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Salad Bar for Pastured Chickens at Castle Rock Gardens

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May 15, 2006

Photos and text by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.

Salad Bar for Pastured Chickens at Castle Rock Gardens 
Pittsboro, NC

Castle Rock Gardens started as a field of weeds but farmers Ristin Cook and Patrick Walsh enlisted the help of their goats and chickens to convert it into a thriving diversified farm. Ristin and Patrick produce vegetables and cut flowers and raise poultry, rabbits, and goats. They have approximately 200 laying hens, all on pasture. The chickens are separated into three age groups. Careful planning and regular rotations ensure a synergistic effect between the chickens and the vegetables.

Chicken tractor at Castle Rock Farm

This group of hens is about six and a half months old. The group of 85 enjoys their first day on the new “salad bar” planted specifically for their enjoyment. Patrick and Ristin planted oats, lettuce, mustard, leaf radish, tatsoi, and kale. At night, the hens are locked in the mobile laying house (shown at the rear right of the photo) so they are protected from predators. The chicken wire fencing confines thhe chickens to the designated pasture. The hoophouse on the left side of the photo provides season extension for vegetable crops.

Hens foraging

Ristin and Patrick favor heritage chicken breeds on their farm. This group includes several different breeds: Araucanas, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Turkens, Barred Rocks, Sussex, and Wyandottes. The hens will stay on this pasture about a month before moving to another area planted in forages. The mobile laying house in the background contains laying boxes for the hens. This group of hens started laying in early April.

How many chickens in this photo?

How many hens can you count in this photo? With their heads down and their tail feathers in the air, it is obvious they are enjoying their first day on the new pasture!

Castle Rock hen enjoys some salad

An Araucana hen.

Hen laying on her eggs

One of the “girls” inside her laying box.

Egg cache

The end product (no pun intended!). Ristin and Patrick sell their eggs and produce at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. They also operate a small Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and sell to area restaurants.

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