Raising free range chickens is not as easy as it might seem at first. There are numerous considerations that must be taken into account. Today's post is about the difficulties of raising free range chickens at high altitude in places such as Denver Colorado where the air is thinner and where our farm is. If you are a free range chicken producer for profit certainly one of your main concerns is time to butcher weight. I have personally spoken to producers who like to use jumbo Cornish cross for their meat birds. They grow fast and can be sent to butcher at about 6-8 weeks. After this time frame they start to drop dead at an alarming rate. (We will deal with why in a separate post) One of the common health issues with the cross is their lungs. The bodies grow to fast for the lungs to supply oxygen. (This is at low altitude) So here in the mile high city we are left looking for other alternatives because many will not even make it to butcher weight. If you are looking for a fast growing bird there are other alternatives suited to Denver, but that still leaves you feeding a corn based diet. Most free range producers I know want to avoid that.
Most free range producers are going to be using a heritage breed of chickens and especially in Denver Colorado and the surrounding regions. The bummer is we are by and large left with only heritage breed birds we can raise, and that increases our time to butcher by 2-2.5 times. 4-5 months. That means we have to carry and care for more birds at any one time to make the same profit a producer at lower altitudes would.