Managing Small Poultry Flocks in Northern Ontario
This week, OMAFRA Poultry Specialist Al Dam and Chicken Farmers of Ontario Community Programs Operations Manager & Flock Advisor Carl Stevenson are touring Northeastern Ontario delivering workshops to small-flock poultry producers. Producers in Powassan (Nipissing District), Val Gagné (Cochrane District), Azilda (Sudbury District) and Desbarats (Algoma District) are able to take part in these half-day workshops.
Al Dam focused on issues facing small-scale poultry producers, such as disease prevention, feeding and housing. Focusing on the "FLAWSS" (Feed, Light, Air, Water, Space and Sanitation) of poultry production will help you to raise birds successfully. These are some key things to consider when starting a flock include:
Culling & deadstock disposal
Sanitation & preparing for the arrival of the birds
There are quite a few differences between raising laying hens or broilers, such as diet composition. Laying hens have much higher Calcium requirements because the majority of calcium in their bodies is put towards developing the shell of the egg. Calcium deficiencies can lead to many issues, including un-shelled eggs and layer fatigue (lack of calcium in the leg bones).
One major thing to consider when raising birds in Northern Ontario is temperature. If overwintering birds, you will need to make sure that you have an adequately insulated space with temperature and draft control. It is also important to ensure that the birds are not transported wet, as this prevents them from regulating their body temperatures and can result in hypothermia.
For more information on raising poultry in Ontario, please contact Al Dam
Chicken Farmers of Ontario Community Programs:
Carl Stevenson outlined three great community programs offered through Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO). These include the Family Food program, the Artisanal Chicken program, and the Local Niche Markets program. These programs act as great stepping stones for those who are not sure about poultry production or those who want to start small and work their way up to larger flock sizes.
Family Food Program: This program focuses on producers with less than 300 meat birds and 100 layers, with the goal of feeding their family or doing farm-gate sales. Farms are registered through the program to help control disease. The program also provides education and communication opportunities for the producer.
Artisanal Chicken Program: This program focuses on non-quota holding producers with flocks ranging from 600 to 3,000 birds for meat production. Unlike the Family Food Program, producers can market their birds at the farmers markets, independent food stores and butcher shops. This program involves an application process and provides producers with an annually-renewed license. Producers must also show that they have a marketing plan in place, as Stevenson says, "it's easy to grow birds. It's a lot harder to market them". Currently there are 22 producers across Northern Ontario involved in this program.
Local Niche Markets Program: This program focuses on targeting local markets that want to access larger volumes of chicken. Farmers in this program need to acquire between 1,000 and 10,000 units of quota and can raise between 6,000 and 60,000 birds. This program also has an application process and can be a great way for producers in the artisanal program to expand.
For more information on CFO's community programs, contact Carl Stevenson.