Every animal at 1Tribe is part of a regenerative system that helps make our operations more sustainable while rebuilding soils and grasslands naturally, and our poultry are no different.
One of two egg mobiles currently operating on the property, 2.0 is a larger model that has electric netting surrounding it, which is intended to move less frequently through hay fields. This helps protect the first season birds from predators while concentrating their manure, which naturally fertilizes the hay fields we rely on to feed our cattle throughout the cold season.
In their second season, our chickens enter their third and final phase, moving over to our original mobile coop known as Eggmobile 1.0., which performs a necessary function during our warm season operations.
From about April to October we rotationally mob-stock our breeding herd through the pastures at the farm, concentrating them in narrow electric fence laneways for short-duration, high-intensity grazing that improves the pasture long term while increasing stocking rate of fresh food throughout the growing season. Commonly accepted pasturing methods can result in a herd eating grass down to nothing, soil erosion, manure build up, and a need for supplemental feed that results in a lower quality of life and less diverse food for cattle–not to mention expenses and waste to be managed. By carefully watching our fields and controlling when our cattle tap certain resources and for how long, we avoid depleting our pastures past their ability to grow back, instead stimulating grass growth that enables us to feed our herd fresh and sweet grass tips from a diverse pasture multiple times in a season.
This more intensive method results in a variety of benefits: it rebuilds our soil and helps restore grassland ecologies that feed our cattle some of the most fresh and diverse food we can offer while helping sustain native plants, insects, and wildlife that live harmoniously with our farmlife and even play a part on the farm, like the field sparrows that help control fly populations.
For all it’s benefits, mob-stocking like this can concentrate manure in the field in a way that could leave bald spots and fly population booms if they weren’t addressed–which is where Eggmobile 1.0 comes in, following about 3 days behind the cows.
Every morning during the active season the pasture is assessed, the eggmobile is moved, and the chickens are guided by farmhands to the manure with the most mature fly larvae to scratch up and eat. This reduces fly populations, improving our cattle’s quality of life and reducing the incidence of pink eye in the herd; it’s also a tasty and nutrient-dense food for our chickens, who gladly snap them up. As they scratch through the paddies they break up and spread the manure, breaking it down faster to avoid bald spots and more effectively fertilize the fields. Our chickens make our pasture operation a closed-circle system that creates value out of what might have otherwise been waste, or even a problem.
Not having electric netting around Eggmobile 1.0 allows the chickens to roam far and wide across the pastures, tending to manure and foraging for greens and bugs to their little hearts’ content. This does make them more susceptible to predators, which is why this mobile coop is where older layers retire as their production wanes. Older and less vigorous birds are naturally picked off by predators, helping complete another cycle on the farm.
If we lived in a warmer climate, we’d keep our birds outside every day of the year; but we live in Virginia. In the cold season, our egg layers stay in the Hoop House: with protection from bad weather conditions and predators, the birds are warm and healthy all winter. As manure builds up, we put down carbon matter to manage the smell and help accelerate decomposition; this makes the Hoop House a better environment for us and the chickens to be in through the cold season–when they move out, this bedding gets put into our compost, and the hoop house gets used to grow all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and medicinals. When the weather turns cold again, the chickens move back in and get to eat the leftovers.
We keep a mixed flock including Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, Red Sexlinks, White Brahmas, Leghorns, and others–our chickens produce Pullet Eggs when they’re young, which we make available at a discount for those who don’t mind a small egg (or like them for children!), and move on to produce Large Eggs when fully matured. Our eggs come in creams, browns, the occasional blue, some with freckles, some without; we love the variety and hope you do too!
Our eggs are hand-picked and hand-washed daily–meaning that what you get in your carton is fresh and alive, maintaining it’s natural barrier and therefore keeping longer. We can only offer eggs like this because our birds and their eggs are kept in healthy conditions: moving them to fresh pasture in the warm season means they have a new, clean environment with fresh grass, air, and sunlight every few days. Their nesting boxes are clean and fresh, and when they winter in greenhouses, fresh carbon matter is regularly added to keep the environment sanitary, scent-free, and more enjoyable for us and the chickens alike. If our chickens were kept in dark, dusty, stagnant environments, their eggs would need to be sterilized– but a healthy bird in healthy environment results in a healthy egg, right from the nest.
Our Egg Layers get a feed supplement to their foraging depending on the season and their needs – we choose Sunrise Farms Non-GMO Chick Starter for our new chicks and Sunrise Farms Non-GMO Layer Feed for our adult laying hens, the highest quality local feeds available.
Our chickens get nothing unnecessary, and everything they need.
The newest addition to the farm are our broiler chickens; our birds are industry-standard Cornish Crosses, but that’s where all resemblance to the industry standard ends.
Kept in 8’x10’ Chicken Tractors with an average of 50 individuals per structure, our broiler chickens get fresh air, sunlight, and are moved daily to access fresh pasture chock full of greenery and bugs. They’re given as much Sunrise Farms Non-GMO Chick-Starter, a high-protein feed, as they’d like in a day–and boy, do they enjoy eating. These birds grow fast and as a result, gladly eat as much forage and feed as they can get their beaks on: when you’re prepping to move them in the mornings, they crowd the front of the tractor and push to get the best first forage, then trip over each other to be the first to fresh feed. They’re fat, happy, and clean birds that live as high quality a life as we can provide to them–which results in a delicious, clean-tasting meat that’s high in nutrition and softer on the conscience, and the earth.
Like all of the animals on the farm, our broiler chickens have more than one job: as they move across pasture, they scratch up and disturb the soil while leaving manure as high quality fertilizer. Too much disturbance to the land could build up too much fertilizer and damage the land to baldness, but moving them daily means they never stay anywhere too long.
In moderation their scratching, eating, and manure helps build the soil and stimulate growth, rather than the opposite. Only visiting a given piece of land once a year, our Broiler Chicken operation is just another aspect of how we’re rebuilding soils and grasslands for a sustainable future: going beyond sustaining our operations with a lighter impact on the Earth, we’re going a step further to help rejuvenate local ecosystems now and into the future.
The 1Tribe Family believes in food transparency, creating community resilience and building local food supply chains. We believe in the regenerative capabilities of stewarding and working with the land for us as individuals, for the animals wild and domesticated that live here, for our communities, and for the land itself.