Domestic Fowls (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB0076)

10. Additional Recommendations: Range Birds


Management

  1. Land on which range birds are kept for prolonged periods may become fowl sick, i.e. contaminated with organisms which cause or carry disease to an extent which could seriously prejudice the health of poultry on the land. The time taken for land to become fowl sick depends on the type of land and density of stocking. A European Community Regulation (1943/85) (see note 17) on the labelling of eggs requires that eggs labelled free-range must originate from a range system with a stocking rate not exceeding 1000 birds per hectare. In addition, the Regulation also requires the ground to which such birds have access to be mainly covered with vegetation. The stocking rate to be used in this country should generally be lower. Factors such as soil type, drainage and size of colony and frequency of flock rotation are very important in deciding the number of birds that a particular area can carry. Heavy, poorly drained soil can carry fewer birds than land which is light and well drained. In general land can be stocked more heavily by birds in small flocks of 100 or so when accommodation in well spaced and regularly moved houses than when kept in larger flocks in static houses (see also paragraph 35). Flocks and portable houses should be moved regularly to avoid fowl sick or continuously muddy conditions leading to ill-health or discomfort of the birds.
  2. It is important to ensure that the land to which the birds have access is adequately covered with suitable, properly managed vegetation.
  3. Precautions should be taken to protect the birds against foxes, other predators, dogs and cats.
  4. Shelter from rain and sun should always be available. Windbreaks should be provided on exposed sites.
  5. Attention is also directed to the relevant recommendations in paragraphs 40 to 45 inclusive (see also paragraph 40).


Notes:

  1. For labelling purposes only, Commission Regulations (EEC) no. 1943/85 (OJ No. L 181 of 13.7.85) requires that poultry enterprises must comply with the following criteria in order to mark their small egg packs with the terms shown:

(a) Free-Range Eggs

  • Hens to have continuous daytime access to open-air runs.
  • The ground to which hens have access is mainly covered with vegetation.
  • The maximum stocking density is not greater than 1000 hens per hectare of ground available to the hens or one hen per 10 m2.
  • The interior of the building must satisfy the conditions at (c) or (d).

(b) Semi-intensive Eggs

  • Hens to have continuous daytime access to open-air runs.
  • The ground to which hens have access is mainly covered with vegetation.
  • The maximum stocking density is not greater than 4000 hens per hectare of ground available to the hens or one hen per 2.5 m2.
  • The interior of the building must satisfy the conditions at (c) or (d).

(c) Deep-litter Eggs

  • The maximum stocking density is not greater than seven hens per square metre of floor space available to the hens.
  • At least a third of this floor area is covered with a litter material such as straw, wood shavings, sand or turf.
  • A sufficiently large part of the floor area available to the hens is used for collection of bird droppings.

(d) Perchery Eggs (Barn eggs)

  • The maximum stocking density is not greater than 25 hens per square metre of floor space available to the hens.
  • The interior of the building is fitted with perches of a length sufficient to ensure at least 15 cm of perch space for each hen.
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