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Permalink Can I transition my poultry to organic production?

B.J.
California

Answer: Thank you for requesting information from ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, regarding organic poultry production.

Regarding the source of organic poultry, the national organic standards are as follows:
§ 205.236 Origin of livestock.
(a) Livestock products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be from livestock under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation or hatching: Except, That:
(1) Poultry. Poultry or edible poultry products must be from poultry that has been under continuous organic management beginning no later than the second day of life;

This means that you may purchase day-old chicks that have been produced from conventional hens. The chicks must be managed organically starting in the second day of life, even if you are only selling the eggs produced by those hens. You mentioned that you already have 100 chickens and ducks. They can not be converted to organic, and their eggs may not be sold as organic. If you decide to convert your flock, you must start with newly-hatched birds.

One important aspect of organic management is the use of organic feed. Regarding the use of organic feed:
§ 205.237 Livestock feed.
(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must provide livestock with a total feed ration composed of agricultural products, including pasture and forage, that are organically produced and handled by operations certified to the NOP,…

This means that organic chickens must be fed organic feed, and they must be provided with access to the outdoors. The outdoor land area must be certified organic, which requires a 3-year transition period. More specifically, the land is eligible for organic status 36 months after the last application of prohibited fertilizers or pesticides.

If organic animals eat their bedding, it must also be organic. Regarding the need for organic straw for the chickens:

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions.
(b) The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain year-round livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, including:
(3) Appropriate clean, dry bedding. When roughages are used as bedding, they shall have been organically produced in accordance with this part by an operation certified under this part.

This means that the animal bedding must be organic if the chickens are eating it.

For more information see the publication Organic Poultry Production in the United States.

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