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Free Range Chicken Farming!

Talking Hens

Free Range Chicken Farming!

It’s great to get started with our very first blog post on our new Website and to let our customers know that free range chicken farming is very much alive here in Keysborough, Melbourne.

If you don’t already know us we hope you soon will and provide us with plenty of questions, comments and feedback on our posts.

My name is Jason Nethercott and my wife is Giuliana Postregna. We’re a family business and you can read more about how it all began (45 years ago!), on the About page on this site. At the moment, it’s just a husband and wife team working on the farm with occasional help and hindrance from our two-year-old daughter Bella.

Our small, free range chicken farm business is called Country Barn Fresh and we have two thousand laying hens on the property at the moment. It may sound a lot but it’s actually very small for an egg and chicken (did I get that in the right order?), business. Saying that, in spite of low hen numbers there is nearly the same work with 2000 chickens as there is with 10,000 – and don’t I know it!

Our day typically starts at 5:30am with a coffee before venturing out to the barn to check on the chickens. I let them into the nest boxes and open the barn doors at the back so that they can get outside and explore. If I sleep-in I hear about it as their clucking steadily increases in intensity until they get let-out.

I never realised just how inquisitive chickens could be and they put our five cats to shame. I’ve found our hens on the barn roof, in the egg grading room, wood pile and water tank among other places. Our breed of hen is a Hy-Line Brown which is an American breed carefully bred to produce daily, high-quality eggs.

Around 85% of our hens venture outside during daylight hours and cycle in-and-out of the barn (not literally), as they feel the need to feed, drink or lay eggs. They pretty much take care of themselves but I need to be vigilant for indications of poultry diseases and predators such as foxes all the time. I’ve noticed a few young foxes around at dusk and even during the day which is more unusual as they tend to be nocturnal. None have taken a chicken or entered the barn though as I have electric fences enclosing their range area which is a great deterrent to foxes and other predators.

Our main concern recently has been the Victorian heat with a string of 40+ degree days a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, we didn’t lose any birds thanks to a cooling system called foggers which use multiple nozzles to send a very fine spray of water throughout the barn, cooling the chickens.

Unfortunately, in our second, open barn for our roosters, we don’t have a cooling system so instead had to cool the birds down with a hose spray. The roosters didn’t really appreciate it at the time but were much cooler and better able to cope with the heat during the hottest part of the day. We never mix our hens with our roosters as the last thing we want is fertilised eggs. The roosters we raise are for meat or pets and take a bit of catching once they start to mature around 16 weeks of age.

In Melbourne, most households can keep hens without a problem but roosters can be a different story with permits and permission from neighbours normally required. Our roosters are actually quieter than our hens until they mature and then start practicing their crowing before perfecting their vocalisation around 20 weeks of age.

Rooster crowing doesn’t bother us too much on the farm as we get up early anyway and don’t have any close neighbours. However, this will all change soon with a townhouse development taking place next to us and the new residents won’t be impressed with living alarm clocks I’m sure.

Feel free to visit the farm whenever you want between the hours of 9am and 5:30pm seven-days per week and children are always welcome. If you have any questions or want to know more about chickens just give me a call, send an Email or text me as I’ll be happy to help.

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