL out of the perennial beds and onto the lawn or walkways. All. Every bit. I couldn't do as well with a rake.

They peck holes in each and every tomato or strawberry, blackberry or pepper.

Even in the winter, when the garden is put to bed, they uproot the garlic and scratch the straw off the strawberry bed.

And they poop on the porch. :unsure:

So, even if the eggs taste better and the yolks are as orange as a clementine when they roam free, my chickens must make do with the area inside their pen.

Mukki, I have on occasion had one or two escape and spend the day out--one or two chickens can do a lot of damage. I know people, however, who treat their chickens like pets, and "babysit" them when they are outdoors. You can do that, as long as you don't get distracted.

sparrowgrass
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  • 4 weeks later...

I kept chickens for several years, and while they are a hazard to any tender food crop, I allowed them to roam around whenever possible with supervision. (Their enclosure was a large pen with a tall fence... by itself not adequate protection from local SoCal predators: raccoons, coyotes, hawks, owls.) As night fell they would take themselves into their coop.

They do provide excellent pest control, even eating snails and slugs, another bane of sproutlings. However without said supervision they can, as mentioned, decimate a garden.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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I've been around chickens when they go "broody" and they do seem to like close quarters and quiet dark. Got pecked often enough.

They are great pest control, but boy, they can clean out your seedlings in an hour as well! I've seen them move mulch very efficiently, as the earlier poster noted.

Mom and Dad kept Gunea's free roaming for pest control, and kept the chickens cooped for the most part. Dad did keep the coop clean. There were a few small bantams Dad kept for entertainment that were allowed to roam, but they didn't seem as interested in decimating the vegetable garden like the layers and the eating chickens.

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