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MEDIA RELEASE 2 NOVEMBER 2013
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’
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.
ABOUT DANIEL OBRIEN
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.
ABOUT CHICKEN CARAVANS – WINNER OF THE 2012 FARM INVENTION OF THE YEAR
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