Chicken meat has increased in popularity throughout the United States of America in the past decades, and the most important reasons are that it’s more affordable and low in fats.
Thus, starting an organic chicken farm might seem like a profitable idea, especially if you’re offering enough space for your birds to roam free and invest in high-quality chicken egg incubators to help them lay more eggs. So, if you decided to try your luck in the organic poultry industry, here is everything you need to know.
Learn the eligibility requirements for organic farming
Starting an organic chicken farm is slightly different than a regular farming business as you need to comply with national standards and provide high-quality products for your customers. Therefore, the first thing you should do is read the required legislation and obtain all the permits and certificates you need.
In order to get the certification, you’ll have to provide all necessary information regarding the type of operation you own, how you plan on raising your chickens, a three-year history of the land to ensure it is suitable for organic farming, as well as a system plan including all the practices and substances used on your farm.
In the United States, the Department of Agriculture represents the certified authority to emit all permits required for organic farmers. Make sure to meet all federal standards before you start operating, and read specific literature on how to grow chickens and how to look after them.
Decide on the poultry sector
Chicken farming is a wide industry, so you should know what you’re getting yourself into. Therefore, you must consider the exact poultry sector you wish to activate in and build your organic farm around it.
Theoretically speaking, there are two main branches in the poultry farming industry – layers and broilers. Layers are the chickens that you mainly raise for eggs, while broilers are those you raise for their meat. Based on that, you can choose a sector or a niche out of the following: meat production, egg production, poultry feed production or chicken breeding.
After you established your main activity field, you should also consider specific chicken breeds that are more profitable for what you need. Keep in mind that some breeds, like the Rhode Island Red or the Sussex, can lay more eggs, while others offer high-quality and tasty meat.
Find a suitable location
One of the most important aspects you need to take into account when starting an organic chicken farm is having the right location for this type of business. As previously mentioned, in order to get your license from the Department of Agriculture, you need to provide a three-year history of the field you plan on using for breeding or raising your chickens.
The size of the land depends on the size of the farm, as well as the type of business you plan on conducting. For instance, if you wish to farm free-range chickens, you’ll most definitely need more space. On the other hand, egg-laying chickens won’t require that much space but they will need better facilities.
In order for the land to be certified as suitable for starting an organic farm, it should be free of any chemicals and pesticides for at least three years. We suggest talking to the landowner and asking for specific details about the previous businesses conducted on the premises to make sure it suits your purposes.
Most of the times, you won’t be able to find a land large enough for your chicken farm inside a city, especially if we’re talking about big ones like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. Therefore, you’ll have to look for alternative locations that are free of pesticides yet close enough to civilization also.
When searching for the perfect land, don’t forget to also take into account the proximity to other buildings, homes or stores, as well as accessibility by car. You don’t want a land that is muddy or too moist either because you might get your car stuck after rain.
Thus, try to find a piece of land that is secluded enough to be relaxing and far away from pollution but also close enough to the main road to ensure easy access. Moreover, “countryside” locations also allow you to find cheaper labor force, which will be a plus at least until you make your chicken farm profitable.
Think about feed and medicines
Another aspect that separates an organic farm from a regular one is the quality of the feed offered to the birds. Remember, you’ll have to look for top-quality ingredients that are GMO-free, pesticide-free, natural, and organic in order to provide a healthy and complete diet.
The good thing about chickens is that they can eat pretty much anything, including human food, as long as it’s not too salty, sweet, spicy or rich in fats and carbs. Thus, you can end up saving important money if you serve your chickens, apart from specific pellets, table scraps or fresh fruits and vegetables.
And, if you don’t trust store-bought pellet mixes, you always have the possibility of creating your own mix of grains, maize, and organic ingredients.
As for antibiotics and medicines, as an owner of an organic chicken farm, you should keep your birds away from unnecessary antibiotics and medicines that might alter the quality of the meat or speed up the growing process of the chickens. You should, however, talk to a veterinarian and vaccinate your birds against diseases or treat them accordingly if they become ill.
Accommodation for your birds
Allowing your chickens to roam freely around your farm isn’t enough to consider your business an organic one and to expect people to pay more for your products. On the contrary, chickens will also need high-quality feed, incubators, and a place to sleep.
There are thousands of huts available online if you’re looking to invest in the wellbeing of your chickens. Most of these houses are equipped with windows and doors, as well as ladders for easy access inside and outside. They also feature a “playground” area surrounded by a fence that allows your birds to socialize and walk whenever they want.
If the weather is nice and it’s warm enough, you can always open the doors of these cages and let your chickens wander freely. According to scientific studies, each chicken should have around 10 square feet of free space to walk and stretch its legs and wings. However, the down limit of this space is around 5-6 square feet.
Overcrowded farms can cause stress and anxiety to your chickens, which will later lead to health problems and even infertility. Therefore, make sure each of your birds gets enough natural sunlight, quality feed, and a good place to sleep and lay eggs if you want to increase the success of your business.