General Chicken Care and Practices

  • Providing good-quality organically grown feed.
  • Maintaining appropriate stocking rates.
  • Designing husbandry systems adapted to their needs.
  • Promoting animal health and welfare by minimizing stress, maintaining animal health with sound management, emphasizing cleanliness, and moving away from the regular use of healthcare products.
Housing Space per Bird
  • 1/3 square foot indoors until 3 weeks.
  • 1.5 square feet until 16 weeks.
  • After 4 to 6 weeks, depending on outside temperatures, birds are required to have outdoor access.
Laying hens
  • 1.5 to 2 square feet inside.
  • 8 to 10 square feet outside.
  • 6 to 10 inches perch space.
Meat birds
  • The standard “chicken tractor” for pastured broilers is 10 by 12 feet for 75 to 90 birds. This needs to be moved daily.
  • 3 square feet per bird. Another option is to use poultry netting and allow 15 square feet per bird for the season. They need some cover for weather protection.

You also need clean bedding that is added to the top or changed regularly.

  • Feeder space per bird
    • Replacements: 1 to 2 inches.
    • Layers: 2 to 3 inches.
    • Meat birds: 6 inches.
      Feed consumption per bird
      • Replacements: 15 pounds up to 16 weeks.
      • Layers: 0.2 to 0.25. pounds/day; 1.5 to 1.75 pounds/week; 6 to 7.5 pounds/month; 72 to 90 pounds/year.
      • Meat birds: 10 to 20 pounds up to eight weeks.

      Set feeder height so it is level with back of bird when standing and only fill half way to reduce feed waste.

      A chicken tractor is a portable house for moving birds around on pasture.
      Feed ingredient restrictions
      • All feed must be organic, so no feed/vegetable scraps that aren’t organic.
      • Fishmeal is allowed to supply methionine, if discussed with certifier.
      Water space per bird
      • 0.5 to 1.5 square feet as they grow.
  • You must manage manage birds organically from the second day of life.
  • No non-permitted substances in feed, healthcare products or house structure.
  • Vaccinations are allowed.
  • Must be clean. Sand lightly or wash to sell.
  • If not washed, there is no need to refrigerate if selling within 7 days.
  • Washed eggs must be refrigerated immediately after drying at or below 45 F.
  • If you are slaughtering less than 1,000 birds per year, you can sell them from the farm gate.
  • Grower/Producers (“G/P”) — those slaughtering less than 5,000 birds per year — can sell anywhere. A state-inspected facility is required.
  • It is also possible to sell birds live and then transport them to a custom facility. A permit from the Department of Agriculture is required.

General Turkey Care and Practices

The American Poultry Association recognizes eight varieties of turkeys: the Bronze, White Holland, Black (Black Spanish, Norfolk Black), Narragansett, Slate, Bourbon Red, Beltsville Small White and the Royal Palm. Other varieties that have been named are the Nebraskan, Jersey Buff, Black-wing Bronze and the Gray. Of these varieties, the Bronze and the White Holland have been, by far, the most important in the commercial industry. The Narragansett and the Bourbon Red have been secondary players but have not been involved in commercial operations since the 1950s.

Turkeys have certain characteristics, compared with chickens, that tend to make them less popular:

  • They grow at a slower rate.
  • They mature much later.
  • Egg production in the turkey is about 50-80 eggs per year compared with the 250 eggs expected for the laying hen.
  • Turkeys require a greater amount of space.

General Geese Care and Practices


Toulouse is the largest breed of geese; the Mammoth Dewlap strain can reach 26 pounds. Its back is dark gray, with a light gray chest, pale yellow bill, and red to orange shanks and feet.


Embdens, large white geese, are better at sitting on eggs than Toulouse. They are good breeders, and their white pinfeathers make them easier to pluck.

African Geese

African geese adults can weigh up to 20 pounds, and are grayish brown with a lighter breast, black beak, orange legs and feet and a black knob on their head. They are particularly noisy and have dark pinfeathers, so are more difficult to pluck because bits of pinfeathers are difficult to see against the dark skin.

American Buffs

American Buffs are a light buff color with a white chest. They reach 14 to 18 pounds and have light-colored pinfeathers. These are nicely behaved birds, easy to work with, are good grazers and are recommended as weeders.

Chinese Geese

Chinese geese can be white or brown. The whites have an orange knob and bill; browns have russet brown feathers, a brown head, and a dark gray knob and bill. They weigh 8 to 12 pounds and are productive egg layers. Their long neck makes them swanlike and good at weeding around plants.

Pilgrim Geese

Pilgrim geese are fast growing and efficient meat producers. This is the only breed in which the sexes are different — females are gray with a white breast and hazel eyes while males are white with blue eyes. This very docile, medium-sized breed makes a good weeder.

Tufted Romans

Tufted Romans are small, talkative geese with round bodies and enough meat to make them worth butchering. They are much less aggressive and more tolerant than Chinese Geese and are good weeders.

Geese are large birds and must be handled carefully to avoid broken bones or dislocated joints.

To catch a goose, first corner it so that you can easily access it. Then, put one hand around the neck near the body, holding firmly. Next, put the other hand on the back of the goose, over the wings. Then, let go of the neck and slide your hand, palm side up, under the breast and to the abdomen to support the bird’s body. Finally, lift the goose, holding the legs between your fingers to keep from getting scratched and confining the wings to prevent them from flapping around.

Purchasing adult geese is a good idea if you don’t have the patience or facilities to accommodate a gosling nursery; but any animal is cutest when young, and you are more likely to bond with each other if you get young stock.

Feed requirements for goslings depend on whether they are getting straight feed or their feed is supplemented with fresh cut greens or pasture. For the first six weeks, birds getting straight grains can eat waterfowl starter at 22% protein or chick starter. Be cautious with commercial chick starter: Certain coccidiostats included in starting and growing mashes may cause lameness or even death in goslings.

All animals require water, but waterfowl also like to know where their water is at all times. In fact, you can move them around a pasture by moving their water tub. Keep goslings dry, however, until they have all their feathers and can maintain their body temperature. Place the waterer on a wire mesh, with a tray below to catch spilled water so that they cannot play in it.

Geese are generally good setters and take good care of their young. Only minimal housing is required (access to pasture is almost more important), primarily to keep them dry and protected from predators.

So, if the birds you raised from goslings or purchased are good representatives of their breed, you can then raise your own goslings. Remember that these goose-raised goslings still need appropriate feed and water.

Geese are the closest foragers known, and adults can glean their entire diet from grazing quality pasture. They can be very selective and tend to pick out the palatable forages, rejecting alfalfa and tough, narrow-leaved grasses and selecting more succulent clovers, bluegrass, orchard grass, timothy, bromegrass and crabgrass. Beware: If the pasture does not supply feed they like, geese can get thin because of this pickiness.

For more information on geese, MOFGA has comprised a full guide of how to raise organic geese.

More Poultry Resources

Organic Chicken Basics

By Diane Schivera, MAT Introduction The basis for organic livestock production is the development of a harmonious relationship between land, plants, and livestock, and respect for the physiological and behavioral needs of livestock. This is achieved by: Providing good quality organically grown feed Maintaining appropriate stocking rates. Designing husbandry systems adapted to the species’ needs.

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Feeding Whole Grains to Chickens

By Diane Schivera, MAT Introduction Feed is the most expensive portion of the cost of raising chickens, and this expense is magnified by the fact that most folks feed a ground mash or pellet that is formulated and produced by a feed company. In an attempt to reduce this cost, you can feed laying hens

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Cleaning, Grading and Hatching Eggs

By Diane Schivera, MAT Revised June 2017 Introduction Many natural barriers help prevent bacteria from entering eggs. The “bloom” or “cuticle,” a gelatinous covering that dries after the egg emerges from the hen, helps seal the pores in the shell, reducing moisture loss and bacterial penetration. The many egg membranes also help prevent the passage

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Raising Geese

By Diane Schivera, M.A.T. Raising geese can be a joy – or a headache. Any farm or homestead venture needs to suit your property and personality, and must work cohesively with other activities. If you like peace and quiet, don’t acquire very vocal African geese. Weeder geese for use on a greens growing operation is

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Farmer Automates

Johan van Achterberg, a farmer in Easton, Connecticut, worried every time he and his wife went out in the evening. Would an animal get into the hen house and decimate his layers before he got home? Even when he stayed home, he would find himself waking up in the small hours and saying, “Barbara, did

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Providing Light and Reducing Blue Comb in Poultry

By Diane Schivera, M.A.T. On the first Friday of every month, MOFGA hosts its “Common Ground” radio show on WERU (89.9 Blue Hill, 99.9 Bangor, weru.org). I was on that show in April discussing backyard chickens. The information below follows up on a couple of interesting questions that callers asked. Lighting for Pullets One caller

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Ask an Organic Specialist


Ask Jacki Martinez Perkins questions about organic dairy/livestock management production and certification requirements.

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