Chickens sheltering under tarp of movable pen
(Photo credit: Steven Walling / Wikipedia)

Cows are not the only animals going out to pasture. To meet the demand for more humanely raised chicken, some farmers are now raising poultry outside in movable pens.

Jeff Mattocks says this approach allows the poultry to eat grass and bugs, and to get fresh air and sunlight.

Mattocks is with the Fertrell Company, which produces poultry feed and organic farm products.

He says being outside is good for the birds, but it also makes them vulnerable to extreme weather. During a drought, there are fewer insects for them to eat, and it’s harder for the chickens to stay cool.

“There’s nothing green out there,” he says. “So if you’ve ever laid down in green grass and felt how cool it makes you feel, in a drought year, we don’t have that.”

But too much rain can also stress chickens. Mattocks says that when the ground is wet, the poultry are constantly going to be in a state of mild hypothermia.

“As the moisture is drying off their body,” he says, “their body core temperatures are not going to be at the right levels.”

Mattocks encourages farmers to provide a rain shelter and get chickens up off the cold, wet ground.

“Even if it’s up on slats or old pallets or whatever,” he says, “they’re going to be a lot more comfortable, less stressed, and more healthy.”

So he says pasture-raised chickens can thrive, but as the climate changes, farmers must act to protect their flocks.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.