Pen Rotation

Conventional commodity chicken is raised inside large chicken houses with mechanized feeders and waterers accompanied by a thermostat able to maintain a constant temperature year-round. Chickens are raised by the thousands on beds of saw dust or wood chips used to absorb waste. From day-old chicks the animals grow rapidly, able to achieve quick weight gain with little room to roam and a constant supply of feed available. In weeks the chickens grow from the size of an infant's fist to three and four-pound animals. At an adequate weight the animals are gathered by crews using machines and placed on semi-trucks en-route to facilities where they are processed and packaged. The houses are sanitized and the process begins again. This is commodity chicken, produced in pursuit of quick return following a process designed for uniformity. Chicken at Livestock First is raised differently. Newly-born chicks are started inside a facility known as brooder pen. Brooder pens vary in construction, with each designed to keep baby chicks warm until they are feathered and able to live outside. At 95-degrees the chicks are fed and watered, growing quickly with each successive week able to distance them from their dependence upon controlled temperature. At two to three weeks the chicks are gathered and transported to pasture, wherein the difference between pasture-raised chicken and those commodity-produced is stark. Chicks are housed in small shelters ranging from 5-15 feet in length and 5-10 feet in width. Shelters are used to protect the chicks from rain, cold, wind or simply to provide shade when the animals need time away from direct sunlight. Shelters are surrounded by electric mesh netting used to deter predation from animals like skunks, raccoons and coyotes. The netting also provides a perimeter able to keep the chicks in a desired area. Feeders and waterers are placed both in and outside of the shelters, allowing the animals to feed and drink where they choose. In small groups chicks learn of their surroundings and begin to graze around their shelter. Here they hunt insects while foraging on seasonal pasture vegetation. As the chicks grow into chickens and deplete the area of its resources, the netting is extended and the shelter is moved to a section fresh with new bugs, legumes and grasses. The process repeats until the animals reach proper weight, wherein they are gathered by hand and processed at a state-inspected facility by a crew of 6 people. Without chickens to house, the shelter is moved to a new area in anticipation of the next group to arrive. This process fosters organic/natural animal husbandry methods in that the animals are not exposed to unsanitary conditions where harmful bacteria flourish. Constant pen rotation keeps the ground fresh, while the ground that has been used is replenished by animal droppings. Commitment to a cycle of renewal defines pasture-raised methods, which in turn produce a superior meat in terms of nutrition, texture and taste.