We were heartbroken to find out some years ago that labels such as "free range" and "cage free" do not mean what we'd hoped our extra grocery money was supporting. These labels are not clearly defined, their use has little regulation nor oversight, and they do not guarantee what we personally consider to be the humane treatment of animals. Oftentimes, the hens whose eggs are stamped with these labels are not provided with full-body access to spaces outside of their coops (a small hole for light and air to pass through is considered adequate access to the outdoors) and there is no minimum space requirement nor set of guidelines for their keeping conditions indoors. We were outraged and determined to do better!
"The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk?
But, Can they suffer?"
Jeremy Bentham, English Philosopher
Proper Indoor Conditions
Our birds are provided plenty of space indoors to scratch and perch and we utilize instruments to monitor their air quality inside the coops
We at the hatchery pride ourselves on our committment to predator protection. We have designed our yard and chicken areas with aerial predators in mind (we see a LOT of Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks here!). We have implemented hot wire and traditional fencing, thick tree lines, and dense thickets which all provide cover. We also watch over our flocks diligently throughout the day and shut their coops at night in order to keep them safe from coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and more!
Access to the Outdoors
At Bushel and a Peck Hatchery, our flocks have access to a reasonably safe and large outdoor space for many hours of the day, every day of the year when weather permits.
A Rich Environment
Our poultry and fowl also enjoy a rich environment and mental stimulation. The yards that they enjoy include fruit trees, berry brambles, gardens, mulched beds, natural prairie, lush grass, and plenty of dandelions (which the geese LOVE!). We supplement with plenty of healthy treats including meal worms, romaine, tomatoes, cracked corn, watermelon, and many more of their favorite treats.
The chickens on our farm enjoy a traditional sandbox for dust bathing in addition to a more natural area of leaves, pine needles, loose Earth, and mulch which they enjoy using for similar purposes. We also provide periodic nail triming and vent maintenance.
Medical Care and Prophylaxis
We do a great deal to ensure the health and well-being of all of our animals. They receive appropriate veterinary care when indicated because we feel they deserve a life free of disease and suffering. And we work tirelessly to prevent sick birds from the start by offering properly formulated, quality feed (we use Kalmbach and Mazuri brands on our farm). We also take measures to avoid Marek's Disease and Coccidiosis.
As detailed above, we have closely aligned our practices with many of the HFAC's (Humane Farm Animal Care) Humane Raised and Handled program's criteria. This program is recognized nationally as the gold standard in animal welfare.