We worked our way towards raising as many as 900 meat chickens in a year, serving many in our local community. Now we raise them just for ourselves and some friends. We are passionate about sharing how we've done this with others so that more people will try raising chickens this way.
No vaccines, no antibiotics, no meds of any kind are needed for these chickens on clean ground, rotated daily to new areas.
We've raised both Cornish Cross (the standard breed for meat chickens) and Freedom Rangers. The Freedom Rangers come from an Amish community in PA and those are the only meat chickens we raise since learning about them.
Here is why we now reject raising Cornish Cross and instead raise Freedom Rangers.
Freedom Rangers produce a more moist meat, even the breast meat is not dry. They grow large - producing a 4-7 lb. bird depending on age. In blind taste tests with many friends and family members, everyone chose the Freedom Ranger as their first choice over Cornish Cross.
Most importantly, these birds produce more yellow omega-3 fat and less saturated fat than the faster growing breeds.
We love raising birds that are happy and healthy and enjoy ranging on 1/2 acre pasture. They are smarter as well, than most meat chickens; they will run from predators overhead and get under their shelter for protection. This means they can range safely on as much as 1/2 acre at at time.
More information on why we made the switch to
Freedom Ranger Chickens
Many who are raising pastured poultry are standing against the big chicken producers and have blasted the waste, the pollution, the lack of sustainability, the inhumanity, and the contamination of both our groundwater and our food supply that flow from a debased production system. Striving for a model which both protects natural and agricultural resources and offers our customers poultry fit to eat, most natural farmers have rejected all that—all, that is, except the very heart of the industry’s flawed system: the Cornish Cross chicken.
The Cornish Cross’s greatest virtue is also its greatest vice: its phenomenal rate of growth. That growth is constantly outstripping all its bodily systems—its internal organs and nervous system as well as its skeletal structure. The inevitable results include not only the well-known leg problems and tendency to heart failure—the digestive system clearly lags behind as well. This is the breed we started out with as new farmers, because that is the breed that everyone else was raising. We were told raising other breeds would result in less meat and take more time.
But after a few years of raising the Cornish Cross chickens, we kept thinking there is something not right about these birds. They do not forage well because they have been bred over the years to live indoors and grow quickly on nothing but corn. They grow so fast they barely move in their last weeks of life and even die of heart attacks or over heating because they are too lazy to get up and get a drink of water.
Thinking there must be a better alternative, we learned about an Amish family in PA, who crossed two breeds of chickens and came up with the first and only Freedom Ranger. There are other names for similar chickens (Red Rangers, for example) but we have found nothing else better than the actual Freedom Rangers.
They are vibrant, hearty and forage well. We have even kept a couple of Freedom Rangers on pasture with our egg-laying hens and after 1 year they are still thriving on pasture. A Cornish Cross chicken would have died of a heart attack after 10 weeks. Their internal organ growth is so rapid they can not live much longer than 10 weeks.
We believe that when we eat another living thing, plant or animal, we are eating not only its physical nutrients but its vitality as well. We have quite rightly condemned the broiler industry for producing chickens all of whom are sick, propped up by antibiotics, growth hormones, and other industrial solutions. And yet we as farmers were continuing to offer the same bird—raised without those contaminants and in a far more sanitary manner, to be sure—but weak and low in vitality, propped up by high management inputs.
We have now rejected that and are grateful to have found Freedom Rangers which is what you'll have access to consistently at our farm.