Small Flock: Southern Region Resources on Pastured Poultry
According to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC), pastured or free-range poultry is defined as, "a poultry production system that is characterized by chickens, turkey, or ducks being raised primarily on pasture."
Interest in pastured poultry production among small-scale farmers has grown significantly in recent decades because it is often an inexpensive way to add supplemental revenue and diversification to small farms, especially for those with limited resources. In addition, the niche market targets growing consumer demand for a more natural, humanely raised and environmentally friendly product.
Small flock production can include chickens, turkeys and other species, such as ducks, geese and quail. Diversification of animal species and the myriad ways those birds can be incorporated into on-farm production, such as organic and free-range, make for an attractive enterprise. In addition, components of pastured poultry production, such as animal waste and housing facilities, are effective in value-added production and niche marketing.
Pastured chickens offer countless benefits in sustainable agriculture -- by supplying eggs and meat to both the farmer and the consumer, improving the soil, controlling insects and weeds, and blending effectively into an integrated grazing system. Whether raised as a backyard flock, on small-to-medium-size farms, or in a larger pastured environment, grass-fed poultry can be a successful enterprise that supports sustainable production systems, positively impacts the environment and provides profitable marketing and value-added products.
SARE has been supporting pastured poultry production, health, marketing and value-added efforts through grant-funded projects and unbiased, practical educational resources. This topic room includes a collection of educational materials developed out of decades of SARE-funded pastured poultry research:
Developed by The Livestock Conservancy, the Heritage Turkey Manual provides information on all facets of pasture-based turkey production and turkey breeding.