There are a number of reasons why you should try pasturing white chickens. First, the prices of white chicks are far lower than those of colored chicks. If you get them by volume from commercial hatcheries, the price really drops. They are easy to find in poultry supply stores in your area. Accessibility and lower cost make them a winner as these considerations help all of us small farmers.
We used to pasture colored chickens ourselves, but problems with importing parent stocks from bird flu-infected countries caused instability in production. We had to find a solution, and so we experimented, using the white chickens—the same ones used by the commercial poultry industry.
At the same time, we were already deep in our advocacy for sustainable organic agriculture, and this was the answer to providing affordable, clean chickens on our tables. Chickens are chickens. Surely, if they were raised naturally from being hatched, then they will learn to live that way. Sec how we did it.
Preparing the Brooder
First you have to prepare your brooder. This is where you keep the chicks for the first 21 days, until they have developed their feathers and are able to protect themselves. It is important to have good air circulation in your brooder.
The design of the housing is important as you want it to be airy, to get a lot of sunlight, and provide easy access to the range for the chickens.
We brood in the same housing that will shelter our chickens while they are on the range. Note the thin GI sheet around the housing. This is to protect them from predators like rats, which will slip when they try to climb it.
The housing is screened all around so the chickens will be protected from other predators like cats.
For beddings, we use fresh rice hulls as these absorb moisture and keep the chicks warm and dry. For heating, you may use gas heaters, infrared brooding bulbs, or charcoal-fed ones.
How do you know when your chickens are getting the right temperature? Be observant and use your eyes. If they are far from the source of heat and seem to be trying to get air from outside, they are too hot.
If they are cold, they will all snuggle together to maximize body heat and crowd around the source of heat. This is dangerous as they may trample each another, especially at night.
The temperature is right when they are happily moving around and playing.
Feeding the Chickens
From hatching until harvest, they are given probiotics in their drinking water. We make our own on the farm, and the sludge, after we harvest the fermented juice, is given to them to eat or added to their feeds.
They are fed chick booster without the addition of antibiotics or hormones, ad libitum for 14 days. Then, the cages are opened so they will have access to living grass.They will want young and soft grass to cat, which arc high in nutrients.
In the first few days, make them eat from flat surfaces like newspapers or basins. They are not yet familiar with feeders and by instinct, will peck at ground level. Their normal action is to scratch and look for food.
The chicks will eat stone grits. This will help the gastric juices and the strong muscles of the gizzard to digest the food intake. (See photo above for what the gizzard of a newly slaughtered chicken looks like.)
After 14 days, when they are let out onto the range, they are just fed with feeds in the afternoon. We supplement these with food with high nutrients and protein like azolla, kangkong, kamote, and alugbati.
Starting on the 21st day, broiler starter will be introduced and fed until harvest time.
Give them a lot of shade and you will have happy chickens that will be healthy and able to fend for themselves in the range. We use nets (you can see some of them in the photos with this article). These make things easy when you rotate your ranging areas. You just transfer the nets and hang them from nearby posts or trees.
Perching is a natural behavior for chickens of any color.
Sand bathing is a natural way of eliminating external parasites and allows chickens to preen.
Adequate numbers of feeders and sources of clean drinking water are critical. Make sure that there are enough,and that all chickens are able to eat the same amount at any given time. This is one of the causes of unequal growth, when some are left to eat after the others.
Segregate the weak chicks.
Make sure that your chickens get a good ranging area of about 1 square meter per head. The pasture should be easy for the chickens to get to. The door should be wide and easy to find.
Now, notice what healthy looking chickens you have? Their combs and wattles should be bright red. We harvest at 80 days as at that age, the taste has developed and they yield about 1.9 kgs live weight.
When we shifted from colored to white, a number of people we know followed our example and have been very happy with results.
Among them are the brother and sisters team of RJ Ranario, Rachelle Plaza, and Ritchel Ranario of Malipayo Lechon Manok in Butuan City. They grow their own chickens to 45 days.
Author: Sandy & Doc Rey, Email: [email protected]
Web: solraya.blogspot.com, FB: https://www.facebook.com/Sunshine-Chicken-68337656402/
eGroup: tech. groups.yahoo.com/group/sanshinechicken