Flock Density Regulations for Free Range Poultry

Free Range Hens - Flock Density Regulations Flock Density Regulations

The European Union free-range regulations require only that the land be ‘mainly covered with vegetation’, without specifying the type or condition of plants. The Freedom Food directive is more demanding and specific:

Freedom Food Directive

  • A grass sward must be maintained over the grazing area, with active management of damaged ground.
  • The stocking rate must not exceed 1,000 birds per hectare available to the hens over the flock life.
  • Land used for arable cropping shall not be regarded as acceptable vegetation and shall be excluded from calculations for stocking density.
  • Where there is a build-up of parasites or disease on free-range land, rotational grazing or other disease control measures must be applied.
  • If rotational grazing is used, a minimum of one-sixth of the total range area must be available at any one time.

This is all right as far as it goes, but there is nothing which states that ground must be used in rotation. The use of the phrase ‘or other disease control measures” is too vague and open to abuse, such as a permanent reliance on chemical methods of control.

The organic standards of the Soil Association are as follows:

  • The land to which the birds have access must be adequately covered with properly man­aged and suitable vegetation. Recommended are grass/clover leys based on fescues and other grasses which tend to tillering rather than leaf length. Conditions that favour the development of natural dusting areas are advised, with companion grazing with sheep for sward management.
  • Stocking rates should not exceed 1,000 birds per hectare.
  • Pasture must be rested to allow vegetation to grow back. In the case of layers, the fallow period should be at least 9 months. With table birds, this should be at least two months per year, and in addition for one year in every three years.
  • These requirements do not apply where under 50 birds are free to roam rather than being in pens.

Extract from Free Range Poultry by Katie Thear

Widely recognised as the definitive guide to modern free-range poultry management, Free Range Poultry is a practical and comprehensive guide that is up to date with legislation and research findings. These articles on land management in free-range poultry systems are extracted from the book.

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