What do you do when your child starts entering adolescence at five years old? Penny and Daniel Nichols, were shocked to find their 5-year-old son experiencing signs of puberty.
At the time they were living in the DFW metroplex and started researching the cause. They concluded, what people put in their body is important and that growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides were not something they wanted to feed their children anymore.
“As a mother I want to protect my family from harm but when my son and father-in-law started having health issues I felt helpless,” Penny said. “I decided to do my own research and I found that diet and gut health have a huge impact on overall health.”
So they left their busy lives filled with day care and corporate jobs moving out to Eustace on an eight acre farm. Once they arrived they built pens and started raising their own chickens.
The result was Penny's Pastured Poultry, a farm offering pastured raised broilers and eggs in Athens and surrounding areas.
“What our food eats, and its quality of life, has a huge impact on it's fitness to be consumed. You truly are what you eat, even further: you are what it eats. I threw out the processed foods and began seeking healthier food options for my family,” Penny said. “I grew my own vegetables and raised a flock of chickens for their eggs. My family's health began to turn around and we got to enjoy delicious, high-quality foods. What could be better?”
The farm consists of leghorns, cornish rock cross and barred rock. Some of them are used for eggs, and some are used for meat, but all are clucking around in the grass eating bugs and living the good life until they come of age.
In eight weeks these chickens go from cute fuzzy chicks to dinner. Penny says it is a full time job making sure your chickens arrive to the table. Late summer is no time to raise chickens as they cannot stand the heat. If it is rainy, they risk getting too cold, if it is hot, they risk heat stroke.
Every morning begins by rising with the sun, as Penny goes out to check on the chickens. After making the rounds and checking on each group, she then moves the chicken tractors, a movable coop lacking a floor that one person can drag around the yard. At first she moves them twice a day, but as the chickens grow it becomes something she does every two hours. As the tractors move around the property, it indeed appears as if actual tractors have rolled over the land.
Once the chickens reach maturity, they carefully select who goes to processing. In 24 hours they are ready for the table.
So what is the difference in what you get from Penny's Pastured Poultry and the grocery store?
“My chickens are raised on grass and supplemented with all-natural whole grains,” Daniel said. “You can have peace of mind knowing you are serving you and your family the best chicken on the market. If you have never tasted a pastured raised chicken you should know that chickens raised on pasture are tastier and it has a huge impact on nutrients pleasing the pickiest of eaters.”
Pasture raised chickens are raised on non-GMO feed and are soy, antibiotic and hormone free.
“Chickens love to forage and scratch and peck for bugs which makes a happier, healthier, and much tastier chicken,” Penny said.
There are also numerous health benefits to pasture-raised poultry and eggs including:
• 50% more Vitamin A than feedlot and vegetarian fed chickens
• 10 times more Omega 3s than birds living in chicken houses
• One of the richest sources of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, for heart and immune health
• Contains more choline for brain and lutein for eye health
• Important source of Vitamin D for bone, digestion, and immunity
“Our egg layers are also on the grass in a mobile coop. They are moved to provide them with fresh grass. I supplement them with a non-GMO non-soy feed and Oyster Shells for additional calcium. They have a deep rich yolk and a strong shell that you won’t find at a store,” Penny said.
The Nichols do not raise chickens during the heat of summer and will take a small break before their next group. They sell the chickens and eggs at the Athens Farmers Market and online both individually and in shares. Shares include six chickens over a twelve week period. For more information please visit www.pennyspasturedpoultry.com.
“We are just a small family farm trying to make a difference in the world,” Penny said.