The 3 Stages of Raising Broiler Chickens on Pasture

One thing that customers consistently tell us is that they appreciate knowing where their food comes from and how it was raised. 

So let's talk about chickens for a minute because raising chickens on pasture is ... interesting. 

We’re not talking about the laying hens. Those ladies are pretty relaxed — aside from that day one tried to peck my eye out. Usually, they eat some grass, lay some eggs and generally hang out and enjoy foraging in the sunshine. No, today we’re talking about the meat chickens, also known as “broiler chickens.”

They are a different breed, literally and figuratively. 

Raising every new batch of our Cornish Cross broiler chickens is like living inside a movie that starts off all nice and idyllic, then suddenly gets weird and throws in some plot twists before finally arriving at the satisfying conclusion.

After doing this for a while, we've identified 3 distinct stages of raising broiler chickens. 

Brooder chicks

Stage 1: Cute and Cuddly

The soft, fluffy balls of cuteness arrive at the farm within days of hatching. They scurry around their temperature-controlled brooder, chirping happily. They're like the new baby in the family that everyone wants to hold. When kids visit the farm, the chicks are always the first stop.

After 2 to 3 weeks, the chicks move out of the brooder and onto pasture, little explorers getting their first taste of life in the great outdoors. It's fun to watch. The Cute and Cuddly Stage can last up to 5 weeks. And then ...

 

Angry chicken

Stage 2: Angry and Hungry

It is a sad scientific fact that Cornish Cross chickens get progressively less cute every day of their lives. When they reach 5 to 6 weeks old, they morph into a strange hybrid of a surly teenager and a cranky old man. 

They don't seem to like you much. They don't laugh at your jokes. All they want is for you to feed them, move them to fresh grass and then get off their lawn. Which you do, while apologizing for your jokes and trying to avoid eye contact.

At the end of this stage comes the least enjoyable part of all — harvesting the chickens. By now, we’ve gone to great lengths to raise these animals naturally, so we go to great lengths to ensure that our chickens are harvested, cleaned and packaged in a way that shows our respect for the animals and for the customers we serve.

We are trained and certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and we process every chicken right here on the farm. It's not quite like how your grandparents may have done it back in the day. We follow strict sanitation and quality control protocols, and there's plenty of documentation and paperwork. Beth makes sure of it.

All of which leads us to the final stage.

 

Beth with chicken

Stage 3: Healthy and Delicious

Stage 1 and Stage 3 are why we put up with Stage 2. Because in the end, we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor and share it with all of our customers. Chicken is one of those meals that we never get tired of eating. You can prepare it so many ways, and it’s always delicious.

Because we raise it right here on the farm, we know it hasn’t been pumped full of antibiotics or steroids to speed up its growth. It’s a naturally raised, tender, tasty chicken that’s packed with protein, vitamins and nutrients.

By the time dinner is done, we’ve completely forgotten about the hangry birds in Stage 2. Well, almost.