Every Chick Deserves A Mother

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ducklings at tank

Eggs in a basket

For years I have been on a quest to find eggs and chicken raised in the most humane way possible. I used to buy free range and organic chicken until I realize that those terms meant little when it came to how chickens were raised. Most “free range” chickens spend no time outdoors. Instead they are most likely chickens raised in broilers in crowded conditions. And all “organic chicken” means is that the chickens are fed organic feed. And practically any chicken you buy in a supermarket and even a farmers market is a cornish-cross chicken which has a voracious appetite and does nothing but eat and sit around all day. They eat so much and gain weight so rapidly that many of them break their legs when they try to walk, and others get so fat that they get around by pushing themselves on their overdeveloped breasts.

I wanted something else. I wanted chicken which had a wonderful life  outdoors.

Back in 2006 I started raising chicks and when those hens matured and started laying eggs, I realized that the way to have the most delicious eggs possible was to give hens as much space as possible. I realized that what hens need to create vibrant eggs was lots of exercise, lots of sunshine, and gardens and pasture and woodland to explore.
Chickens-Peach with two chicks

Then in 2009 one of the chicks grew up to be a rooster and in the spring of 2010, while away on vacation, Madeleine, a Barred Rock hen, began sitting on a clutch of her eggs she’d stashed in a nest underneath a porch. When they hatched and I got to see how much the chicks loved having a mother and how devoted she was to raising her brood, I realized that chicks really need their mothers.
Chickens-Madeleine and chicks

Since then I’ve had mother hens hatch and raise broods every year. I’ve also come to realize that if you really want the most delectable, most favorable, most incredible chicken possible, you need to let chickens take their time to hatch and raise their chicks. It takes many months for these chickens to grow up, but the wait is worth it.

After being raised for several months by their mothers, these chicks roam acres of pasture and forest, taking four to six months and more until they are fully mature. But the end result is a roasting chicken of a quality unavailable anywhere else.

These chickens spend their whole day rummaging through grass and brush looking for good things to eat. Their favorite foods are earthworms, bugs, field mice, berries, and grapes. I supplement their diet with certified organic grains and feed.

Since they get so much exercise, most of their meat is on their legs and thighs. Their meat is dense and incredibly juicy when roasted. Their fat is a brilliant yellow. Their bones are like ivory. They are extremely healthy birds and their meat shows this.

I only raise a limited quantity each year. At no time does the density of my chickens exceed 50 birds per acre. Usually it is much less than that. When you buy chickens raised in broilers, even so called “free range” chicken, those birds are raised 20,000 to 40,000 birds per acre. And many of the “pastured” chickens which are sold are raised in chicken tractors measuring no more than 10 x 20 feet into which farmers place 35 to 70 chickens. The chicken tractors are moved so the chickens have new pasture, but at no time do the chickens get to travel more than 20 feet in any direction. The chickens I raise are free to roam as far as they want. There is nothing to constrict them from taking a walk through the woods or traveling to the far corner of the pasture.
Every Chick Deserves a Mother

I know of no one else who is raising chicken this way. You won’t believe how good they taste.

For details, give me a call at 360-202-0386, text me at the same number, or email me at either bowfarm@me.com or theman@amanandhishoe.com.

22 Responses to Every Chick Deserves A Mother

  1. theramblingmaiden says:

    Hello sir, I’m a literature student who very recently started following your blog and I really admire your writing style. It drew me into stories of your chickens and ducks which I doubt I would have been interested in otherwise. How do you manage to make your writing so engaging and welcoming at the same time?
    I really enjoy reading your posts after long days of study and it makes me happy to know your animals and trees are doing well. Please keep writing and take care.

  2. michaelbade says:

    Did you go to CAJ?

    • I went to CAJ for one year for 8th grade.

      • michaelbade says:

        Anne Ediger mentioned you. I went to CAJ 68-73. We have a shared place in La Conner and live in Seattle. I know Bow from my co inertial fishing days and my wife is an artist and we have been to Haley openings in Bow.

  3. Dojoc says:

    In your experience, are chickens funny? I ask because of the recent NYTimes science article Chickens Weren’t Always Dinner for Humans http://nyti.ms/1RwgPiG, that seems to suggest that chickens were used by humans for entertainment (e.g., deplorable cock fights) and possibly companionship or other social reasons long before they became a food source (because of evidence that they were buried with humans and lived in close proximity to humans as opposed to living apart in coops) . The article ends with the observation that chickens are funny. The article doesn’t mention the obvious practical uses of chickens for their eggs, but perhaps that is assumed.

    • Chickens can be comical and entertaining to watch. Early people may have kept them around to control bugs and pests. They consume vast quantities of bugs and help control rodent populations. They are good watch dogs in that they send out the alarm if they see predators approaching. People may have also kept them for their beauty. Older varieties of chickens have stunning plumage.

    • Another good reason to keep chickens around is that they keep the area free of fleas. Fleas don’t stand a chance when a flock of chickens is around.

      • Dojoc says:

        Thank you for the reply to my comment asking whether chickens are funny. The loving behavior of the mothers toward their chicks that your website reveals is certainly endearing. I did not realize that keeping chickens is good for flea control! Maybe that is why there is evidence of them living in close proximity to humans in pre-modern times. Another good reason to raise chickens, not to mention the chicken manure that is excellent in the garden. I do agree many chickens have beautiful plumage, especially after seeing your photos of chickens. One doesn’t often get to see chickens up close when one lives in the city. Your photos show chickens at their best. Thank you for posting them. If only all chickens were lucky enough to be treated as humanely as you treat your chickens.

  4. Judy says:

    HI Just finished reading Chicken Bits article from 06-12 about “Vegetarian Fed Pet Peeve #1”. Now this has long been a pet peeve of mine-though certainly not #1. I know that if chickens are properly free range they will eat bugs. We have lovely true free range chicken eggs from a local farmer. But She buys chicks (has for about 6 years–too hard to manage roosters as she is legally blind and about 76 yrs young.) and raises them for laying. Anyway. Deep in the article I caught this tidbit. A true free range chicken egg, such as you raise, cannot be hard boiled. Now we hard boil ours, but usually they are a few days old before we do so. I looked at your video about the perfect yolk. Lovely. But do your eggs hard boil, is my question? Just wondering.

    • I don’t have any problem hard boiling my eggs. What I do find, is that if I want eggs that peel easily after boiling, it’s best to let them sit a week before boiling. Eggs laid that day, tend to be hard to peel after boiling.

  5. Betty Roberts says:

    Thinning out my freezer so I can begin buying my chickens from you. Back surgery, clean freezer & buy. So exciting to find chickens truly raised naturally! Betty

  6. Teri says:

    I love your site and I made people aware of it on a report on the nation’s second largest producer of chicken. People who care should see this report. http://ecowatch.com/2014/06/27/buried-alive-chickens-investigation/

    • Thank you. I did read that article though I didn’t have the stomach to watch the video. The text was gruesome enough. On a happier note, two hens hatched chicks today. If you need to see images of happy chicks, click on the image:

  7. 7saturdays says:

    Sorry for double posting my comment above. By the way, I just love your blog. I’m living in Southern California right now, but I hope to one day to do exactly as you are. I enjoy your writing, it’s almost philosophical. Perhaps another title for this blog could have been Zen and the Art of Raising Chicks.

  8. 7saturdays says:

    Question for you Sir. My girlfriend and I were arguing whether brown eggs came from brown chickens – I said white chickens could lay brown eggs (and brown chickens could lay white eggs), which of us is correct? (When we were arguing, I immediately thought of asking you). Thank you.

    • The color of the chicken has nothing to do with the color of the egg. The Black Bresse chickens I have lay white eggs. Some of the white chickens I have which are a cross between a Buff Orpington (a yellow chicken) and a Wheaten Marans (a light brown chicken) lay very dark eggs. The Wheaten Marans I have lay the darkest of my eggs. You’ll find a handy chart here Henderson’s Handy Dandy Chicken Chart which shows various breeds of chickens and the color of the eggs they lay. It’s not a hard rule, but in general chickens with white earlobes tend to lay white eggs while chickens with red earlobes tend to lay brown eggs. There are exceptions.

      • 7saturdays says:

        An answer worthy of The Smithsonian – truly enjoyed reading it, particularly since I was correct. Keep blogging – this is my favorite blog. Looking at the chart now. Thank you very much!

  9. FH says:

    Thank you for this reply; it’s exactly what I had hoped to hear. If I’m able to keep chickens it will be on a small scale and they will have plenty of room. I’m more than willing to take the trouble you describe. I’m just emerging from total ignorance on the subject and really didn’t know that most people buy their chicks and raise them. I’ve visited a few of the places that sell them — very clean, very nice people, but the orphaned chicks are a little depressing. How strange that you should have to be making an argument that the hen is a better approach!

  10. FH says:

    This is a wonderful site. I live too far away (southern Oregon coast) to buy your eggs and chickens but hope to raise chickens myself on a small scale, once a few more pressing matters are taken care of. Your site is educational, but most of all encouraging to me. People hereabouts with chickens have all told me that they don’t breed them because they don’t like having roosters around. I haven’t seen mention of this on your site. Do you find it to be a problem? Clearly not an insurmountable one. That might make an interesting post. Meanwhile, I am sending a link to your site to people I know in your area.

    • Thank you for your interest. Roosters can be a problem. Some breeds of roosters are more aggressive than others. I’ve never had problems with them attacking me or other people. The main problems are roosters fighting with each other, and some roosters being too aggressive with the hens. So it is important to keep their numbers in check and to cull the roosters which are too aggressive.
      When you have hens hatching eggs, about half of the chicks will end up being roosters. When butchered between four to six months of age, they are excellent roasting birds. And by the time they are that age, it is clear which ones are the more aggressive and those are the ones that I cull.
      What I’ve found is that roosters like to hang out together as they grow up. When they are four to six months of age, they can form juvenile gangs, harassing the hens. So when that happens, it is time to cull them.
      Providing roosters with plenty of space makes a lot of difference. At night, roosters will roost close or even next to each other without a fuss. During the day, they all want their space, so as long as there is enough room that they can have their own territory, they will keep their distance from each other.
      Hens have their preferences, so different roosters will attract a different group of hens. What I find interesting, is that roosters seem to keep notes of which hens like them, and which hens won’t breed with them. And some roosters can’t stand it when a hen ignores them. The more a hen spurns them, the harder they’ll try to subdue her.
      The dynamics of a chicken society can be quite complex. Most chicken farmers don’t want to deal with complexity. Their goal is to sell as much chicken meat as efficiently as possible, and roosters do get in the way. But, if you’re going to have your chickens hatch eggs, you’ve got to keep some roosters around.
      Roosters do make excellent watches. They are constantly on the lookout for danger, and if they see a big bird in the sky, they will immediately warn the flock. They are also searching for good things to eat, and when they find something delicious, they have a special call to let the hens know. I’ve even seen them pick up fat earthworms in their beaks for the hens to eat.
      Chickens and humans are a long distance apart evolutionary speaking, and yet when I observe roosters, I understand why some men are the way they are, they just can’t help themselves. But that is another discussion.

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