Sunday, 4 July 2010
The Egg Farm...
We were up and out early this Saturday morning, off to collect more rescuees; 6 more hens from an egg farm.
We parked in the farm yard and as I got out of the car two sheep dogs approached me. I'm never sure of farm dogs but these two turned out to be adorable, offering their tummies to be tickled by the children. We walked down further into the yard towards a series of wooden sheds. Inside was a snaking conveyor belt laden with eggs.
The farmer appeared smiling, he was expecting us. 6 Warrens were quickly plucked from their restrictive nest boxes and placed in our equally restrictive cardboard boxes. Apparently, just a little over a year old they were due for the chop shortly. They'll still lay adequately for us for another seven years.
As my husband and I looked in awe at the eggs mechanically passing us by, (the kids couldn't care less as they were playing with the dogs) the farmer kindly asked of we'd like to see his new free range operation. We jumped at the chance. Soon his old battery production will be closed due to legislation and all his eggs will come through free ranging birds, so in order to accommodate this change he's spent almost £250,000. Gosh, but I'm pleased for the hens.
We walked down a steep track, dead ahead was the most enormous modern looking building; a little like a giant modern airplane hangar with an office-like building (the technology/packing unit) attached to the side. The farmer asked us to wait by the electrified fence as he was off to push the button to open the hatch to allow the chickens out for the day.
It was like something from Thunderbirds: As the doors opened to the 20 acres, hundreds of identical brown hens popped out for a day of scratching. We thought the majority were out until we followed the farmer indoors! The huge body of the structure held thousands of chattering girls. The smell, though noticeable, wasn't revolting and we were shown how the building is cleaned, robotically of course, the muck deposited into troughs to be taken away as manure.
Several of the more adventurous inmates had fled the confines of the nesting area and were happily sitting behind the air conditioning shutters. These intrepid girls were obviously planning a Chicken Run, but I fear it was soon to be thwarted as the farmer and his wife made plans to return them to their friends!
It was fascinating.
Our six girls are home with us now. Sadly we've had to lock all 14 of our flock in the coop for the weekend. This is to ensure they imprint their new home on their memory and hopefully the new gals will bond with the existing 7 and Rooster. Monday morning they'll roaming freeeeeeeeeee. Can't wait.