Our goal is for our farm to be as sustainable as possible. We are not there yet, but we hope to achieve a little more each year. The ideal, to me, would be for us to have no outside inputs on our farm. This may never happen, but I can always hope. Starting a farm takes time and inputs. First, land is essential. Proper management of the land is the second and most important part of being sustainable. If the land isn't managed properly the whole farm will fail.
Since our poultry are raised on grass, rotational grazing is very important. This management practice allows us to have lower feed and vet inputs. The birds eat the grass, and while they move around they deposit their manure to feed the grass. When the grass is a certain height we move the birds to new, fresh grass. The previous spot gets the rest it needs and the grass can grow. This practice also breaks the life cycle of parasites and diseases that would otherwise infect the birds. This eliminates the need to deworm the birds and keeps them from getting sick.
We also have other animals on the farm that help us with our management. We have goats, one pig, dogs, and horses. The horses and goats are another element in our rotational grazing. Grazing multiple species on the same land further reduces parasite and disease loads as none of these species share the same parasites or diseases. The dogs provide an essentail role as gaurdians. Poultry are such an easy target for predators. Neighbors dogs, stray dogs, coyotes, skunks, hawks, owls, raccoons, snakes, rats, the list just keeps on going. All of these can wipe out either the entire flock or a days worth of eggs or newly hatched chicks in no time. Our dogs keep our flock safe from all of these predators. The dogs in return are fed the eggs that get cracked or are too dirty to sell. It would not be possible for us to have our poultry if we did not have our dogs.
Even our garden benefits from all of the animals that live on our farm. The horse and goats provide essential manure that is turned into compost. In our area, gardening would not be possible without the compost that is made from their manure. The garden also benefits from the protection that the dogs provide. Deer and rabbits do not come near the garden. In the winter the chickens and ducks pick out the overwintering bugs from the garden beds and help fertilize the soil. Eventually, my goal is to grow the grains needed to supplement the birds diet and make our farm almost entirely sustainable.