Wholesome Care, Healthy Chickens—The Anderson Family Farm

Rolling hills are flecked with greens of every shade as America’s Heartland happily welcomes the arrival of spring. The Anderson family farm, however, is focused on a special kind of growth: that of healthy and happy chickens. As growers for Smart Chicken, Clint and Melissa Anderson, along with their daughters Sierra and Brooklyn, provide the utmost care for their flocks on their Western Iowa farm.

A Way of Life
“We have our chickens, Melissa’s horses, and our six dogs,” says Clint, proudly listing the critters under Anderson care. “There’s always a litter of puppies running around, which the girls love,” he continues, gesturing to outgoing, curly-haired Sierra, age thirteen, and shy, blue-eyed Brooklyn, age six. Melissa has been training quarter horses for 14 years, while Clint also works for a local company, selling products that support animal comfort and well-being. “We’ll always be married to our animals,” he concludes. There’s no doubt of the family’s commitment to their flocks. “Someone is constantly in the barns checking things out,” says Melissa. It’s time-consuming, hard work, but that doesn’t scare off the Andersons. “Sierra was in the barns just the other day cleaning the lights,” says Clint, who’s not only proud of the work ethic he and Melissa continue to instill in their daughters, but also the environment the family creates for their flocks. “The chickens have fresh air, warmth, and clean bedding—all that they could want,” says Melissa. “The birds play together all the time,” she adds with a smile. “You can tell they’re happy.”

The Andersons are also supported by a staff of field technicians and poultry nutritionists at Tecumseh Poultry. “They’ve been a joy to work with,” Clint says, adding that their personal field technician is an especially valuable resource for the family. Field techs are a key link between family growers and Tecumseh Poultry, helping them identify and address issues that might affect the comfort and overall health of the birds. Field technicians also assist growers in the diligent, preventative management that an antibiotic-free model requires. All Tecumseh Poultry chickens are raised without antibiotics from start to finish, which requires a fundamentally different approach compared to the reactionary methods used by much of the industry. “At first, Melissa and I were skeptical about the antibiotic-free model,” says Clint, “but now we understand that it builds up the natural immunity of the birds, and they’re stronger and healthier because of it.”

Teamwork Meets Technology
Raising chickens without antibiotics makes environment especially important, so the Andersons focus on sustaining ideal conditions for the birds; fresh air, clean water, high-quality feed, and warm bedding are essential. Growers monitor these environmental concerns both daily as well as between flocks in accordance with Tecumseh Poultry standards. For example, Smart Chicken requires 10 to 14 days of downtime between flocks, so there’s ample time for cleaning, disinfecting, and other pre-flock preparations that keep the birds comfortable and healthy. Even though more downtime means slower production overall, considerations like these prioritize the health of the chickens. “The downtime between flocks is a Tecumseh Poultry policy,” says Dana Didde, Ph.D., Poultry Nutritionist for Tecumseh Poultry. “It’s what we know works best to ensure the birds are at their healthiest.”

Inside the barns, an intricate ventilation system utilizes static pressure, so vents open and close automatically throughout the day to maintain premium air quality. “The barns work a lot like our lungs,” Clint explains. “When a fan turns on, it creates negative pressure, so the vents crack open to keep the air quality right where it should be,” he adds. Regular readouts communicate air pressure and humidity so the system can be adjusted accordingly. “The more fresh air the birds get,” says Clint, “the healthier they are.”

A Family Affair
There’s no doubt Clint and Melissa are passing down their love for animals; in fact, when the Andersons first began raising chickens for Tecumseh Poultry in 2014, Brooklyn, after arriving home from preschool one day, couldn’t resist the newly arrived fuzzy yellow chicks. “She sat down on the floor of the barn, and the chicks immediately started swarming her,” laughs Clint. “Brooklyn was just giggling like crazy!”

Smart Chicken growers utilize cutting-edge technologies and facilities, but nothing can replace the judgement, care, and passion that families like the Andersons bring to the equation. “Ultimately,” says Clint, gesturing toward his daughters, “I want this farm to be theirs someday.” Families like the Andersons are integral to the mission of Tecumseh Poultry. “I have a coworker who refuses to eat chicken because of things he’s heard about the industry,” says Clint. “I think I’ll tell him to hop in my truck so I can show him how Smart Chicken raises chickens.”