Interview with Nathan Rice

Why produce free range eggs?

Nathan: With the growth of the supermarkets and the price pressure on farmers today, producing typical caged eggs means having to use more intensive methods.  In my opinion, this significantly reduces the hens quality of life and the quality of the eggs you will get.  We choose free range because people understand what this means and want the hens that have laid the eggs to have a better life and are rewarded with a better egg.  Win, win in my book.

What do you like about chickens?

Nathan: You wouldn’t think it having so many birds around but they all have different personalities.  It’s funny to watch the outdoor one’s rushing for the door first thing in the morning and the lazy, sit in the box one’s who need coaxing out to get some fresh air.  They are a very curious bird and I always end up with a few following me around wondering what I’m doing.

How do you collect all those eggs?

Nathan: We try to train the hens to lay in nest boxes which we line with astro turf to mimic a natural environment.  95% do lay in the nest boxes but with chickens, there are always the individuals and 3 times a day we walk the sheds to collect any eggs laid on the floor.

Hens do get broody and will sit on the eggs all day if allowed, so we close the nest boxes at night and get them onto their perches in the barn, so any hidden eggs are collected at the end of the day.

What size of eggs do the chickens lay?

Nathan: The size varies as the chickens get older.  First lays tend to be very small and these tend be used by companies who want boiled eggs in salads etc or can be found in local farm shops (typically sold buy the tray).  As the hen grows and her body weight increases, so does the size of the egg to a traditional medium.  These tend to be popular amongst catering companies and chefs.  As the hen matures (around 30 weeks by this point) they start to lay large eggs and these we sell to the public through local shops, farm shops and local markets.  Occasionally we get the extra large eggs coming through and these we sell to people who like a hearty breakfasts!

What do the chickens eat?

Nathan: We provide our chickens with a cereal based diet that has all the vitamins and nutrients they need to keep them healthy.  However, being free range and on the go, chickens are great foragers and will find treats for themselves outdoors – typically insets, seeds, and grasses

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