Got Chickens On My Mind

September 27, 2021

Hey friends!

Veggies first:

We're headed to only ONE market this week: the Wednesday Night Street Market at Whidby and Eunice. (We will not be at the Saturday Farmers Market this Saturday, 10/2.) If you want to stock up until next week, this is your chance! As usual, we're teaming up with Wild Edge Farm to offer the most fresh food possible. There's such an awesome variety of offerings in the online farmstand right now, so go check it out! Please note: we're changing the street market time to 6PM because of the quickly fading daylight. Order here to pick your order up on Wednesday.

And now, onto the chickens...

I've got this idea that I REALLY want to try, but I need some feedback first. I tend to jump enthusiastically feet first into new ideas (example: started a farm a few months after moving here...still feel like somedays I have no idea what I'm doing). As many of you know, at Hidden Penny Farm we try really hard to not till our soil. We're working on building healthy and living soil that simultaneously sequesters carbon and grows produce that is full of nutrients. We grow cover crop, always keep our soil covered, rotate our cash crops, and add as much organic matter to the soil as we can. We end up buying a lot of amendments and truckloads of it. One of my goals for the 2022 farming season is to decrease the amount of inputs we're getting from off the farm. This will drastically cut back on costs, and it will ensure that we know exactly what material is going into our soil.

Enter my crazy idea of raising pastured poultry. Well...actually this idea was really inspired by a book I found at a used bookstore while Andy and I were honeymooning. The book is simply called "Chicken Tractors". (I just have to add that I deeply respect this bookstore for having an entire section of used books just on chickens.) I've got it in my head that chickens will be the single answer to SO many farming goals: they will add organic manure to our soil, while also helping to terminate our cover crop that grows all winter, while also eating all the soil pests, while also providing our community with delicious organic and pasture raised poultry. After doing lots of research, I'm leaning towards the slower growing heritage breeds because of their delicious flavor and because it is the more ethical choice. (More on this later.) I've been delightfully dreaming of rotating groups of 18-20 chickens in "chicken tractors" through our rows which will have a lush and nutrient dense cover crop established in them for the chickens to enjoy.

Here's where I need some feedback. The permit that allows the selling of poultry on a small scale does not allow the processor (that's me!) to freeze the butchered birds. I would be required to sell the poultry within 48 hours of slaughter. I wish it wasn't so, because it adds a bit of complication in marketing and selling, but I think it can be done! I'm curious who out there is interested in purchasing heritage breed, organic, and pasture raised poultry from Hidden Penny Farm. If you're into this idea, I'm wondering what sort of sales model you'd be into.

So far I've come up with two ideas that allow me to sell the fresh birds within 48 hours of slaughter:

  1. Customers could pre-order the birds and put a deposit down at the time of order, then pay the final cost on pick-up day. I would offer a few days in Spring during which people could come pick up their birds from our farm.

  2. A poultry CSA in which people pay up front for the cost of 10-15 birds. I would raise the birds, slaughter and butcher in Spring and CSA members would come pick up their bulk order of chicken within 48 hours.

But I'm sure I'm missing something, and I'm curious what you would be into? Please let me know what you think. I'm fluctuating between playing it super safe and only ordering a small batch of chicks, or going whole hog (err, chicken?) and ordering a huge flock, so knowing if people are interested will help me make better informed decisions on how much to invest in this idea.

Thanks in advance. I can't wait to see what you think!

All the best from our tiny farm,