At Black Duck Farm, I currently combine rotational grazing with a high-quality feed and “mandatory exercise” to produce a very high quality chicken meat. In the coming years, this system will include a partial forested canopy to provide shade during the hot days of summer – for the meantime, shade is provided artificially and with bordering forests.
The chickens are kept in a mobile enclosure using electrified netting, for both keeping them inside, and land predators outside. This enclosure meets organic pastured poultry standards of 10 sq ft of space per bird – and often exceeds it.
For night, to provide additional protection from the elements as well as shade and avian predator protection, the chickens are kept inside spacious cages which house a roosting space, waterers, and feeders. During the day, chicken cages are opened and the waterers and feeders are placed outside of the cages, providing an excuse for them to move around and explore their environment.
The cages are moved daily, to provide a fresh location for the chickens to sleep upon at night, and the netting is moved every 2 days, and sometimes daily, to provide a brand new section of pasture for food and exploration. This also has the effect of increasing the amount of nourishment the chickens can get from their environment (as opposed to a concrete slab), a natural spreading of the manure to fertilize the pasture and avoid “dead zones”, and a regenerative effect on the land, fixing nitrogen and carbon into the soil to produce a better pasture, and reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.