What is Open Range?
”Open Range” is a term we use because the current “Free Range” standard simply doesn’t represent what we do at Possum Creek. We feel it is time for a new standard that actually matches the perception that it gives.
The term “Free Range” implies happy chickens roaming about with plenty of space out in the open with lots of fresh grass and bugs. In some cases this will certainly be the case, however the current standards actually don’t accurately describe what we do at Possum Creek.
We believe “Open Range” best describes happy healthy hens roaming freely with plenty of space fresh pasture which can only be achieved by frequent paddock rotation. These hens actually live outside as nature intended. In some Free Range operations, the chickens only have “access” to the outside, and not necessarily with pasture.
NSW is yet to set an official stocking density for ”Free Range” but is likely to follow that of Queensland, which is 10,000 chickens per ha or 1 chicken per 1 square metre.
Currently in our system, our 1500 hens have access to nearly 9 hectares, making the stocking density around 165 hens per ha which is significantly different to the 10,000 chickens per ha stated above.
Truth about chickens on open ranges
Story by Kate O’Neil – Byron Shire News
THE term ‘free range eggs’ may bring to mind images of happy healthy hens, roaming freely in the fresh air and sunshine.
In many cases, birds do live this way, but for others, the reality of ‘free range’ is not so pretty.
“Ten thousand chickens per hectare, or one chicken per one sq m is what is considered free range,” says Andrew Cameron, of Possum Creek Eggs.
“It doesn’t matter if there is grass on the ground or not, you could have chickens on bare dirt, beaks cut off and that can be labelled free range.”
The lack of clarity around the term is what prompted Andrew to label his own hens ‘open range,’ which he says better describes what happens at Possum Creek Farm.
His 900 birds have more than 20 hectares on which to roam, scratching and foraging in fresh green pasture every day. They peck freely at bugs and insects, and dust bathe just as they are supposed to.
The birds are moved regularly around the farm, a method that’s best for both the chickens and the land, Andrew says. There is no debeaking of birds which has become an industry norm. The practice is used to stop cannibalism among birds – but when they live a stress-free life with room to move, Andrew says it is not necessary.
Leaving beaks intact is not only an ethical practice – it has other advantages too. It makes it easier for the chickens to eat the varied diet that nature intended, supplying them with nutrition that most chickens simply don’t get. As Andrew puts it: ‘what goes in to the chicken goes into the egg’, and this is clear in the eggs his chickens produce; bright coloured, tasty eggs that are full of goodness.
Andrew, 32, says he sees himself as both a farmer and an educator. “What we always set out to do here was to reconnect people to their food source.”