Poultry husbandry

Everyone is familiar with ‘free range’ products.
But did you know that poultry are farmed in a variety of ways? The term ‘free range’ has three versions: free range, traditional free range and free range – total freedom.

There are a few differences between each of these systems, but overall it’s all about making sure that chickens have enough space, room to perch, and frequent – often constant – access to the outdoors. 

Free range eggs must meet the following conditions: 

  • 9 hens per m2 of useable space 
  • at least 45cm between levels (if more than one level)
  • 1 nest for every 7 hens, 
  • litter covering at least one third of floor space 
  • 15cm of perching space per hen, 
  • 1 hectare of outside space for every 2,500 hens
  • constant access to the outside space during the day 
  • pop holes to allow hens to go outside (2 metres per 100 hens)

Traditional free range is a system for producing chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, turkeys and geese. There are rules in place to meet this standard:

  • the size of individual poultry houses (e.g. 4,800 chickens)
  • the poultry house must have pop holes (4 metres per 100m2 of floor space)
  • the birds must be from recognised slow growing breeds
  • there is a the minimum age of slaughter (e.g. 94 days for guinea fowl)

Free range – total freedom has additional requirements to the ‘traditional free range’ rules – the birds must also have constant daytime access to unlimited open air runs. 

Eggs are also labelled with the production system used. Organic is 0, free range 1, barn is 2 and cage is 3. This number is printed onto the egg. Asda also prints a handy guide to these numbers on standard egg packaging to help customers understand what they’re buying.