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Growth in ‘pastured egg farming’ as industrialised free-range called into question

The number of small-scale, family-run pastured egg farms is increasing across the country amid

speculation that consumers are being duped and ripped off by industrial, intensive ‘free-range’

supermarket suppliers.

Speaking at the Farming Small Areas Expo at the Hawkesbury Showground on 2nd

Daniel OBrien from Chicken Caravan said interest in pastured egg farming had never been stronger,

from both farming families and those looking to buy more ethical eggs.

Mr OBrien launched his Chicken Caravans, which make pastured egg farming easy, at the Farming

Small Areas Expo two years ago and already more than 10,000 hens around Australia call them home.

“Even before Choice lodged their super-complaint with NSW Fair Trading last month, we’ve been

seeing a backlash against misleading free-range labelling. The standards are scrambled across the

country and the codes are not enforced,” Mr OBrien said.

“Some producers have up to 20,000 hens per hectare – that’s bad news for the birds which aren’t

really free to roam at all. Imagine 18 chickens scratching around in your average sized bedroom.

“Pastured egg farming families aren’t big business and generally stock between 500 and 1500 birds

per hectare. Many have moveable sheds so they can move the hens to fresh grass every few days.

“They may have between a few dozen and a few hundred chickens producing eggs for local farmers

markets, green grocers, butchers, cafes and restaurants, and even farm gate stalls.”

The pasture farming method allows small flocks of hens to graze and interact naturally in open

paddocks, with birds regularly moved to fresh, clean and fertile pasture. The birds are able to seek

shelter from the elements, lay their eggs in comfortable nesting boxes and roost at night in moveable

coops like those manufactured by Chicken Caravan.

Daniel OBrien said pastured egg farming is less intensive on the environment and natural resources as

there is no need for electricity, heating and cooling, or flushing out industrial sized sheds.

“It has the added benefits of lower food miles, sustainable farming practices and supporting local

economies and communities. Pastured farming can be sustained for generations and offers greater

security of our food supply,” Mr OBrien said.

“The growth in this type of farming is also being driven by second generation farmers looking for

sustainable ways, both financially and environmentally, to stay on the land.”

With the NSW Fair Trading report due back by the end of the year, Mr OBrien urged consumers to

make a more informed choice next time they buy free-range eggs.


Daniel started breeding chickens at the age of 15 and then went on to start Oxhill Organic Egg Farm

with his brother Evan at 24 years old.

Within 18 months Daniel was supplying Oxhill eggs to retail outlets in three states of Australia and for

the tables of Sydney’s top restaurants including Neil Perry’s Rockpool Restaurant.

Having designed and built custom moveable chicken coops for their own farm, other farmers began

asking the brothers to make more ‘chicken caravans’.

As the pastured egg farming industry grew, the Chicken Caravan business became a full-time

operation. It now employs a team of manufacturers, supplies customers right across the country and is

currently expanding into the US market.

Daniel spends his time exploring new innovations to further improve small-scale farming methods and

travels around Australia and the world helping others start pastured egg farms.


Chicken Caravans are innovative moveable coops that have revolutionised pastured egg farming

practices. With benefits for farming families, the environment, the end consumer and the hens, every

feature of a Chicken Caravan has been well planned, tried and tested:

– The Chicken Caravan can be towed around to provide hens with clean, nutrient-rich pasture

– The mesh bottom allows manure to be distributed across paddocks, providing a natural fertiliser

– The walls can be opened up to allow birds to roam free while providing shade and protection

– Eggs roll down a gentle slope from the nesting box onto a conveyer belt for easy, clean collecting

– Morning and night, a solar-powered timer slowly opens and closes the flaps to the nesting boxes

to encourage the hens to sleep on the perches below so they don’t get broody

– Rain is caught on the roof and stored in a tank which supplies water for the birds to drink

– Chicken Caravans come in three sizes: for 30, 130 or 450 laying hens

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