Friday, May 22, 2009

Tour of Polyface Farms

Last week, I visited Polyface Farms in Swope, Virginia. I wanted to pick up some rabbits for breeding stock and tour the farm. It was broiler day at Polyface and they were butchering 700 chickens! It was an impressive, efficient, and thorough operation. I picked up some great techniques for processing my chickens. Sheri showed me how they eviscerate the chickens, which was a much cleaner and quicker process than I had been taught. They invited me to help, and after working on a dozen chickens, I had the process down smoothly. That knowledge alone was worth the drive, and I am very thankful to Sheri.

Matt took time out of his busy day to show me around the farm also. First we went to the Raken house. Here the chickens and rabbits are housed together in a shed, with the rabbits in elevated cages and the chickens free ranging below. The rabbit droppings falls on the floor and the chickens scratch through it for nutrients. Chicken and rabbit droppings get mixed in the bedding material by the chickens' scratching making great compost. I would love to implement this concept as a winter house for the chickens and rabbits. I could set up a portable hoophouse over our garden. In the spring, the compost could be mixed into the soil to improve the less than ideal soil I have now.

While in the Raken house, we picked a 12 week old buck to start my breeding program. He will be ready to breed between 22 - 25 weeks. Their rabbits have been line bred for 25 years and are a cross between New Zealand White and Californians. They have selected stock that yields good litters (6 - 9 per litter) and high meat to feed ratio. Their colors bear little resemblance to the former breeds.

I also picked out two 12 week old does. They will be ready to breed at 18 weeks.

While in the hutches, they are free fed rabbit pellets from a local mill and fresh greens daily. Since they will be ready to breed soon, I will leave them in the hutches for now.

Rabbit pen in field.

1 comment:

  1. Just curious, how did you let Polyface know you were coming for breeding stock. I want to do the same thing but I am unsure when their breeding stock is available.