Chickens pecking in the grass, July 2012
Some of Octavia and Bella's offspring, July 2012
A mother with her calf, 2011
We have chickens for both egg laying and meat. All our chickens live in mobile huts which are moved around the farm. This gives the chickens plenty of fresh foraging and they have access to the pasture from first light to dusk when they take themselves back into their huts. They are protected from foxes by electric fencing which is moved each time the huts are moved. We take great care to ensure they have plenty of dry areas for dustbathing and in the winter we provide them with additional straw and dry areas. Wherever possible we provide natural shade from the rain and the sun. They are fed on our own homegrown cereals.
Our table chickens (reared for meat) are a slow growing variety. They live in groups of 100 or fewer birds and each batch is raised on fresh pasture. Unlike so many chickens which are finished in six weeks our chickens are matured over a period of at least twelve weeks and often up to fifteen weeks. This gives texture and flavour to the meat and well formed carcasses making excellent stock. The birds are dry plucked in a small processing plant and hung for three to four days.
We rear our ducks on a seasonal basis buying them in as day olds in the spring and bringing them along on the grass and clover during the summer. Unlike so many reared ducks they have access to water and are matured over a long period. We usually have a couple of batches during the summer.
We have two Saddleback sows, Bella and Octavia (named after their mother and grandmother). They live outside in fields with access to well strawed trailers so they are able to root, wallow in wet patches and indulge in their natural behaviour. Only in the worst of wet winter weather or if they are farrowing are they brought into the traditional Victorian pig sties in the yard which give them access to a well strawed bed and outside yard area.They are fed on our own homegrown cereals.
Our sheep are a hardy native breeds that live outside all year round. They lamb outside in the spring and their offspring live with their mothers until they are weaned in late summer when many have already weaned themselves. The lambs are ready from the end of June throughout the autumn, they are taken to a local slaughterhouse and the meat is hung for about a week.
We have a small herd of traditional Hereford cattle which calve each year outside in the spring. They stay with their mothers until they are 8 months old at which time they are weaned before the next calf is born. The traditional Hereford is a slow growing beef breed, and it produces a well marbled texture with an excellent flavour. The steers are matured over 30 months (the maximum time allowed under Government regulations) and the beef is hung for three to four weeks.
Table chickens rooting around, June 2011
Sheep coming in to be shorn, June 2012