Once you have taken the time to observe a chicken in the natural environment, enjoying fresh pasture and sunshine, how could you confine them to sheds?
Quality of life is as important for animals as it is for us.
For Westwood chickens, Free Range means introducing the baby chicks to fresh pasture and sunshine as soon as they are old enough to produce their own body heat. Around 2 to 3 weeks of age. The timing of this can change depending on the time of year. We can have colder than optimum temperatures down here in Canterbury, but as long as they can produce their own body heat, the chicks can go back inside to warm up if they need to.
From this early age we encourage them to go outside by putting some of the feed containers outside.
We estimate that Westwood chickens can consume up to 25 % of their daily food requirements from fresh pasture. Each batch eats out the areas immediately around the shed, but they have no restrictions on where they go, no fences. Every batch is shifted to a new area of fresh pasture.
Our sheds are moveable - I believe this is most important for free ranging. It means we can shift the sheds all over the property. The sheds may return to the same area 12 – 24 months later, but by then the pasture has not only fully recovered, we have also taken a cut of hay off the paddocks to keep the grass down. We also sow seeds of mixed pasture species where the sheds have been
The batches are small – 450 per batch so that the sheds remain a moveable size.
The sunshine and free ranging are important management practices for controlling Salmonella, Campylobacter and Coccidiosis. Mixed herbal pastures of Red & White Clover, Lucerne, Dandelion, Prairie grass, Chicory, Cocksfoot and Plantain along with naturally occurring insects gives them variety and freedom to choose what best suits their nutritional needs.