By Penny Eaton
Chicken Farmer Patrick Keets Canadian Food Story
Patrick Keet, his wife Sonja and their four children make their home on a chicken farm in central Saskatchewan. Their farm raises broiler chickens, which are those raised for meat (versus layer chickens, which produce eggs).
“The best part of farming is working with my family at home,” Patrick says. “I enjoy producing food, not only for consumers but for my family.”
Patrick has had the farm for about 12 years, and before that, worked with his father who moved to Saskatchewan almost 40 years ago from Quebec and has been part of chicken farming ever since. Patrick’s father, Dennis, still maintains his own broiler chicken farm, not far from Patrick and Sonja’s place.
Each day, Patrick checks the barns where up to 57,000 chickens are raised. He walks through the temperature and humidity-controlled barns to check that his birds are comfortable and healthy. Broiler chickens do not live in cages; they are protected from our harsh climate in barns where they can walk around freely.
Not just anyone can walk through a chicken barn. This is because chicken farmers need to protect their birds from outside germs that could easily spread through the flock. As well, farmers are required to adhere to standards for food safety and the care and handling of chickens. All chicken farmers in Canada follow a national On-Farm Food Safety Program and Animal Care Program, recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and National Farm Animal Care Council.
Feeding Broiler Chickens
Patrick and several of his relations together own a feed mill which prepares specially-balanced rations for his chickens. The chicken feed includes wheat, soybean and canola meal, along with vitamins and supplements which ensure proper growth and protect against illness.
The barns are also equipped with a specialized drinking water system that provides fresh, clean water through a nipple drinker that birds approach whenever they are thirsty.
“It’s what we grew up doing,” Patrick says about why he is a farmer today. “Farming is a lot of work—there’s more to it than sitting in a tractor or feeding chickens, but that’s actually what I like about it. There’s something new almost every day: field work one day, the barns another day, construction work or mechanical work the next…then office work on other days. No monotony! I also try to do more with the kids tagging along. It’s hard, but I think it’s good.”