Poultry is my favorite meat and I could probably eat either chicken, turkey or duck every day!
But I remember my grandmother’s chickens when I was growing up, and there is no comparison to the chicken we now buy at the at the supermarket. After all, many chickens today are raised in very close quarters, have never seen the sun or had their feet touch grass.
In 1993, Joel Salatin of Virginia started experimenting growing chickens humanely outside, allowing them to eat bugs and grass, get some sun and rain. He called it “Pastured Poultry.” That same year, he wrote a book, “Pastured Poultry Profit$,” explaining his method of raising poultry as he expanded his operation at Polyface Farm in Virginia. Since he wrote that book, thousands of people have interned or visited his farm to learn more about pastured chickens.
Then in 1997, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association was formed with Joel Salatin as one of the charter board members. This organization now offers innovations from other poultry farmers who practice this method of raising their poultry.
I have been receiving emails from Shane Fox about his pastured chickens and went to visit Fox Forest Farm in Laupahoehoe.
At 52 days of age, and having consumed about 15 pounds of chicken feed, worms, other bugs, and of course, grass, Shane, Christie, and daughter Anna’s chickens are ready to go to market. Averaging about 4 1/2 to 6 pounds, these Cornish Rock, with their large breasts, are healthy looking, with no antibiotics. Shane has one machine with temperature-controlled hot water to loosen the feathers and another that looks like the inside of a washing machine with rubber stoppers throughout to remove the feathers. They immediately get an iced water dip and then are refrigerated, ready to be sold.
Shane buys his Cornish Rock from the only hatchery in Hawaii, Asagi Hatchery in Kalihi, Oahu. The hatchery has been in operation since 1935 and mainly has the Cornish Rock, which is a cross between a Cornish cockerel and a White Rock, makes great pets and because of its rapid growth is also a great food source; the White Leghorn noted as great egg layers and laying white eggs in five months; and Brown, also great pets and producing brown eggs.
At a day old, the chicks are sent to Fox Forest Farm via air cargo. Shane orders 100 at a time and then tends to them in protected cages till they are able to be placed in pens in the pasture. As careful as he is to protect them, even trying electric fencing, mongoose are somehow getting into the cages and eating the chicks. This current batch, Shane lost 20 chicks so he will have only 80 chickens to sell at the end of July.
The pens are very simple to make with no bottom, as you want the chickens to be able to peck the ground. Shane moves them every week around his pasture to give them fresh grounds to dig and walk, He protects them from too much sun and the rain by placing a tarp on the top, and rolls it open to check on their feed and water.
Typical of a farmer, while I was there, their water container did not have any water dripping into the water trough as the tubing was clogged. Shane had to fix that while trying to explain his operation. Just as that was fixed, one of the workers yelled to us that one of the chicks had escaped. We all immediately ran to the pen with the younger chickens to chase after the runaway chick. Shane and Christie’s 4-year-old daughter Anna caught it and held it till her parents could open the top to place it back into the pen. There is certainly never a dull moment being a farmer!
On the Asagi Hatchery website, you can request via email any of the following types of chickens: Buff Orpington, Barred Plymouth Rock, White Crested Black Polish, Silkies, Cochines, Black Antralorp, Auracana, Rhode Island Reds or Silver Laced Wyandotte.
In the chicken world, “pullets” are female chickens and “cockerels” are male. I assume you can request only pullets if you just want chickens for laying, and not sexed if you want them for consumption.
If you want to order pastured Cornish Rocks, go to Shane’s website at www.foxforestfarm.com to order for Sunday, July 28, to be picked up at Laupahoehoe Farmers Market from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.