Frequently Used Terms

Here is how we define some of these nebulous and often misused terms.
  • Pastured - Chickens that are raised on pasture, but not allowed to roam free are called pastured chickens.  These chickens are normally raised in houses called chicken tractors.  These houses have no floors which allow the chicken to eat grass and bugs along with the food provided them.  Every day the tractors are moved forward providing the chickens with new, clean, grass and bugs.  The chicken tractors provide the chickens protection from predators like fox, possoms, coons, hawks, and neighborhood dogs while allowing them to express their natural tendency to forage, scratch, and be a chicken.  The chickens leave behind a trail of manure which fertilizes the hay fields and cow pastures.
  • Free-Range - Legally the term means that a chicken must have free "access" to the outdoors.  Based on this definition, a chicken can be raised in a conventional confinement type of poultry operation and can be called free range if the door of the house is left open providing access to the outdoors.  There are several large poultry operations that use this definition of free-range as a marketing tool.  There are several small farms which truly free-range their chickens allowing their birds to roam the pastures 24 hours a day.  Protection from predators is normally provided by guard dogs or donkeys. All of our laying hens, broilers and turkeys are free ranged.
  • Natural or All Natural -   Of all of the commonly used marketing terms, this one is the most confusing.  In the meat industry, when a product is labeled "natural" or "all natural", it simply means that nothing additional was added to the product at the time of processing.  The term doesn't reflect the way the animal was raised nor the food it was fed.  A confinement raised chicken, turkey, or hog that was fed feed containing antibiotics, could still be marketed as "all natural".
  • Antibiotic Free -  Any animal fed feed containing antibiotics can be classified as "antibiotic free" when processed after the withdrawl period.  In the case of chickens, most of the anitibiotics have a 7 day withdrawl period; chickens processed on the 8th day can be marketed as "antibiotic free".  Except in severe cases of illness, to prevent death of a sick animal, our animals never recieve antibiotics.
  • Boar - A male hog used for breeding.  Boars normally stay in our breeding herd until they reach 4 years old or become too large and mean for us to handle safely.  Boars are not used for meat due to the strong smell and taste of the meat. 
  • Sow - A term refering to a female hog once she has had her first litter of pigs.  Most of our females are kept in the breeding herd for 3 to 4 years.
  • Barrow - A castrated male hog raised for meat only. 
  • gilt - A term used to refer to a female pig prior to her having her first litter of pigs.
  • Farrowing House - Building used to house a sow and her litter from birth until the baby pigs are 4 weeks old.
  • Nursery House - Building used to hold baby pigs from 4 weeks old until they are 7 or 8 weeks old.  At 7 or 8 weeks of age the pigs are big and healthy enough to be moved to the pasture.
  • Brooder Room - A temperature controled building used to house day old chicks until they are 4 weeks old and capable of being moved to the pasture.
  • Chicken Tractor - A portable structure used to house broiler chickens.  We have two sizes of houses, 10'X 12' and 12' X 20'.  The house has no floor which allows the chicken to eat grass and provides the farm with a continuos source of fertilizer.  All of our chicken tractors are moved to new, fresh, grass daily.