Gerdes Heritage Fowl was started in June 2014 in response to demand for eggs in our local farmers market. Soon after the market closed for the year I was providing eggs in a local store because as it turns out, people want eggs from free range birds, not cooped up miserable hens. Eggs are now shipped throughout all of Nebraska through the online farmers market, ‘Nebraska Food Cooperative.’
This month we have finally reached the beginning of winter. The fowl continue to munch away on leftover pumpkins and sprouted field corn. Luckily this year we have had a very mild winter (so far) in southeast Nebraska. We have even had a few rains, and the ducks are loving it!! Laying has been down but I am starting to see slow gains already!
Are the birds free range?
-Absolutely!! All birds (and livestock guard dog) on this farm range on an unconfined acreage from morning until they let themselves in at night.
How about their diet? Natural? Organic?
-Organic feed is supplemented year round, but is their primary source of food in the winter. They are not, however, fully organic as some of the other feeds provided are not certified organic. (Sprouted field corn, pumpkins, etc.) Otherwise during the warm parts of the year they get a good portion of their diet from grasses, fruits, nuts, and bugs that they graze all day.
Are the birds treated with any antibiotics, or hormones?
-Nope! Even the chicks are not given medicated food. I believe that a flock is made stronger if it builds a natural immunity to its surrounding and it builds hardiness if the weaker birds are weeded out. That is not to say that I will not care for sick or injured birds, but sometimes nature knows what works best.
If they free range all day, what keeps them safe?
-As mentioned above, I have a livestock guardian dog that keeps this place on lock down. He is a great Pyrenees mountain dog named Freyr.
Do you use lights to keep the hens laying into the winter?
-No. I feel that there is a reason why the girls need a break in the winter, if nothing more than to give their bodies a rest. A time to rebuild for next year. Some of them will continue laying on into the winter, but the numbers are down quite a bit. That is okay, though, it makes for a healthier, happier, flock.