Chicken Q&A With Wayne Martin

While Cornercopia's main business is growing fresh, organic produce, the farm also keeps a flock of chickens on the farm during the summer months. To give you an introduction to our wonderful feathered friends, I got to ask Wayne Martin, the Assistant Extension Professor that works with Cornercopia on our chicken project, a few questions.

1. What is your University position and how does it translate to what you do at Cornercopia?
I am with University of Minnesota Extension. My position title is Assistant Extension Professor, Alternative Livestock Systems. I tend to work with smaller scale farmers, and with all domesticated species, though mainly I provide information and education on poultry, sheep, lambs, pigs, and to some extent, cattle.

It makes sense for me to be involved with Cornercopia chicken production, to provide some knowledge and guidance, and it fits well with the type of work I do around the state. Interest in organic chicken production is gradually increasing, so it's good to be gaining knowledge on how to do so. 

2. What is/are the reason(s) Cornercopia keeps chickens?
Artificial fertilizers are not approved for use on certified organic farm ground, so producers must use other alternatives, which come from either plant or animal sources. Chickens provide high quality manure fertilizer for the crops raised on the Student Organic Farm.

The birds are also raised to give students and community members exposure to animals raised on organic land. We hold workshops during the summer to teach participants how to raise broilers in a pasture setting.

3. What kind of chickens does Cornercopia keep? Will the next round of chickens be a different type?
We typically have broilers, or meat chickens, either Cornish X or Red Rangers. We have had layers for egg production in the past, but no longer do so.

4. Can you describe the "chicken tractors" that the chickens live in and how has the housing for the chickens developed over the years?
“Chicken tractors” are simply portable huts that the birds live in during the time they are on the pasture. Our huts are tall enough to walk inside, and support feeders and waterers hanging from the ceiling. They have wheels to help make moving them easier, given that is done on a daily basis. The huts protect the birds from predators and also give them some protection during stormy weather.

5. What are the general duties of the chicken interns and what are the learning outcomes of the jobs they do?
The student interns are taught to take care of the birds from the time they arrive as day-old chicks, until they are ready for processing. They learn to properly feed and water the birds, and to observe the birds for signs of any illness that might affect the flock. They learn every aspect of good poultry husbandry.

...turns into this guy.
Interns are with our chickens from when this little guy...

6. What is your favorite part about working with the Cornercopia chickens?
There are many things I enjoy about working with the chickens at Cornercopia. First of all, it’s great to be outside on a beautiful Minnesota summer day. Can’t beat that. Then there is always something new to learn about working with animals. A lot of creativity has gone in to problem solving with the birds, and with designing feeders and huts. Finally, it’s wonderful to work with such interested and interesting students. They are always a great group of eager learners, full of energy and good ideas. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds as well. It’s very easy to get involved with and spend a lot of time at the Student Organic Farm!

Lindsay, who was one of the chicken interns last summer, holds
one of our broilers. 


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