Tuesday, June 27, 2017

hens need to follow their natural behaviour for best performance

Academic researchers often produce theories and reports designed to demonstrate what 'free range' means in the egg industry. Their findings are usually based on carefully arranged criteria set by an organisation which funded the research and expected specific outcomes. Far better to rely on the experience of those in the industry actually running free range egg farms. Some people are fixated on the issue of animal welfare and they lose sight of matters like food safety and land sustainability. Outdoor stocking density is a key example. Academics found it easy to come up with results from research on small scale or short term projects to demonstrate that stocking densities had little or no impact on hen welfare. But it has been impossible for them to demonstrate that high densities had no detrimental impact on pasture quality, pollution of waterways, groundwater and the long term productivity of the land as a result of excessive nutrient loads. The maximum sustainable stocking density for poultry has been established at 1500 hens per hectare to minimise land degredation and ensure the long-term viability of the land. Laying hens, like most if not all other animals, perform best when they are able to follow their natural behaviour. They clearly need shelter, food and water but they also need to wander around freely to forage, scratch, dust bathe and interact socially with others in the flock. Allowing the hens to follow their natural cycles keeps them happy - so there should be no lights in the sheds to trick them into thinking its still daylight and to keep eating and laying eggs (they need as much sleep as we do!)

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