Free-Range Chickens in Montrose, Colo. | TheFencePost.com

Free-Range Chickens in Montrose, Colo.

Carolyn White, Olathe, Colo.

George Burkhardt keeps about 200 hens and two roosters south of Montrose, Colo.

Nothing goes to waste after Kinikin Corner Dairy (*) owner, Scott Freeman, and shareholder George Burkhardt have finished flushing out the system for the day. “We usually end up with a 14-quart bucketful of whole milk,” George told me. “One of the customers along our delivery route encouraged me not to throw it out, so I feed it to my chickens – about 320 in all – and they really like it.” His egg buyers do, too, because they know exactly what they’re getting.

In addition to milk, the hens are fed only non-GMO (genetically modified) corn and soy-free laying mash, plus, they’re all free-ranging and so naturally pick up extra nutrients on their own. Well-protected by safety fencing, the hens and two roosters have access to 50, grassy acres although “they tend to stick pretty close to home.” It’s no wonder, since George often sits in the midst of the flock and feeds them sunflower seed treats right out of his hand. “It’s a stress-free environment,” he explains as the birds gather around us. “We think that’s the best way to do it.”

The chickens – which come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors – are breeds of Silver Sebright, Black Jersey Giant, Golden (and Silver) Laced Wyandotte, Blue Cochin, P-Comb heads and several others. The advantage, says his partner, Christine Grossmick, is that “these types have better production, plus they continue to lay during winter.” The demand for them is very high: the 12 to 14 dozen green, pale blue, brown, and ivory-colored eggs that are gathered daily are taken along on George’s milk route and sold to a number of businesses and families along the way. The extras, according to George, are kept in a refrigerated shed out front of the property, where people can buy them on the honor system. “It’s a fun hobby that more than pays for itself.”

George never imagined that he’d end up raising chickens; in fact, this former Marine didn’t realize just how big the need for fresh eggs was until after he’d volunteered to do the driving for the dairy. His second cousin, Sara – who’d chosen egg production as her FFA project – initially got him started. “I came out here from New Jersey after her grandmother, who raised me, got sick. Next thing I knew I was helping to refurbish the coops and build the fence. We started out by selling at the Farmer’s Market in Montrose, and I really enjoyed it.” After having driven an 18-wheeler for 28 years, he decided that it “just wasn’t fun anymore” and moved to Colorado in 2007 to take over after Sara graduated. So far, his only discouraging experience was when a skunk squeezed in and killed 17 of the original 20 hens. “I’ve done a lot of reinforcing since then,” he concluded. “You have to expect predators when you have chickens.”

Between caring for his hens, working at the dairy and most recently, raising hogs (which, like the chickens, get lots of milk and pasture grass, along with vegetables) George manages to keep pretty busy. Over the summer, he plans to “add a mobile coop and use it to move some of the girls around on the property. I want to raise 15 to 20 baby turkeys to sell in the fall, too.” As for downtime, “I like to sit out here in the midst of the flock and just watch them,” he smiles. “It’s extremely relaxing.” One wonders if the chickens don’t think so, too.

(*) This story was featured in the March 21 issue of the Fence Post.

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Nothing goes to waste after Kinikin Corner Dairy (*) owner, Scott Freeman, and shareholder George Burkhardt have finished flushing out the system for the day. “We usually end up with a 14-quart bucketful of whole milk,” George told me. “One of the customers along our delivery route encouraged me not to throw it out, so I feed it to my chickens – about 320 in all – and they really like it.” His egg buyers do, too, because they know exactly what they’re getting.

In addition to milk, the hens are fed only non-GMO (genetically modified) corn and soy-free laying mash, plus, they’re all free-ranging and so naturally pick up extra nutrients on their own. Well-protected by safety fencing, the hens and two roosters have access to 50, grassy acres although “they tend to stick pretty close to home.” It’s no wonder, since George often sits in the midst of the flock and feeds them sunflower seed treats right out of his hand. “It’s a stress-free environment,” he explains as the birds gather around us. “We think that’s the best way to do it.”

The chickens – which come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors – are breeds of Silver Sebright, Black Jersey Giant, Golden (and Silver) Laced Wyandotte, Blue Cochin, P-Comb heads and several others. The advantage, says his partner, Christine Grossmick, is that “these types have better production, plus they continue to lay during winter.” The demand for them is very high: the 12 to 14 dozen green, pale blue, brown, and ivory-colored eggs that are gathered daily are taken along on George’s milk route and sold to a number of businesses and families along the way. The extras, according to George, are kept in a refrigerated shed out front of the property, where people can buy them on the honor system. “It’s a fun hobby that more than pays for itself.”

George never imagined that he’d end up raising chickens; in fact, this former Marine didn’t realize just how big the need for fresh eggs was until after he’d volunteered to do the driving for the dairy. His second cousin, Sara – who’d chosen egg production as her FFA project – initially got him started. “I came out here from New Jersey after her grandmother, who raised me, got sick. Next thing I knew I was helping to refurbish the coops and build the fence. We started out by selling at the Farmer’s Market in Montrose, and I really enjoyed it.” After having driven an 18-wheeler for 28 years, he decided that it “just wasn’t fun anymore” and moved to Colorado in 2007 to take over after Sara graduated. So far, his only discouraging experience was when a skunk squeezed in and killed 17 of the original 20 hens. “I’ve done a lot of reinforcing since then,” he concluded. “You have to expect predators when you have chickens.”

Between caring for his hens, working at the dairy and most recently, raising hogs (which, like the chickens, get lots of milk and pasture grass, along with vegetables) George manages to keep pretty busy. Over the summer, he plans to “add a mobile coop and use it to move some of the girls around on the property. I want to raise 15 to 20 baby turkeys to sell in the fall, too.” As for downtime, “I like to sit out here in the midst of the flock and just watch them,” he smiles. “It’s extremely relaxing.” One wonders if the chickens don’t think so, too.

(*) This story was featured in the March 21 issue of the Fence Post.