Leading the way in organic healthy free-range eggs.
Now years later, 26-year-old Madelaine Scott manages 3,000 certified organic laying hens on her family farm Hollyburton Park located in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria.
Her chickens, and their eggs, are NASAA certified organic, which means the chicken must be free-range, be fed certified organic feed – feed which has no added hormones, no antibiotics – and not be exposed to any artificial fertilisers or pesticides on the pasture or in the grains the chickens eat (even from surrounding farms). GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also restricted entirely for organic standard compliance.
Due to the strict certification regulations and unlike most free-range chooks or ‘barn laid’ chickens, Madelaine’s certified organic chicks must also be fed organic feed from the time that they are hatchlings.
Madelaine must raise her chicks from 24 hours old, doing so in the Hollyburton orchards. As they grow, they are moved out into the grassy paddocks where they are put into a rotational grazing system for the next three years.
They live peacefully in these paddocks with a herd of certified organic Murray Grey beef cattle as well as a family of Hollyburton-raised Maremma dogs that protect the chickens from foxes, feral cats, snakes, hawks and other threats to their wellbeing.
Whilst living in the paddocks, the chickens sleep and lay eggs in insulated mobile chicken houses that Madelaine and her father Rob designed and built together. These ‘chook-mobiles’ are moved every second day to fresh pasture which prevents any faeces build up in the chicken’s habitat. It also means that any poo the chicken’s release overnight falls through a mesh floor onto the ground to help naturally fertilise the paddock.
The chook-mobiles have wooden perches and nest boxes with natural nesting materials so the chickens can make a cosy nest every day before laying their egg.
The houses are fitted with a misting sprinkler system for the hot, summer days and big air vents that can be opened and closed depending on the forecast. The chickens can shelter from the weather if they choose but are otherwise able to be out in the elements all year round.
Madelaine’s stocks of her chickens are 250 hens per hectare, well below the Australian standard of 10,000 hens per hectare for free-range hens.
Each hen is free to roam throughout their paddock, foraging a healthy banquet of bugs, grass, wild plant heads and leafy greens and dust bathing in the soft ground. Just as if they were in the wild.