Have you ever looked out the car window at one of those big white chicken barns or pig barns and thought, “What is going on in there?”
My husband Jason and I, with our four children, raise 40,000 chickens in a large barn, and I help my dad raise pigs in a barn on his farm. As a CommonGround volunteer, I get asked questions about animal housing and how we care for the livestock.
Q: What kind of chickens do you raise in your barn?
A: We raise pullets and cockerels. A pullet is a female chicken under one year of age, and a cockerel is a male chicken under one year of age. Our chicks arrive on the same day they hatch and stay with us for 16 weeks. Once they are mature, they will move to a layer house where they will lay fertilized eggs. Those eggs will be hatched in Grand Island, Nebraska, and those chicks will go out to farmers to be raised as layers, producing the eggs we buy at the store. With help from our four children, we provide care daily for 40,000 chickens.
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Q: Why are chickens and many pigs being raised inside barns?
A: Modern chicken barns like ours, and most pig barns, are climate controlled. That means it can be cold or hot outside, but inside the barns we keep a constant comfortable temperature. Pigs can get sunburned, so it is nice to keep them inside where we control the light as well as the temperature. Another advantage to raising livestock in barns is to protect them from predators.
Q: What do you do when your livestock gets sick?
A: Just like our kids, sometimes our animals get sick. When they do, we separate them from the healthy animals, then contact our veterinarian to develop a plan. Sometimes that treatment plan will include the use of antibiotics. When it does, the antibiotics are administrated under veterinarian supervision. There is a firm withdrawal period associated with each drug. This means the animal cannot go to market until after that withdrawal period has passed, so the antibiotic has had time to pass through the animal’s digestive system. You can be confident there are no antibiotics in your meat.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about raising chickens and pigs?
A: I am very blessed to be able to work with my family every day. My kids can work with me to take care of our chickens. It is important to me to pass along compassion for animals and the importance of animal welfare to my children. They have learned we care for our animals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am also thankful I can work with my dad and raise pigs. I love pigs! Working with my family is a blessing.
To learn more about how we care for our chickens and pigs in barns, watch Karah and her children tend to animals in this video.