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Meet Ray Conner and her chickens of Evandale Farm at a NOFA-NH workshop. Courtesy photo.




Raising Backyard Meat Chickens Organically

When: Sunday, July 27, from 1 to 3 p.m.
Where: Evandale Farm, 424 Tilton Hill Road, Pittsfield
Cost: $10 for NOFA-NH members; $20 for non-members
Visit: nofanh.org




A day at the henhouse
Learn how to raise chickens in your own backyard

07/24/14



 Ray Conner, owner and operator of Evandale Farm in Pittsfield, knows a lot about raising chickens. She’ll share that knowledge during a workshop at her farm on Sunday, July 27, open to anyone who has considered raising chickens in their backyard.

Presented by the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Hampshire, “Raising Backyard Meat Chickens Organically” will walk through everything about raising poultry, Conner said, from brooding chicks to plucking and processing.
“When you’re trying to get into something for the first time, the most difficult part is visualizing it,” Conner said. 
And that’s exactly what the workshop will do. Whether you’ve been thinking about starting your own backyard coop or you have a couple hens of your own, Conner said that this is a great introduction to raising chickens.
Conner will walk participants around her own space and discuss each phase of the chickens’ lives, including the baby chicks in the brooder, how to emulate a hen, proper temperature and issues like draft or wetness. Participants will also walk through the pasture, talking about fencing, electricity and cleanliness as well as preventing illness among the chickens. She’ll discuss the design, what sort of requirements must be met at each phase along with what challenges arise. 
One important theme Conner said she would emphasize was the amount of space required to move the chickens around in a clean environment. 
“In my system, if people have enough space to replicate it, they are moving around and getting enough fresh grass and bugs,” she said.
Conner has been working with small livestock for the past eight years. This is her fourth season raising chickens, and Evandale Farm’s chickens were certified organic last year. 
While the workshop will demonstrate her own system, Conner said that there are certainly other ways of raising chickens organically. As a homestead-style farm, Connor has 150 chickens, but her system can be applied to a small, backyard set-up. She said that Pasture Poultry Profit$ by Joel Salatin is her own favorite resource, which she’ll recommend to workshop participants, too.
“I refer to it all the time, even though I have my system in place,” Conner said. “When you say backyard chickens, backyard boilers, I’m looking at 10 at a time so that you can move them around very regularly. … It’s great for folks to do in their own backyard because it’s easy.”
When it comes time to process the chickens for meat, Conner recommends hiring professionals at the beginning, which is what she did herself the first couple years. If you’re interested in learning that side of raising meat chickens, Conner encourages taking a workshop on that, too.
Other than adding eggs and some poultry in your kitchen, Conner said that backyard chickens come with other benefits, like lawn fertilization and chickens that mow your lawn for you, as well as a new hobby.
“It’s this fulfilling thing that does so much more,” Conner said. “You’re interacting with animals, you have this system you’re developing in your backyard that is somewhat sustainable-feeling. … I think folks are just interested generally in growing their own food.” 
 
As seen in the July 24, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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