I had a really idyllic childhood growing up in the country. I could ride my bike everywhere, I swam in the river all summer, and there were chickens running all around my parent’s backyard.
So perhaps it is because all of the fond memories of my fluffy chicken friends, that purchasing free-range eggs has always been very important to me. But there’s one thing that has always stumped me – what does free-range really mean for the chook? What goes on beyond the supermarket shelf, in the paddocks where the eggs come from?
I decided to pick the brains of the Managing Director of Sunny Queen Australia, John O’Hara, to eggs-plain (wink) what it actually means for the chickens when you purchase free-range eggs.
How much time do the hens actually have access to the outdoors?
Free range chickens tend to go in and out of the barns all day, they don’t always want to spend all their time outside, so it is all about how much time they have access to the outdoors. At Sunny Queen free-range farms, the chickens have access to the outdoor area for a minimum of eight hours a day.
O’Hara explains that after the chooks lay their eggs in the morning they head out onto the range, for a bit of a run, a forage and dust bath.
What animal welfare standards are in place at free range egg farms?
O’Hara explains that at Sunny Queen Farms, all free range farms are independently audited to ensure high quality animal welfare for the chooks. The hens have ventilation in the barns, with temperature control systems in place, as well as constant access to fresh air. Sunny Queen Farms also have a vet that comes in regularly, to ensure the hens are eating a balanced nutritional diet (designed by an animal nutritionist), and are healthy and well cared for.