Raising Heritage Chickens | Living the Country Life
More
Close

Raising Heritage Chickens

This couple shares tips on raising Chantecler chickens, a cold-hardy breed for both egg and meat production.
  • Perfect breed for their place

    When Eric Michielssen and his wife, Dana Tryde, moved onto their 10-acre Pozo Organic Farm near San Luis Obispo, California, they were ready to take things easy. But after adding a growing flock of chickens, a few ducks, geese, grapes, greenhouse, blackberries, and lots of vegetables –  that didn’t happen.
     

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Needed the manure

    The farm is on the backside of Black Mountain at 2,000 feet elevation. "Being this high up the mountain, we can get temperatures as low as 15 degrees even into mid-May," says Eric. In the summer the temperature can rise to 110 degrees. The soil on the farm consists of bits of gravel and decomposed granite and rocks that wash down from the mountain and collect in the flat areas. "My main reason for having chickens and horses was to provide manure to add to compost to help improve the poor soil out here," says Dana.

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Chantecler breed

    They chose Chantecler chickens, a heritage breed developed in the early 20th century at the Abbey of Notre Dame duLac in Quebec. The extremely cold-resistant breed is suitable for both egg and meat production. "We needed really hardy birds," says Dana.

    She is working the farm full time and Eric about 20 hours a week, dividing his time with a job in town. They grow produce for a CSA and two farmer's markets, and sell veggies and eggs to restaurants and a few small stores. "Our object is to supplement our incomes and not go crazy working our fingers to the bone!" Dana says.

     

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Chickens as weed control

    Chickens are pastured between the blackberries and grape arbors on the farm to help control weeds and insects, saving on feed costs, driving up profitability, and improving the soil in the process.

    "The most expensive part of keeping chickens is the feed, especially organic feed,” says Eric. “The more you can do to supplement their diet and not buy expensive food is beneficial to the bottom line. They like eating everything, including kale with bug holes, and they'll fight like crazy over a leaf."

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Network for raising heritage chickens

    Dana is part of the Henhouse Coaching Network, which offers guidance and training for raising heritage birds. Farmers involved in this network are committed to local poultry farming that promotes and encourages sustainability. This is defined by selling poultry products locally, by raising poultry that can reproduce, and by producing eggs, chicks, poults on local farms. “Our goal is to intentionally breed, grow and sell these heirloom breeds before we lose their genetic diversity," says Dana.   
     

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Keeping the breed alive

    Most heritage chicks sell for about $8 each. Butchered chickens may fetch upwards of $20 per whole bird in the California market. Dana learned butchering techniques from a neighbor. "You can direct market 2,000 chickens a year, or 40 birds a week, without getting an inspection from the USDA or the state, but they have to be sold direct to the consumer,” says Eric.

    "Eggs and meat are great," says Dana, "but I'm going to make more money on the breeding. These heritage breeds have to become popular in order for the breed to survive. If we don't keep the breed going, their genetics will be lost. People won't keep them as pets, since they were produced to provide food for people."

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013
  • Learn more about Pozo Organic Farm

    Eric Michielssen and Dana Tryde

    Pozo Organic Farm

    1360 Parkhill Road

    Santa Margarita, CA 93453

    Phone: 805/438-4609 or 805/441-3438

    Web: pozoorganicfarm.com

    Email: ericm@pozoorganicfarm.com

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: December 2, 2013

Latest Blogs

Betsy's Backyard |
5/25/18 | 11:05 AM
My daughter, Caroline, said she missed my blog, so I'm going to download a few ...read more
Betsy's Backyard |
3/12/18 | 1:18 PM
The Living the Country Life Spring/Summer 2018 issue comes out this month. I loved the...read more

Add Your Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login