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Why Pastured Chickens Need Shelters

Posted in Food for Thought

Chickens raised on pasture are healthier, happier, and more nutritious. But being out on pasture means they’re exposed to several dangers. We have to protect them from the hot sun and cold rain yet still allow them to get sunshine when they want it.

Chickens, especially meat chickens, are easy and tasty meals for nearly every predator you’ll run into. Raccoons, possums, and foxes are the most common. You’ve heard about the fox in the hen house. But aerial predators like hawks, eagles and owls are also a problem. This is where chicken shelters come in. they offer protection from all of these things while still allowing the chickens to have fresh clean grass every day.

Keep the Predators Away

Chickens are tasty treats for predators. They don’t see well in the dark. When they can’t see, they tend to stay put. This makes them especially easy to catch at night. A Fox or raccoon merely has to grab them and start eating. Many predators are so relaxed that they eat the chickens in the coop and leave what they don’t eat for the us to find the next day.

This situation is bad enough with athletic egg layers. It’s even worse for lethargic meat chickens. Americans have become accustomed to plump cornish-cross meat chicken. These chickens grow very fast, even on the natural feed we use. They don’t need hormones or antibiotics to grow fast, they’re bred to grow fast on their own. This fast growth rate makes them tire easy. It takes a lot of energy to haul around twice as much weight as a normal chicken.

Cornish-Cross’ large size makes them slow. It’s harder to get that much weight to move quickly. They can’t just jump away when a predator grabs them. That makes them sitting ducks, or chickens.

So far the only predators I’ve talked about were ground predators. Chickens also have to deal with aerial predators. Eagles, chicken hawks, and other predatory birds like to swoop down and grab a chicken, then take off with it. Fences will keep out the ground predators, but aerial predators simply fly over. This is why our chicken shelters have roofs. The roof keeps the aerial predators out, but also serve two more important functions.

Shade from the Hot Sun

Meat chickens are raised in the summer, when it’s hot out. They don’t do very well in the winter. It’s cold. Meat chickens don’t have as many feathers as normal chickens. This cold makes them, uncomfortable, grow slower, and not to mention, dealing with frozen water sucks. It’s uncomfortable for both the chickens and for the farmer.

These are just a couple reasons sustainable farmers choose not to raise their chickens in the winter. The only exception are some farms in the south where it doesn’t get so cold in the winter. This means raising them in the summer. In most parts of the country it gets hot during midday. Pastured chickens love sunbathing in the morning when it’s cool out, but once the temperature rises, they go waddling for the shade. Heatstroke is a real problem for livestock, especially meat chickens.

The metal or plastic roof provides a cool barrier against the sun. Farmers make a point to include vents near the bottom to allow airflow. Hot air rises, this pulls cooler air in through the vents, providing a natural cool breeze.

Shelter from the Weather

Being out on pasture means weather. That means rain, cold temperatures, and wind. Frequently at the same time. Rain and wind together are a double whammy to chickens. Meat chickens live on the ground. They’re too big and clumsy to roost. They would also be too heavy. Ten full grown meat chickens would collapse most roost poles.

Being on the ground can be a good thing. Grass can provide a soft warm place for the chickens to snuggle together. Not to mention, it’s clean. Good pasture will absorb lots of water. Even in a steady rain you can look inside the shelter and see nice dry ground. Only when the rain starts pouring do farmers have to bring out the straw to give their chickens a dry place to lay.

Being a pasture based farmer, means worrying about the weather. While you may get to sit inside watching the thunderstorm in comfort. They’re out in the rain stuffing straw under the shelters so their birds can get dry. Wet birds can get sick rather quickly. This is the commitment to humanely raising the best meat in the world.

Keep Them out of Yesterday’s Poop

Moving chickens everyday leaves yesterday’s poop behind. Being in a shelter means they are separated from it. This eliminates most of the disease vectors that chickens suffer from. Many diseases have about a 24 hour incubation period. Poop dropped 24 hours ago contains pathogens looking for a new host. When a farmer move his chickens, those pathogens are left stranded to die in the sunshine. This is how sustainable farmers are able to raise chickens without antibiotics.

Another benefit of moving chickens every day is that it gives the chickens fresh grass and bugs to eat. We’ve all been told we need to eat our greens. Well that goes for chickens too. Chlorophyll is a detoxicant. You’ve probably seen chlorophyll tablets in the health food store. Fresh grass provides vitamins and nutrients to keep pastured chickens healthy. You can’t get any fresher than eating it off the ground.

These nutrients that pastured chickens ingest go into their meat. That is why pasture raised chicken is so much healthier than factory farm chicken. Farmers move their chickens everyday, sometimes twice a day, because the grass gets dirty quickly. You wouldn’t want to eat dirty food, neither do chickens.

Pastured Chickens like their Shelters

Occasionally while moving the chicken shelters, one or two chickens will get out. You might think that they would run off, happy to have their freedom. This doesn’t happen. A newly freed chicken will look around for a moment, then run over to the shelter and begin looking for a way back in. They will circle the shelter looking up and down for a hole to climb through.

Perhaps this sounds crazy. Why would a chicken want back in? Isn’t it happy to be free? Not necessarily. Chickens are social creatures. They live in flocks. When one gets separated it wants to get back to the flock. Meat chickens are not used to being outside the safety of their shelter. It’s scary. Maybe if they got used to it, they would like it. If they survived long enough.

The truth is, pastured chickens like being in their shelters, it’s what they’re used to. They get plenty of fresh air, and as much sunshine as they want, but not too much. Pastured chickens have more than twice the amount of room as factory farm chickens.

As you can see, sustainable farmers are not putting their chickens in chicken shelters to be mean. They’re doing it because they love them. You wouldn’t let your baby crawl around wherever it wants, you keep it safe. That’s what playpens are for. They keep babies safe. Chicken shelters keep Pastured chickens safe and comfortable. They allow us to raise the best chicken possible.

Chickens Are Not Vegetarians

Posted in Food for Thought

While browsing through Whole Foods awhile back, I came across a package of eggs from “vegetarian fed chickens”. That got me thinking. What did they have to do to force their chickens to be vegetarians? Chickens are not vegetarian by nature. I know, I’ve raised chickens my whole life. I never found any vegetarian chickens.

One activity we liked to do as kids was grab some bugs or worms and throw them into the chicken yard. Then stand back and watch as the chickens chased them around and ate them. The moment a chicken sees a bug moving, it zeroes in for the kill. This is a natural response. Chickens have been doing this for thousands of years. Wild chickens didn’t have a feeder stocked full of corn, they had to find their own food.

According to Wikipedia: “In the wild, they often scratch at the soil to search for seeds, insects and even larger animals such as lizards, small snakes or young mice.” Eating insects is not vegetarian. Eating lizards, snakes, and mice is certainly not vegetarian.

Turkeys are even more voracious hunters. From as young as a week old, baby turkeys will stalk and attempt to eat any fly that lands nearby. This is instinct, they didn’t learn it from us, they didn’t learn it from their mother. In the brooder, they only have each other to learn from.

Vegetarian Fed Means Kept Indoors

When I see “vegetarian fed” on a carton of eggs, or a package of chicken, I feel bad for those chickens. They’re clearly not living their lives out in the pasture. If they were, you couldn’t call them vegetarians. The only way to ensure that a chicken only eats what you want, is to lock them in a building. Controlling their environment ensures that they don’t eat any of those nasty bugs or worms.

The word ‘fed’ in vegetarian fed sounds like a weasel word. Chickens, even ones in buildings, may still be able to find bugs to eat. Bugs that crawled or flew in. Manure attracts bugs. That said, there’s no bugs or animal products in the feed. Hence, vegetarian fed.

“Eww! Chickens eat bugs! That’s gross.”. No, it’s not gross, it’s natural. What isn’t natural is forcing chickens to eat only what you consider fit for consumption. I find it rather amusing that someone wanting to eat meat would want to force that meat to be vegetarian. I have no idea where this idea even came from. Surely not from vegetarians, they don’t eat meat. Are that many consumers grossed out about chickens eating bugs?

Bugs are the most nutrient dense things a chicken can eat. When a chicken eats bugs and other non vegetarian things it turns the pale yellow yolk of an industrial chicken into the healthy orange yolk of a pasture raised egg.

When you deprive chickens of their natural diet of bugs and grass, you have to replace it with vitamin supplements. Man made vitamin packs and mineral supplements are never going to be as good as simply letting a chicken eat their natural diet. Not to mention, locking thousands of chickens in a building is not healthy, nor humane.

Why are store bought egg yolks a pale yellow? Because 10,000 hens locked in a barn with a small yard have nothing to eat except the same premixed chicken feed. There are no bugs to be found and any grass in the yard is quickly eaten and scratched down to dirt. There’s very little nutrition in a dirt yard. In my article, Pastured Raised Eggs, I explain why raising chickens on pasture makes for healthier eggs.

Sustainable farms raise chickens out on pasture, where they’re meant to be. This makes for happier chickens and healthier eggs. Raising chickens in the pasture is more work, but they don’t mind. Seeing those happy hens everyday makes it worth it. I hope you agree.

Your Body is not Sterile

Posted in Food for Thought

Our culture has taught us to be afraid of bacteria. We believe that our bodies are sterile and bacteria invade and attack, making us sick. If you stopped an average soccer mom on the street and told her that there are trillions of bacteria in her guts, she would probably freak out and run for the antibiotics. What she doesn’t understand is there are good kinds of bacteria. We need this bacteria. If our intestines we’re truly sterile, we would most surely die.

Bacteria are on our skin. Some cause body odor, some manufacture vitamin D when we get sunshine. Bacteria line the membranes of our mouth, nose, ears, eyes, and mouth. These bacteria are the first line of defence against foreign invaders.[1] There are actually more cells in your gut flora than in your body.[6] This collection of bacteria, yeasts, viruses, worms, and other single celled organisms is more unique than any fingerprint or any retinal scan could possibly be.

The makeup of this flora is constantly changing. The food you eat, the chemicals you’re exposed to, and any drugs or medication you take will affect it. When I was a teenager, I found out that the more sugar I ate, the more acne I got. If I went easy on sugar for a week, my acne cleared up. No medicine or creams required.

Bacteria is Good for You

Since the advent of germ theory, mankind has feared bacteria. Antibiotics, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, these have become commonplace. Modern families endeavour to live without bacteria. But this is a fallacy. We cannot live without bacteria. Nor can we live without beneficial yeasts, viruses, and other microbes.

Your body uses this gut flora to digest food. They are the ones who break down your food into usable constituents, not your stomach, not your intestines. Your digestive system is merely a place for them to live. Your gut flora assists in the assimilation of nutrients. They create nutrients from your food. They manufacture vitamins for your body to use between meals.

There is a world war going on inside and outside your body every day. Good bugs fighting bad bugs. Bacteria fighting bacteria. Yeast fighting yeast. Viruses fighting viruses. The largest part of your immune system is in your gut. No it’s not a bunch of white blood cells, it’s bacteria, yeast, viruses, and many other single celled organisms. A healthy body has up to six pounds of beneficial flora in the gut.

In addition to protecting us from infections, healthy gut flora protect us from toxins and carcinogens. They do this by either neutralizing them or grabbing onto them. Our stools are up to 90% bacteria. When they are eliminated, they take these toxins out with them.

A study done in 2007 looked at two groups of animals. One group was given antibiotics, while the other was the control. They were given large amounts of organic mercury in their food and water. In the group that we’re not given antibiotics, who had healthy robust gut flora, only 1% of that mercury got into the body from the digestive tract. In the group treated with antibiotics, which wiped out the gut flora, over 90% of the mercury got into their bodies, blood stream, bones, and everywhere else.[1]

Bacteria is Bad for You

Your gut also contains many bad microbes just waiting to take over. These opportunistic microbes are kept in check by your healthy gut flora. When their population is low, these microbes actually serve a good purpose. Only when they get overpopulated do they cause problems.

You can think of these opportunistic microbes as cops and criminals. As long as you have enough cops around, they’ll keep the criminals in check. Like most criminals, opportunistic microbes are waiting to take advantage of the right situation. Most criminals only rob when it’s easy or convenient. That’s why locking your car works. As long as your good gut flora outnumbers the opportunistic ones you’ll be okay.

Modern lifestyles wreak havoc on our beneficial gut flora. Antibiotics are the number one killer of healthy gut bacteria. Whether they come in the form of a prescription or residuals in the meat we consume, they decimate our healthy gut bacteria. Most prescription drugs, contraceptive pills, and chemicals in our food also damage our healthy gut flora.

When our healthy gut bacteria is reduced, the opportunistic microbes begin proliferating, unchecked. This can lead to gut inflammation and leaky gut syndrome, where partially digested food particles enter the bloodstream. These food particles can cause immune system reactions that may get mistaken for food allergies.[5]

When this happens these opportunistic microbes eat our food, convert it into hundreds of toxins that flow into the bloodstream through the damaged gut wall. These chemicals wreak havoc on a person’s body, especially a child’s body.[2]

Is Your Gut Rotting Your Brain?

Perhaps you think this idea is far-fetched. How could our digestive system have anything to do with our brain? They’re so far apart. But is it really that far-fetched? When a doctor prescribes an antidepressant, what does the patient do with it? Do they rub it on their forehead? No. They take it by mouth where it enters the digestive system. Only then does it get absorbed into the bloodstream and affect the brain.

So why should anyone consider it far-fetched that microbes in that same gut might also be excreting chemicals that affect the brain. We already know that bacteria can excrete toxins that rot teeth. Is it possible these chemicals may also be rotting the brain?

“All diseases begin in the gut.” This saying was coined by Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago. Hippocrates is considered the father of modern medicine. Only now are we starting to realize he was right. Probiotics are becoming popular and antibiotics are starting to be seen for what they are. Destroyers of life.

Don’t Feed the Animals

Sugar and carbohydrates are the top foods for opportunistic microbes. Especially yeast. The most common type being the ubiquitous candida species. This is a large family of yeast with about 200 different species known to science so far.[1] Yeast breaks down these carbohydrates into alcohol by means of alcoholic fermentation. The same alcoholic fermentation that beer companies use.

When your digestive system runs out of carbohydrates, your opportunistic microbes start calling for more. Your brain uses hormones and chemicals to regulate thoughts and obsessions about food. Candida, parasites, and other bad microbes have evolved ways to mimic this natural process to trick you into eating more carbohydrates and sugar. However, their influence is only felt when there is an abundance of them.[3]

We’ve all been there. We open the refrigerator and just stare. We don’t know what we want to eat, only that we want to eat something. The reason this is so confusing is simple. We’re not the ones who are hungry, it’s the microbes in our gut that are hungry. They want carbohydrates.

The key to reducing your opportunistic bacteria is to stop feeding it. Reduce your carbohydrate consumption, especially sugar. Processed food contains many carbohydrates, but also chemical flavorings that only pathogenic microbes can benefit from. Our opportunistic microbes do not need the nutrients that healthy food contains. They are perfectly happy to live off junk food.

Repopulate Your Gut Flora

Probiotic supplements are a good place to start. However, you want to be careful what brand you buy. Cheap probiotics contain only contain lactobacilli. Good probiotics contain multiple groups of bacteria. A combination from the three main groups is best: lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and soil bacteria. Potency is also important. Look for at least 8 billion cells per gram. The more the better.[2]

The probiotic I use is Young Living’s Life 9. It has 17 billion live cultures from 9 beneficial bacteria strains. Another thing to consider is how long do the capsules take to break down. Stomach acid can kill most of the probiotic bacteria. Life 9 uses time release capsules so that the probiotics are not released in the stomach.

Years ago, before refrigeration, people had to be more creative in preserving their food. Lacto-fermentation was one of these methods. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. You’ve surely heard of sauerkraut, it gets its distinct flavor from the lactic acid produced by the bacteria fermenting the cabbage. When we eat fresh, unpasteurized sauerkraut, the bacteria go into our gut and help us digest food.

Pickles can also be fermented using bacteria. This is generally done with a starter culture. Pickles you buy in the store are pickled with vinegar. There are no beneficial bacteria to be found. Even if there were, they would be killed in the canning process.

Kefir is a cultured milk product. It’s like yogurt on steroids. But kefir is not yogurt. While yogurt may have 7-10 strains of bacteria, kefir frequently has up to fifty. The types of bacteria are different. The bacteria in yogurt pass through the body in 24 hours. The bacteria in kefir stay and take up residence in your gut.[7]

Kombucha is a fermented tea made by the kombucha culture of bacteria and yeast. Kombucha is proof that healthy doesn’t have to taste bad. Properly made kombucha tastes like bubbly apple cider. But don’t let the good taste fool you. In addition to good bacteria, kombucha contains a beneficial yeast that will help fight off bad yeasts, notably candida.[7]

For instructions on how to make all of these, visit Donna Schwenk’s You can buy kefir grains, kombucha starter, sourdough starter, pickling culture, and books on cultured food.

Feed Your Good Flora

Once you get some good flora, you want it to flourish. One of the best ways is by drinking bone broth. Broth made from bones provides building blocks for the rapidly growing cells of the gut lining. They also have a soothing effect on areas of inflammation.[8] This is why chicken soup is good when you’re sick. You can buy broth from the store, but be careful that it doesn’t have chemical flavors. These will harm your beneficial gut flora more than help it. Watch out for MSG, natural flavorings, or yeast extract.

The best broth is the broth you make yourself. You can buy pasture raised beef or chicken bones from local farms for $2 – $5 a pound. This broth will have many times the nutrients as store bought. You can also add vegetables like onions, garlic, and carrots to add even more nutrients and flavor. A good broth will taste like beef stew or chicken soup.

Vegetables are another important food for us and our gut flora. However, not all vegetables are equal. Most of the sweet, bland, and pale vegetables you find in the produce section have only fractions of the nutrients their predecessors had. One easy thing to look for is color. Darker is usually better. Darker green lettuce. Darker yellow corn. Purple is always better. Purple lettuce, purple carrots, purple corn. The darker colors indicate more nutrients.

The best way to get these vegetables is from local farms. Vegetables do not require very much space to grow. This means that urban farms can sell produce that’s just as healthy as large rural farms. It’s all about how the vegetables are raised. Do they use compost or miracle grow? We’re the vegetables picked within a couple days of being sold? Do they use pesticides or natural ways to deal with pests? Just because a vegetable has some insect damage doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, in japan people seek out produce with holes because that means it’s more natural. If the insects think it’s good, then maybe it is.

Meat is also an important part of your diet. Meat is the best source of protein. Some plants may contain high levels of protein, but our bodies don’t assimilate it well. What’s the point of eating lots of protein if most of it gets wasted?

Pasture raised meat from local farms is ideal. If you cannot afford pasture raised, you can buy meat from the supermarket. Buy raw unprocessed meat from the meat section. Processing eliminates many nutrients and adds chemical flavorings that will harm your beneficial gut flora. Making soups and stews is the best way to eat meat. They are easy to make, just throw the ingredients in a crock pot and let it cook.


Let’s not kid ourselves. If you want to take control of your health, you’re going to have to start cooking. Restaurants use cheap ingredients grown on the same mega farms that supply your local supermarket. They rely on chemical flavorings to make their food taste like the real food it’s impersonating. Restaurants are not concerned with how healthy their food is. They’re concerned with sales. If that means promising healthier food, then they’ll make a few adjustments. But in the end, they’re still using the same cheap food. It’s up to you whether you will continue to support that system.




  2. Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, 2010 – p. 51-53
  7. Cultured Food for Life, Donna Schwenk, 2013
  8. Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, 2010 – p. 145


Pasture Raised Eggs

Posted in Food for Thought

Local pasture raised eggs are easily the most popular sustainable food you can buy. They are easy to raise, easy to sell, and easy to see and taste the difference. I’m sure you already know that pasture raised eggs are better than supermarket eggs. But do you know why?

Why are store bought egg yolks a pale yellow? Because 10,000 hens locked in a barn with a small dirt yard have nothing to eat except the same old premixed chicken feed. Even organic chickens who are mandated outdoor access quickly scratch said yards down to dirt. There’s very little nutrition in a dirt yard.

Pasture raised eggs are far more nutritious than supermarket eggs. Pastured eggs have both Omega-3 and Omega-6 in nearly equal proportions. Conversely, supermarket eggs have as much as 19 times as much Omega-6 than Omega-3. These need to be in balance to be healthy. According to Mother Earth News, eggs raised on pasture contain ⅔ more vitamin A, 3 times more vitamin E, 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D, and seven times more beta carotene.[1]

Pastured eggs are laid by hens out on pasture. They get plenty of exercise out in the sun. They get to eat fresh grass and live bugs every day. This is how chickens are supposed to live. Not forced to walk across a floor layered in weeks old poop to get to their feed and water. Not crammed into small wire cages with up to eight other hens. Not breathing fecal dust which gets into their lungs, causing inflammation and leading to infections.

Industrial Egg Chickens have Osteoporosis

A hundred years ago the average egg laying hen weighed about 6 pounds and laid around 150 eggs a year. Today, industrial egg layers weigh 3 pounds and lay 300+ eggs in a year. That’s twice the production out of half the weight. That may sound like progress, but it’s not healthy. These hens are much more fragile than heritage breeds that you will find on sustainable farms. They need a very exacting feed ration and can’t be allowed to run around much. they need that energy to go into egg production, not exercise.

In order to keep up the the calcium requirements needed to lay an egg every day, the hen’s body sacrifices her bones in order to get the needed calcium.[3] Egg shells are made of calcium. Being half the size also means less bone mass to pull from. These hens are not laying smaller eggs. Of course not, that would mean less money.

A standard large egg weighs 2 oz. An industrial hen weighs 48 oz. That’s a lot of weight to be dropping every day. Imagine a 150 pound woman having a 6.5 pound baby every day for a year. That’s all you need to imagine, because industrial laying hens don’t usually live longer than a year.

Is it any wonder that industrial eggs lack the vitamins and nutrients that pastured eggs have?

Animals are meant to be outside.

Not locked inside buildings. Small dirt yards are not enough. Genuine pasture raised chickens are moved every week – sometimes more than once a week – to fresh pasture. This is to keep them from eating up everything in sight. Anyone who has raised backyard chickens in a chicken yard know just how quickly chickens can turn a lush green yard into dirt. That’s what happens when chickens don’t move. Just imagine what 10,000 chickens could do to a yard.

When a farmer puts 10,000 hens in a building together, they’ve created a perfect environment for disease. Pathogens don’t like to travel very far. Their lifespan outside a host is short. They need to find another host soon. Lucky for them, there are plenty to be found in a commercial chicken house. It doesn’t help that living inside under constant light suppresses chickens’ immune systems.[2] To combat the disease problem created by confinement, commercial farms rely on antibiotics and other drugs.

These chicken farmers live in constant fear of an outbreak that could sweep through their flock leaving thousands dead in a matter of days. They take many precautions. Toxic footbaths and showers at every building entrance to kill pathogens. Screens and concrete to keep out mice, flies, or wild birds. No Trespassing signs and gates to keep out the disease carrying public. These actions come from a place of fear. Fear created by a flawed system.

Chickens raised on pasture don’t need drugs. They’re spread out. They have many times more square footage per chicken. This means that pathogens have a harder time finding a new host. Plus, being out on pasture also means sunshine. Sunshine is the worst thing for a pathogen. Sunshine is the great sanitizer. Sustainable farmers aren’t worried about disease constantly. Disease is rare on a sustainable farm. This, as much as anything, should be proof that sustainable farming is a superior model.

How do you know you’re buying truly pasture raised eggs? First, know the farmer who raises them. Some egg sellers claim pasture raised without knowing what it truly means. They think they’re raising chickens in a pasture when in reality the chickens merely have a large yard. Ask the seller for proof. Do they have any pictures? Better yet, go visit the farm. The best inspection is customer inspection.



  2. Kliger et al, 2000. “Effects of photoperiod and melatonin on lymphocyte activities in male broiler chickens.” Poultry Science 79:18-25.