By Erica Seifried
As most of you already know, our weekly chicken harvest has begun. It's strange to think that we've already had four. It seems like just yesterday I arrived at the farm and our first harvest was a month away. It's also amazing just how fast these chickens grow.
We receive our broiler chickens as baby chicks, just a day old. They come in boxes in the mail, where we receive over 400 at a time. We bring them to the brooder that is set up and waiting - they have food, water supplemented with apple cider vinegar and molasses, and heat lamps to keep them warm. We dip each little beak in water to give them their first drink after their journey through the US Postal Service, and then watch as they run around the brooder, listening to their scurrying feet. When they arrive they are so small and soft - recently I got my first opportunity to help unpackage the chicks when they arrive, and therefore my first time handling the chicks on day one. They seemed softer than day two, though I know it shouldn't make that much of a difference!
When I first arrived, it seemed like the chicks stayed pretty small and then suddenly they were a lot a bigger. After 4 or 5 batches of chicks, which arrive every two weeks, I'm starting to notice the small increases in size. After just a day or two they are already a lot bigger! The turning point of size comes at around two weeks old. Before this, they still look as they did when they arrived, but afterwards, their feathers start to grow in and they begin to lose their fuzz. They enter an awkward 'teen' phase!
At about four weeks old, we go and catch all of the little chickens and transport them down to the field, where our chicken tractors are ready and waiting for them. From here they get access to fresh grass daily, in addition to their grain. They get to enjoy the sunny days and fresh air.
About a month later, we once again catch our now full-grown chickens. Except this time they are transported to the chicken kitchen, where they are processed and sold. I haven't actually eaten a lot of chicken since I've been here, but chicken harvest always makes me want to! For my Southern friends, "Eat Mor Chikin!"