We raise great tasting chickens here, no bones about it. We use a standard commercial breed, the Cornish/Rock cross but any similarities between our chicken and store-bought chicken ends there.
The chicks come to us via air mail and arrive at the local post office one or two days old. I bring them home, dip their beaks in the waterer to show them where it is at and put them in the brooder with a heat lamp. At this stage they are a little smaller than a tennis ball.
3 or 4 weeks in the brooder and they are growing like the federal deficit and ready to go onto pasture. The pasture is grazed down to 4-5 inches tall by the cows. Any taller and the chickens would have trouble moving about at that age. About 75 chickens are placed in a 10' X 12' bottomless pen on the pasture. The chickens stay in the pen, Cornish/Rock crosses do not range like other chickens. The pen is on wheels and is moved daily 12' feet to new grass. A couple of days, and the chickens have figured out what is going and relish the daily moves. First, they attack the clovers and any insects they come across. Next are the grasses and scratching for grit and minerals from the soil. The chickens get up to 30% of their daily needs from the pasture, and the rest from chicken feed. No hormones or antibiotics, remember, I eat these chicken too. The pens must be moved daily or the health of the chickens and the pasture will suffer. The last week they are on pasture, we move them twice a day.
After 9 weeks they come off the pasture and are processed on the farm. Little chicks only 9 weeks old you are saying to yourself, how cruel! You would not believe how fast they grow! From a couple of ounces when we get them to between 6 and 7 lbs at 9 weeks old.
I have in the past put the chickens in the corn patch and sat there for days watching the corn and chickens grow. Needless to say, I don't have cable tv.
Processing the chickens is not the most pleasant thing but we do it humanely as possible. The chickens are trucked up to a thousand feet to the processing shed, depending on which part of the pasture they are in. Not bad considering the fate of commercial chickens who never see soil, grass, crickets, and quite possibly, nothing but diffused sunlight until they were loaded on a tractor-traler. I won't go into any details on processing, if you want to know more, e-mail me.
There is a federal law that allows small-scale producers to process and sell up to 1,000 birds off their farms with no inspection. Does that scare anybody? We might process on a good day 100 chickens. Compare that to an inspected plant killing 10's of thousands of birds on a disassembly line. Our chickens are picked up by the customer the day of processing and anyone is welcome to come watch. Bring your cameras if you want. Try that in a commercial plant. The customer is the ultimate inspection. Remember, we eat these chickens too.
I do all of this for the quality and taste of real chicken. If you would you like to experience real chicken, find someone doing pastured poultry in your area or do it yourself. Don't bother asking us to ship chickens, we sell directly off the farm.