Organic Chicken Basics

By Diane Schivera, MAT


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:

  1. Providing good quality organically grown feed
  2. Maintaining appropriate stocking rates.
  3. Designing husbandry systems adapted to the species’ needs.
  4. Promoting animal health and welfare by:
    • minimizing stress,
    • maintaining animal health with sound management,
    • emphasizing cleanliness,
    • moving away from the regular use of health care products.

Housing Space Per Bird


  • 1/3 ft2 until 3 weeks, inside
  • 1.5 ft2 until 16 weeks
  • After 4-6 weeks, depending on outside temperatures, birds are required to have access to the outdoors

Laying Hens

  • 1.5 – 2 ft2 inside, 8-10 ft2 outside, 6-10 in. perch space

Meat Birds

  • The standard “Chicken Tractor” is 10 x 12 ft. for 75-90 birds. Needs to be moved daily or the birds will be too crowded.
  • 3 ft2 per bird. Another option is to use poultry netting and allow 15 ft2 per bird for the season. Need some cover for weather protection

Clean bedding: added to the top or changed regularly.

Feeder Space Per Bird

  • Replacements: 1-2 in.
  • Layers: 2-3 in.
  • Meat Birds: 6 in.

Feed Consumption Per Bird

  • Replacements: 15 lb. to 16 weeks
  • Layers: .2 -.25 lb./day, 1.5 – 1.75 lb./week, 6 –7.5 lb./month, 72-90 lb./yr
  • Meat Birds: 10-20 lb. to 8 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, no feed/vegetable scraps that aren’t organic.
  • Synthetic methionine is allowed until 2008.
  • Fishmeal is allowed to supply methionine, if discussed with certifier

Water Space Per Bird

  • .5 to 1.5 ft2 as they grow

Health care

  • Birds must be managed organically from the 2nd day of life
  • No non-permitted substances in feed, healthcare products or house structure.
  • Vaccinations are allowed
  • For specific treatments, see Raising Organic Livestock in Maine: MOFGA Accepted Health Practices, Products and Ingredients (available on, or by calling the MOFGA office at (207)568-4142).

Processing/ Marketing


  • 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 45o 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 5000 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 Dept. of Ag is required.

Last published November 2007

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