At Provenance Farms, we want you to be able to see for yourself how we raise our animals.
We love talking directly with our farmers at the local farmer's market. Over time, we’ve been able to build great relationships with our favorite local butchers.
Most of the time; however, we want to see for ourselves exactly how the animals lived.
You’ll be able to look at your friends and family and tell them, without an ounce of doubt, that the chicken you've chosen for them lived 63 days — 41 of them outside — was moved to fresh pasture each day they were outside, and was given fresh feed and water multiple times a day.
You can even show them right here on your phone or laptop.
The occasional Instagram and Facebook posts are great and all, but Provenance values 100% transparency; we track and share all of our updates, from their first day to their 'one bad one'.
We never want you to take our word for it.
Life as a "Broiler" Chicken
"Broiler" is the industry term for chickens raised and sold for meat consumption, as opposed to "layers", which are raised for egg production.
We pick up our baby broiler chicks on the day they're hatched and transport them in the back of our vehicle to our brooder. This is where their time on our farm begins.
The health and quality of our chickens is made or lost in their brooder. We get our chickens on their first day of life. The reason why we can't put them directly on pasture on day 1 is two-fold; for the first week they can't regulate their own temperature; they need heat lamps to live and they need time to grow the feathers that will protect them from cool overnight temperatures.
That process takes 3-4 weeks.
Our chickens will spend their first 21-28 days in their brooder so it's important that we keep the environment well-managed and healthy. The goal is simple; get them to pasture as soon as possible with a strong health profile.
We track, monitor, and record the following factors multiple times a day:
- Ambient temperature
- Ambient humidity
- Temperature under their heat lamps
- Temperature on their backs
- Carbon Dioxide levels
- Food status
- Water status
- Cold stress behaviour (huddling, pilling)
- Heat stress behaviour (extreme panting, spacing between chicks, huddling against cold surface such as walls)
- Daylight exposure
- Night (darkness) exposure
- Shavings cleanliness
- Stress, anxiety, competition levels during feeding
- Sound levels
- Injury / mortality / cause of death
We'll adjust accordingly in order to maintain the brooder environment as a low-stress, comfortable growth space for their first 3-4 weeks.
Our chicks get clean water tested for quality and only organic feed.
Their First day is their most important
We set the brooder up at least two days in advance. The ambient temperature is raised to 80° F (27° C) and the heat lamps are turned on to raise the bedding temperature to 95° F (35° C). Their water is also at room temperature by this point.
We gently place the chicks in their new space and monitor them to make sure they're all freely accessing food and water, are not huddling due to cold, and are generally active. We aim for 1/3 of the flock feeding, sleeping, actively moving around.
Growing their feathers and ready for pasture - Day 1 to Day 21
Moving Day, Finally!
Between day 21 and 28 we move these now feathered chickens out to pasture. We quickly move them in small batches so as to minimize their transport time. We track start and end times for transportation of each batch and can usually deliver a batch of 20-30 chickens to pasture in about 20 minutes, from putting the first chicken in a crate to unloading the last onto pasture.
Out on Pasture
This is where the real regenerative agriculture happens. While out on pasture, your chickens are moved to a fresh plot every morning. Our pasture is a high-quality forage planted from organic seed, which is very important, because they become what they eat:
- 20% Organic Alfalfa
- 15% Organic Perennial Ryegrass
- 10% Organic Crimson Clover
- 10% Organic Festulolium
- 10% Organic Hairy Vetch
- 10% Organic Tall Fescue
- 10% Organic Timothy
- 5% Organic Orchardgrass
- 5% Organic White Clover
- 5% Organic Double Cut Red Clover
In addition to the forage pasture, they're fed a fully organic high protein feed.
These fields have been traditionally and conventionally farmed for the last 50 years or so. It's imperative that we rebuild the soil, the soil microbiome, and increase their ability for nitrogen and carbon sequestration.
Our chickens act as little regeneration machines by scratching the soil surface and converting forage and bugs to high-quality manure.
We move them so that this process is evenly applied over the course of the season.
Ultimately we're preparing the soil to support multiple fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and other ruminants such as lamb and cattle.
The "One Bad Day"
As it is, their one bad day comes somewhere between 49 and 70 days of age. The most important thing on this day is to minimize the stress and anxiety the animals will experience through handling and transport.
We move early
We typically set out the livestock trailer and crates the day before so that we're ready to go first thing in the morning. By first thing, we're not kidding; We'll start at 3:00 a.m. in order to arrive at the processor by 7:00 a.m.
Starting this early helps reduce stress in the animal in a number of ways. First, their circadian rhythm has them sleeping at this time, and while we may disturb their sleep when we pick them up, they quickly settle down and go back to sleep once in their crates.
Secondly, no matter how hot the day may be forecasted, it's typically quite cool in the early morning. Transporting them during cool hours is imperative for their well-being and dramatically decreases the risk of heat stress.
We Use a Well Ventilated Trailer
The trailer we use is specifically designed to carry livestock. It has a roof to protect from sun exposure, but it's not sealed. Instead, it has large ventilation openings on all sides as well as a large section at the front where no crates are loaded in order to increase air circulation throughout the trailer during transport.
Until we're ready to load the trailer, we stack full crates outside to make sure all our chickens have fresh air at all times, as there is a risk to proper ventilation if the trailer is parked as opposed to in motion at typical driving speeds.
The trailer is power washed and cleaned before and after each transport.
We Ensure Ample Room in Their Crates
The crates need to balance a number of concerns. Firstly, the welfare of the animal. The animal needs enough space to be able to move around, be comfortable during transport, be provided ample airflow, and be protected from injury.
The crates themselves require a lot of characteristics: they need to feel lightweight for carrying when full, stackable, durable enough to carry up to 77 lbs of animals, easy to be cleaned, and strong enough to not to break after repeated use, without any protrusions that could somehow injure an animal.
From a transportation density perspective, the regulations limit each crate to approximately 77 lbs of livestock.
We'll rarely exceed 55 lbs (that would be five very large chickens in our case). We find that gives our chickens the most space to move around for comfort, provides ample air flow, and makes it easier to remove the chickens once arrived.
We Get On The Move
We load the trailer quickly, while ensuring our animals have proper ventilation at all times while not moving. Once we're on the move, it's a 45 minute drive to our processor.
The Final Journey
We picked up the processed chickens later that same day. They've been air-chilled (not water-chilled), and they're prepared for delivery to our customers as either fresh or frozen chicken.
See the details from each flock of Season 2021
Chickens Flock 1 - 67 days from April 19, 2020 - June 25, 2021
Injury & Mortality
We aim for a 0% mortality rate directly caused by us. We've engineered the systems, transportation, and daily operations to maximize our animals’ physical safety as well as biosecurity against disease.
That said, there will be mortality and lameness that will present itself from time to time. For instance, in our first flock of 2021, we received 306 baby chicks of which 24 died within the first three weeks due to an infection acquired while the chicks were still unhatched. We were worried something we had done had caused these deaths when we lost 1% of the flock within the first 24 hours.
Working with our vet, we were able to diagnose the infection and determine it was not due to our environment, nor was it transmissible, but that the mortalities would likely continue for up to four weeks.
Thankfully these kinds of situations are rare, but it still means multiple interactions with our vet as we conduct a post-mortem on each and every deceased bird to determine the likely cause of death for our records.