Essential Country, August 21 2013
Marnie and Shane Ellis have about 1100 (ISA Brown) birds which they free range across their family property at Glengarry West.
For egg production, the commercial crossbred ISA Brown pullets are selected for their consistently high lay rate, hardiness and particularly friendly nature. Being very good layers makes them quite profitable as well as being easy to care for and are low maintenance birds.
The Ellis’ had 30 hens two years ago, then added another 120 and then 500 more. Their dream of moving towards an ultimate goal to achieve self sufficiency was on track, using their 10 acres as the start. And, an added boast came in August last year when their new business, Gippsland Free Range Eggs, was a category winner in the 2012 Bendigo Bank Gippsland Business Awards.
Marnie and Shane started with conventional style nesting boxes in a static shed which required daily cleaning and manual egg gathering. Pushed by their ambition, poultry manure was spread on pasture to deep fertilise the soil. Innovation soon took over and purpose built mobile roosting and nesting sheds, with rollaway nests, were shifted across various locations by tractor. Manuring of soils was undertaken directly by the hens.
The eight metre long, 2.5 metre wide galvanized steel caravan has stainless steel drinkers, 200L internal water tanks which catch water from the roof, six pull out shade/shelter doors on lockable gas struts, adjustable leveling on nesting boxes (for slopes and uneven ground) and automatic opening and closing nesting boxes powered by solar energy.
“We have worked our way up the innovation ladder while maintaining the free range concept. The chicken caravan is mobile, towed from one patch to another by tractor and has its own in-built rollaway egg collection system. All its features are under cover providing comfort for the hens.”