How We Raise Our Chickens In The Winter
This year the last of our outdoor birds were moved inside just in time for the snow to start falling and the weather to dip well below zero.
Although the way we raise our meat chickens in the winter looks very different than the summer, the fundamentals of how we raise them stays the same. We are still focused on their health and happiness and raising them in as low stress environment as possible, they get certified organic feed and are free to express their natural behaviours. We still follow the BCSPCA Certified Humane and Certified Organic standards.
We receive our chicks when they are less than 12 hours old straight from the hatchery. The first food and water that they receive is at our farm. The feed is certified organic and the water is clean and fresh.
The barns have lots of windows to let in the winter sunshine. You will often see the chickens basking in the sunbeams that come in the barn on a sunny winter day. We provide them with additional lighting so even on those dark cloudy days and early winter nights the chickens still have enough light to thrive. We have our lights turn on and off as if it was a typical summer day. We never try and trick the birds into growing faster by altering the lighting from a normal pattern.
We put lots of wood shavings and straw down to keep the chickens clean, dry and off their own manure. The shavings and straw provide a cushion for their feet, since concrete floors are hard on their feet. They also allow the chickens to exhibit their natural behaviours by scratching and nestling into their bedding.
The chickens are given fresh certified organic feed that has certified organic alfalfa meal added to it. (Alfalfa is a grass that is harvested at its peak nutrition, dried and then crumbled into meal or pressed into pellets). This ensures that they receive their greens year-round, even when the grass outside is covered in a foot of snow. There is lots of feeder space per bird which ensures that the birds can have access to food when they are hungry. We also have lots of waterers available so that they can drink when they would like. In the barns we switch to a nipple watering system. This system is beneficial as the birds receive the freshest water and because it is very water efficient. This helps the birds stay healthy and dry, and helps the environment as we are using less water.
Alberta’s winter temperatures can swing greatly and quickly. By growing our winter birds in the barns, we are able to control the temperature, keep them healthy and protect them from the cold. Chicks need a very high temperature and then as they get older, we are able to reduce the temperature and keep it comfortable for them. We have lots of fans and fresh air vents to make sure there is lots of air movement and new fresh air is always being brought into the barns.
Our winter birds are grown with the same respect and great care as our outdoor summer birds. This way you can know when you eat our chicken in the winter or the summer it came from a healthy, happy bird.
Thanks Your Farmers Ron and Sheila Hamilton
- Shae Belanger