Frequently Asked Questions
What is your stocking density? How much space do your chickens have?
Our stocking rate changes, as we rotate our chickens around different paddocks throughout our 1500-hectare property. The largest density we have at any time would be 900- 1000 per 2.5 hectares, which is approximately 25m² per bird. The fencing around the paddock is actually used to keep their guard dogs in, and the cows out. The chickens naturally hang out together and avoid wandering off. We are accredited by PROOF (pasture raised on open fields), feel free to check out their website to read more about what guidelines we follow.
Are the chickens locked in sheds?
Our adult chickens are not locked in sheds. When they are young before they have developed they’re adult’s feathers, we do close them up at night in the shelter with a heater to keep them warm, just like the hens would. However, once the chicks are old enough they are free to roam 24/7, unlike a lot of free-range chicken places that are locked in at night and only let out for 6 hours a day. By not locking them up ours are able to follow their natural body clocks and forage/explore the open box gum grassy woodland they call home, when and how ever they choose. This is also different to a lot of “pasture raised” chickens that are kept in movable chicken tractors (pens on wheels). Our chickens do have access to shelters if they choose to use them, usually to get out of the rain or strong winds. We are accredited by PROOF (pasture raised on open fields), feel free to check out their website to read more about what guidelines we follow.
What do the chickens eat?
Our heritage Sommerlad chicken have an unlimited access to the outdoors, they are very strong foragers. Eating whatever the come across, different grasses, worms, grasshoppers, bugs…
While in the brood our chicks are given a nutritionally balanced crumble with no soy products, which they have access to all their life.
When the chickens are three weeks old we also supplement their diet with a combination of wheat, corn, barley, sorghum and sunflower seeds. The whole grains and grit from the soil naturally improves their gizzard development and gut health.
Being jungle birds originally, they would have had a very diverse range in their diet which would have included grains.
Everything is a free choice system allowing them to eat whatever they would like when the would like to.
Chickens are omnivores, they have the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and animal matter, omnivores digest carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fibre, chickens are not naturally vegetarians.
Are antibiotics, chemicals or medications used?
No chemicals, antibiotics or medications are used in the growing or processing of our chickens.
Are the chickens organic?
No. Using our regenerative grazing practises creates the balance of nutrients for our birds to graze on.
For us we focus on raising our chickens in this balanced environment, there is no need to use chemicals or medication.
To be certified organic only ensures the non use of chemicals while adding to the cost of your chicken, it does not guarantee that the environment is looked after or the building of soil. At Grassland Poultry we feel it is more important to always have 100% ground cover and match the number of animals we have to the amount of grass available and to make sure the pastures are well rested before they are grazed again.
How old are the chickens when you process them?
Our Sommerlad Chickens are 10-12 weeks old when we process them in our purpose build processing facility on the farm. Compared to the fast-growing Ross or Cobb breeds used by 99% of Australian growers which are only 5-6 weeks old when processed. Though some growers slow the Ross/Cobb bird’s growth rates down to extend the processing age to 7/9 weeks by restricting their feed intake.
How are you different from other farms?
We are very fortunate to have a selection of Sommerlad Heritage breeders (a specific Australian breed that only a handful of farms have access to). We collect their eggs daily and hatch out chicks fortnightly. It is important to us to have total control of the process from the beginning to the end, meaning the chickens do not need to leave the property until they are ready for your dinner table. This allows us to ensure they are always well looked after, as their welfare is incredibly important to us.
Once they have hatched we familiarise them to the brood/shelter, making sure they know where their water and feed is. They are kept warm and cozy until they are old enough to forage outside with the adult chickens. Each batch of chicks has its own shelter, with a brooding space in one end, which is then opened up for them to freely roam in and out of. Brooding the chicks in the shelter that they will have access to all their life, means no catching/transporting of young birds, this reduces the stress providing better animal welfare, not many farmers have custom-made shelters like ours.
All our chickens are then processed on farm in our purpose-built processing facility. That once again allows us complete control of the process. No chemicals or no chlorinated water is used in the processing of the chickens, the water is treated with ultra- violet light, chemical free. The birds are air chilled for 24 hours before packaging, no access water in the bags.
It is very rare for all the different steps of raising meat bird chickens to be carried out all on the same farm like we do.
Do you have any recommendations for further learning resources?
Laura Dalrymple and Grant Hilliard’s book “The Ethical Omnivore” is a wonderful book that looks into ethical ways to consume meat and support good farming systems, with case studies from a range of different farms (including Grassland Poultry) as well as some very yummy recipes. We would highly recommend giving it a read. A standout idea for us was the importance of consuming the entire animal, so for poultry that would include things such as hearts, liver and feet. One of our favourite quotes from this book is “Every time we buy something, we vote for the system that produced that product, if you don’t understand the system, you’ve got no idea what you are supporting.”