Poultry

We have two small flocks of about 50 hens in each, and three geese. Although the hens don’t have names, the geese do – they are named Elsie (on the right), Rosalind (on the left) and Frank (in the middle).

The hens lay about 7 dozen eggs every day from Spring to mid December, and a little less in the shorter winter days. The geese are nothing but pets but they do produce eggs in the Spring and we occasionally have some for sale! The birds live in separate pens, although because the hens are inquisitive one or two often pop in to see the geese!

There is a tall fence around the outside of our poultry pens – this is to keep foxes out. Although the geese would be brave and let us know if there was a fox in the pen, they are not strong enough to chase off a fox.

All the birds have lots of grass to peck over and we’ve  put up climbing frames and shelters for the hens so they have lots of places to perch and get shade when the sun is strong.

The geese have a pond and some water baths – they love to splash about in the water and preen themselves. The hens often make dust baths in the field – they preen themselves also but when they are dry.

Bird-Flu restrictions

During imposures of nation-wide poultry lockdowns, most large free-range flocks of hens have to be housed to protect them (and other poultry) from Avian Influenza. The Defra rules also allow for birds to be kept in a netted enclosure if there is no alternative housing; in anticipation of another poultry lockdown in the autumn of 2021 we invested in a large quantity of bird netting, so that our hens and geese can still get outside whilst being kept separate from wild birds. The enclosed space is still plenty big enough for our poultry to be known as ‘free-range’.

We also put in our own biosecurity measures to help reduce the risk of disease transmission when we go into the pens and give our birds bales of straw to scratch around in, and pecking blocks to keep them occupied.

For 16 weeks Defra provides a derogation to permit eggs to still be labelled free-range even when they have been produced by housed birds (generally, as ‘barn housed’ hens). In ideal circumstances the end of the 16 week period more-or-less coincides with the end of the poultry lockdown. As our birds always have access to the outside world their eggs are always classed as ‘free-range’.