Our Flying the British Egg Flag feature is all about celebrating free range farmers doing great things for hen welfare across the UK, and farmer Phil Sherratt is no exception.
The free range British Blacktail hens living on the Gloucestershire farm under Phil’s care enjoy only the best conditions, and are free to roam from dawn to dusk within an area double the size than that required under legislation.
Having started working with free range hens in 2003, Phil is the third generation of his family to farm in Gloucestershire, and has grown his flock over that time from 8,000 to 19,000.
He rears his own hens from day-old chicks which are given perches and raised areas to encourage them to move throughout the house, therefore preparing them for the conditions they can expect once they are moved into laying quarters at 16 weeks old.
Phil makes the food for his hens at his own mobile mill and mix plant, and his girls are given a natural cereal diet with no artificial colourants.
If that didn’t make them spoilt enough, how about the natural bedding and scratching materials they’re given, plus the alfalfa blocks hanging in hay nets to give them something to peck at?
“To encourage the hens to range further from the hen house I have put up artificial shelters so they are protected from the weather and wild birds,” continued Phil. “As an example, I have used an old hay-rack and also corrugated tin sheets nailed onto fencing stakes – shelters don’t have to be expensive. As well as this, I have also planted hundreds of native trees and this combined with existing hedges and established trees provides natural shelter as a way of helping the birds to feel safe, therefore meaning they will wander further.”
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