Thursday, December 3, 2009

Farm Camp - Flying Pigs Farm Chickens

Flying Pigs Farm raise two types of chickens: broilers (meat birds) and laying hens (egg birds). Our first stop was a short pickup truck ride down the road to the hoop house where their Cornish Cross broilers live.

The chicks are three day old when they arrive on the farm via the US Postal Service. They live in the hoop house until they have “feathered out”, about four or five weeks. After acquiring a good set of feathers the birds are capable of being exposed to the elements and moved outdoors to pasture where they live the remainder of their days. At eight weeks and five pounds the birds are ready to be processed.

By the end of October when the weather turns cold, the farm is done raising broilers until the spring. This year they finished 2,500 birds.

The broilers are well taken care of during those two months. They dine on corn and soy feed while indoors and add fresh picking from the pasture to their diet when outside. Both indoors and outdoors the birds’ food and water are placed at opposite ends of their enclosure to make certain they get exercise. Jen and Mike also place the water and feed at varying heights so the birds don’t have to strain to get at it.

As on most sustainable-minded farms, the Flying Pigs laying hens move around quite a bit, following the pigs through the pastures in their portable henhouse, known as an eggmobile.

It might not sound appetizing to us, but laying hens love to eat bugs and grubs and scratch through the droppings left by the pigs which helps to fertilize the soil and keep the pastures clean. They get plenty of exercise and fresh air during the day, returning to the eggmobile at night for protection and to lay their eggs.

Flying PIgs Farm eggs were voted best Greenmarket eggs by New York Magazine in 2008. Their yolks are a beautiful orange, an indication of lots of omega-3’s and vitamin A.

Not long after I arrived I began to hear talk of “boxing the chickens”. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, although I had a feeling it might have to do with the trip we had planned to the slaughterhouse. I decided not to ask questions - ignorance is bliss! - and instead went on to visit the pigs.

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