The Dutch Ranger is our response to creating an ethical Chicken breed. Unlike, most breeds meant for commercial production that have issues with growing so fast their legs, feathers, and hearts can’t keep up; the Dutch Ranger was bred from heritage and landrace breeds to grow slower so that they can live healthy Chicken lives!
In 10 weeks you can grow healthy 9-10 pound chicken, that forages great, has beautiful feathers, and delicious meat.
I officially kicked off the spring weather today by moving the chickens into the field netting. Now, they can run and play in the fresh air and sunshine, enjoy the green space, and have plenty of space to lay down.
I do live for the birds and I do see a different type of happiness in their eyes when they are out! =) They know they can run around, be adventurous, and find tasty bugs and grasses. Chickens raised on pasture enjoy higher levels of vitamins D and B as well as additional protein from their natural forages. Happier healthier birds helps us deliver a healthier, tastier bird at the table. It also benefits the fields as the chickens add nutrients to the soil and eat plenty of insects. I included a few photos of what they are doing so far in the pasture. At this point everything looks great. I will just move the fence to fresh grass every day to allow them to continue to live and grow.
Growing up near a turkey farm I had always thought of turkeys as dirty, dumb, smelly birds. Raising them has taught me that these birds are clean, intelligent, and loveable birds with better personalities and more emotional depth than first meets the eye.
1. Turkeys change color based on mood
A turkey’s neck and snood (little horn like bump on head) change colors based on the turkey’s mood and emotion. When excited or happy blue tones will begin to show on. When a turkey is angry the neck and snood will turn a bright red. A calm/content turkey will have a white neck/snood.
Turkeys are able to do this all thanks to a connective tissue called collagen. Blood vessels are surrounded by bands of collagen; when a turkey gets flustered, the blood vessels contract, exposing more of the collagen and in turn changing how light scatters and reflects off of the turkey’s skin, causing it to appear blue or white. It’s the same scattering effect that makes the sky appear blue but sunsets yellow or red. It’s also the reason that blood vessels appear blue beneath pale skin, even though the blood inside them is red.
2. Turkeys Purr
That’s not a cat you are hearing, its a turkey. Turkeys purr when they are calm and relaxed just like cats!
These days, farmers breed turkeys in order to sell them for their meat to the point that if not butchered in time the turkey can die from its own weight (bumblefoot, broken legs, heart attack, etc.) . But, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, up until 1935, the birds were bred for their “beautifully colored plumage,” which features stunning striped patterns.
5. Turkeys have unique voices
Individual turkeys have unique voices. This is how turkeys (and turkey keepers) recognize each other.
Turkeys are emotional birds that deserve more than factory farms are giving them. Local, free-range, organic, vegan-fed, and other labels do little to tell you about the welfare of the animal and the life it lived. Try to find a local farm that pasture raises their turkeys; take a quick look around while you are there and check out if you actually see turkeys or the equipment to raise them or do you see huge houses with thousands of turkeys.
Currently I do not sell or raise turkeys for meat; although, I am looking into raising these birds in a manner that will allow them to live healthy turkey lives. There are difficulties with turkeys though that modern farming systems do not address.
Free-ranging chickens’ and allowing them to graze as nature had intended is always recommended over just keeping them in the coop. Chickens and any domestic bird will peak their productivity and health when they have a space to roam around freely. Healthy, happy, and natural birds are in our interest. Spring, summer, and fall months are easy. Let the chickens outside, provide them with some basic food and fresh water, safe overnight space in the coop, and the rest they will find on their own.
Winter months require more care and work to maintain the overall health of the flock. In some areas, the winters can be harsh, with the temperature not reaching above freezing point and a ground covered with snow most of the time. But even with mild winters, occasional frost, and a minimum of snow, chickens will require additional attention.
How much cold weather can chicken tolerate?
Chickens are very hardy birds by nature. With their body temperature around 106°F (41°C), chickens can withstand the external temperature down to 32°F (0°C) or even several degrees below that, but this should not remain their living conditions.
As any warm-blooded animal, chickens prefer the warmer conditions, ideally around 75°F (23°C).
Signs that a chicken is too cold?
If the temperature is uncomfortably cold, a chicken will show it by ruffling its feathers, tucking its head under the wing, and lifting one leg. Head and legs are at the most risk of freezing, so the chickens attempt to worm up those body parts. Roosters and breeds with a large comb, like Leghorn, are susceptible to getting frostbite, and a breeder needs to pay special attention to protecting them.
Coop condition during the winter
Unless there is deep snow, chickens will still run around the free-range area regardless of the temperature. Birds shouldn’t be restricted in their freedom for too long. Extremely bad weather, disease, and risk of predators are the only situations where keeping your chickens in a contained space is recommended.
The chicken coop needs to provide safety during those cold frosty days and nights. Avoid the draft by any means but have an air circulation enabled to prevent a buildup of ammonia from the manure; this is best achieved by having ventilation toward the coop’s roof, where it will not affect the birds. The floor should have some isolation in the form of wood shavings or straw. This will also prevent the risk of wet feet, which can lead to freezing. Enough natural or artificial light will keep bacteria away, and chickens will gladly spend more time inside.
Roosting bar or roosting surface in the coop will make a big difference. When it’s cold, chickens tend to roost close to each other, sharing their body temperature and warming up each other.
Chicken feed during the winter.
With the lack of greens and insects that free-range chickens find during warm months, chicken feed must be supplemented with extra proteins, minerals, and vitamins over the winter. The best solution is pellet food which contains all the necessary ingredients.
Food and water must be placed inside the coop. When the outside temperature doesn’t go above freezing point, water must be checked several times a day and defrost if it turns into ice. A water warmer can be used to heat the water if needed; these generally run on electricity and consume ~300 Watts.
There is no fear of winter as long as chickens have a proper coop, food, and water. Free-ranging will be beneficial to birds’ spirit, vitality, and overall quality of life. With all of these requirements met, don’t be surprised if you find plenty of eggs even during the harsh winter months because that’s what happy chickens do.