Joel Salatin s laying hens


A few weeks ago, I
regaled you with a summary of
Salatin’s broiler chicken operation
.  This post continues
the story by looking in on his Eggmobiles, which house laying hens on

Although most of us
won’t be able to recreate Salatin’s success, it’s worth understanding
how he’s able to raise laying hens while spending only 33% as much on
feed as the average egg-producer does.  Here are the key factors
in Salatin’s layer operation:

  • Non-hybrid breeds
    Salatin raises Rhode Island Reds, Barred
    , and Black
    .  Even though they only average about five eggs
    apiece per week, he believes that these heavier birds experience less
    strain per egg since they lose a smaller percentage of their body
    weight with each egg.
  • Young hens — After the
    chickens have been laying for two years, Salatin kills his layers and
    sells them as stewing fowl.  This keeps egg production high and
    the operation economical.
  • Free choice chicken feedFree choice food
    Hens in the Eggmobile enjoy a buffet of whole corn, oats, meat and bone
    meal, and oyster shells in separate compartments.  Since they get
    plenty of protein from pasture, most of the chickens’ storebought feed
    consists of cheap grains.  The feed analysis I listed earlier in
    the post is a bit misleading — if you weighed the amount of feed you
    give each laying hen and the amount Salatin gives each of his hens, he
    wouldn’t be feeding only 33% as much.  However, since Salatin’s
    birds focus more on ingredients like corn, his feed cost is only a
    third as high.
  • Plenty of bug-filled pasture
    — This is the real reason most of us can’t replicate Salatin’s
    results.  He keeps about 100 birds in each Eggmobile, letting them
    free range as far as they want (about 600 feet), then moving the coop
    every three or four days.  Since Salatin rests each pasture area
    for four weeks before letting chickens back on it, one Eggmobile ends
    up covering about 50 acres each year, or half an acre per bird. 
    Also keep in mind that Salatin’s pasture is home to cows, so the
    chickens get plenty of fly maggots in the manure.

Although it’s not
relevant to the discussion of lowering feed costs, I thought you might
also like to know that Salatin solves the
chicken pasture problem
by simply moving his hens to
houses full of deep bedding

I like to look at
systems like this as an incentive to make our homestead-scale pastures
even better.  No, we don’t have cows and 50 acres of pasture, but
surely we can use some of Salatin’s techniques and a bit of ingenuity
to lower our feed costs at least a little.  Stay tuned as I
continue to experiment with the backyard-scale chicken pasture.

Our chicken waterer makes any pasture operation
easier by providing lots of clean water.

post is part of our Pastured Poultry
Profits series

Read all of the entries:

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