About Our Poultry
Marilyn and I are often asked about our Newland Ranch Pasture Raised Poultry so we’ve put together this short discussion sheet to provide information for our customers on our meat production poultry.
The focus of the Newland Ranch Poultry Program is consistent production of high-quality birds based on true free range pasture rearing. To us that means as much freedom in a natural habitat that we can provide, within a predator resistant compound or set of rearing protocols: an example of this is that at night we secure our birds against predation and then release them during the day to freely forage and do what poultry love to do.
There is a bit of debate about the terms “broiler” versus “fryer” to describe young market ready chicken. In our experience the proper term for market ready meat bird chickens is “broiler.” However, these birds are almost exclusively sold in grocery stores as “fryers.” We’ve tended to use the term “fryer” because it is what our customers are most familiar with. So, when you hear the term “broiler” know they are talking about a “fryer.”
In turkey terminology, the proper term for young turkeys is “poults.” Immature male poults are Jakes, and when grown are called Toms or Gobblers. Immature female turkeys are Jennies, and at maturity are called Hens.
At Newland Ranch we raise four types of poultry for meat: 1) Cornish Cross broilers; 2) Red Ranger broilers, considered by some to be a heritage breed; 3) Broad Breasted White turkeys; and, 4) Standard Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys, considered by some to be a heritage breed. Our flock of laying hens originally, was solely Rhode Island Reds, but for flock management reasons we are incorporating other breeds. Our choice of other breeds is determined by the breed’s capability for a high production rate of large brown eggs. We are moving to a three breed laying flock rotation of Novogens, Black Sex-Links and Rhode Island Reds.
In terms of our meat bird chickens, our flocks are reared from day old chicks. When chicks arrive at the ranch they are immediately placed in a specially designed brooder in our barn. Our brooder is equipped with heat lamps allowing us to control the temperature in the brooder to about 90 degrees, regardless of the time of year. As the chicks, or poults, grow and begin to feather we raise the heat lamps up, thus cooling the brooder which helps “harden” them and to stimulate the growth of feathers. This prepares them for their outdoor nursery. Our barn poultry brooder is caged to minimize loss to predators and to keep out our snoopy laying hens. Our brooder can handle up to 100 chicks, or poults at a time.
Chicks and poults are fed a specially designed feed for baby poultry. We buy our feed from Union Mills Feed Store, one of the oldest mills in Oregon, located just 3 miles from the ranch. During the first couple of weeks we add electrolytes and probiotics to their water to help the babies adjust to their new environment.
At about two weeks of age the chicks, or poults, are moved to an outdoor nursery. Our goal is to get our poultry on a natural diet of grasses and insects as quickly as possible. We also want to encourage movement and natural poultry behavior, like scratching for seeds and insects. This is not only good for their physical health, but also for their mental wellbeing.
We call our poultry nursery, “The Conestoga,” because it looks like a covered wagon, sometimes called a Prairie Schooner. “The Conestoga” is a wire enclosed shelter that has wheels so we can move it to fresh grass on a frequent basis, is equipped with heat lamps, food and an automatic waterer. Like the old covered wagons, “The Conestoga” has a weather barrier to protect the babies from the elements, e.g., sun, rain and predation. The nursery is located within a smaller “tight wire,” (2 inch x 4 inch wire mesh fenced), enclosure. After about a week in the we open the door of “The Conestoga” and let the babies free range in the nursery yard. It is so much fun to see them run about their new world and begin to do what chickens do, pecking and scratching for bugs and plants to eat.
When the babies reach about one month of age they are moved to our specially dedicated poultry paddocks. These paddocks are also fenced in “tight wire,” that keep the birds in, and predators out. In addition to the “tight wire,” we also use other predator proofing devices and facility, such as electric fencing and night time security flashers, to ward off predators, e.g., raccoons, skunks, et al. Our poultry paddocks total about a half acre and are completely set in a 70-year old stand of fir trees which provides a very natural habitat for foraging and cover from the elements.
Our meat birds have 24/7 access to pelletized grower feed from Union Mills and clean fresh water from automatic waterers. Our feed does not have any antibiotics, steroids or growth hormones, and is a formulated diet providing a proper balance of protein, minerals and carbohydrates. They have free choice access to grass, seeds and insects, and we provide a supplement of berries, fresh fruit and vegetables as we have them … we also raise pigs, and gleaning from area farms at post-harvest and other outlets, such as grocery stores, means that we often have these food items available and the birds love them, as you might expect.
Poultry is amazing. The Cornish Cross birds are harvested between 7 and 8 weeks of age and will range in size from 4.5 to nearly 8 pounds, depending on sex and harvest date. It's amazing, isn't it? Their meat is succulent and very flavorful, with large amounts of breast meat and ample legs and thighs.
Red Rangers, a heritage breed, takes at least 12 weeks to mature and will range in weight from 3.75 pounds to 5 pounds. These birds are very different in body shape with elongated breast and long legs. Red Rangers are much more active than the Cornish Cross breed.
We target a 16 week production cycle for our turkeys which will yield a weight range of 18 to 35 pounds, with Jakes being much larger. Although we prefer a holiday bird in the 25 to 27 pound range, many of our customers want a smaller bird so, in 2018, we’ve gone to raising a second set of poults a couple weeks younger than the first set, and grow these out in 14 weeks to yield 12 to 20 pound birds.
At this point we use Mineral Springs P0ultry Processors to process all of our birds. This is a relatively small poultry processing business specializing in serving ranches such as Newland Ranch. We are very happy with the humaneness of their bird handling, and the quality of their processing and packaging. Birds are packaged in very heavy plastic material with as much air as possible removed, comfortably giving our birds a 1-year shelf life in the freezer … although few last much more than a couple months in the family’s cold storage.
Just a couple notes on preparing Newland Ranch poultry... pasture raised birds are very moist and their juices will tend to run "pinker" than the store bought birds you're used to. USDA recommendations are to cook poultry to 165 degrees, reference:
If you use the old doneness test of sticking a skewer in the thigh of the bird and cook it until the juices run clear, then you may need to cook these birds to nearly 200 degrees, clearly overcooked and compromising the performance of the bird. So, we urge you to use a probe thermometer and trust it ... take the bird 165 degrees F, and remove it from the heat and let rest for a few minutes prior to carving. This will yield a full flavored succulent bird. And when you crack the thigh joint, it may have some "pinkess" to the juices, but trust me, it's cooked and safe at that temperature. That coloration is completely normal for these pasture raised birds. Because of the depth of breasts on these birds, allow for extra cooking time, but again, use your probe thermometer and stop the cooking process at 165 degree F.
Store bought birds finish in about 45 minutes at 375 degrees F, but these birds will most likely take you an hour.
Our preferred way to prepare a Newland Ranch Pasture Raised Broiler is to; 1) cut a generous bouquet of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme tied at the stem's base with cooking twine, 2) wash the bird it inside and out with cold water, 3) rub the exterior of the bird with olive oil and then firmly rub the entire skin surface of the bird with the herb bouquet, 4) place the herb bouquet into the bird’s cavity, salt and pepper the outside of the bird to taste, 5) truss the bird, (see the video links at the bottom of this article), 6) lightly oil the bottom of a ceramic or glass baking dish and place the bird in the dish, breast side up, and then into a 375 degree oven … and head out to do chores. Depending on the size of the bird, start checking for doneness at about the 45 minute mark.
Enjoy your fabulous dinner with one of the Willamette Valley region’s Chardonnay or Pinot Noir wines ... and when the bones are picked clean put the carcass, all the scraps and clear gelatin juices from the cutting board into a stock pot with a gallon of water, a couple carrots, sliced onion, 2 stalks of celery and let simmer over night. Skim it in the morning and strain for some of the most flavorful and healthy chicken stock you have ever had. We also have a recipe for Newland Ranch Chicken Bone Broth which takes three days to make but produces incredible flavor and is so healthy for you.
Newland Ranch Pasture Raised Broilers are much larger than the birds found in Safeway, or other commercial outlets, and that is because we take our birds to market maturity. Commercial producers harvest their birds at about 6 weeks, or maybe even sooner, and these birds range from 3.5 to 4.5 pounds. They do this to minimize the risk of loss and decrease feed expense. Because of flock density commercial production typically includes low levels of antibiotics as a preventative measure against disease - not an issue for us.
Also, as a point of information, a Cornish Game Hen that you find in the store, is nothing more than a Cornish Cross that is harvested at or less than 1 month of age.
Because our birds are larger it means that you can often do menu planning for week from a single broiler. Sunday afternoon may be roast chicken, creamed chicken over rice Tuesday night, chicken salad sandwiches during the week, and succulent chicken breast slices on a garden salad Thursday. Keep your refrigerator between 33 and 37 degrees and our broilers, and all of your other foods will last for a long time.
I hope you enjoy your Newland Ranch Pasture Raised Poultry. We put a lot of thought and effort into them to ensure not only top culinary performance, but also some of the healthiest food you can place before your family.
Please feel free to ask us any questions that come of mind. We like to hear from our customers, it feeds our wellbeing and makes us better. We offer menu and recipe selections upon request.
Below are some references and resources you may find helpful.
How to truss a chicken:
How to carve a whole roasted chicken:
How to part a chicken prior to cooking: