Altitude Farm Chickens
We're very pleased to welcome a new, pasture-raised Cobb (white broiler) bird to add to our Grassland Sommerlad heritage chickens (available fortnightly) and Inglewood organic white broilers (available weekly).
Altitude pasture-raised chickens are grown at Greg Perry’s Altitude Farm, a lovely cherry and apple farm at Canoblas, just outside Orange. 'Altitude' is no idle claim because the farm is over 1,100 m above sea level, making these probably the highest, pasture-raised, farmed chooks in Australia.
Chooks and cherries might not seem an obvious pairing but Greg decided to run chooks across his farm to increase soil fertility and diversify income streams.
Fun Fact #1: Greg planned to run the chooks underneath the rows of fruit trees but NSW Food Safe wouldn't allow it, something about chickens contaminating the fruit (as though mixed farming and the use of chook manure to fertilise orchards hasn't been a thing since agriculture began.)
After visiting last week, Mr Bone reports that Altitude Farm reminded him more of a vineyard than an orchard, because of the meticulous attention to the location of each growing stem, to both maximise sunlight and improve ease of picking. Like wine grapes, the best cherries are all still hand-picked.
Fun Fact #2: Greg Perry holds the world record for the largest cherry ever grown, a 42 mm giant, about the size of a golf ball.
The same meticulous attention and care has been paid to setting up the chicken operation to prioritise animal welfare, pasture health and efficiency.
Day-old Cobb birds are flown in from Bonds hatchery in Queensland and after three weeks in the brooders (converted, heated shipping containers), the young chickens are sufficiently feathered to cope with the sub-zero overnight temperatures common in Orange in Winter and they move to spend the next five weeks roaming free outside.
The chickens are run across pasture using a purpose-built chicken shelter system designed and built by Greg. The system is based loosely on the Salatin chicken tractor with a couple of key differences; Greg’s shelters have fixed flooring that keep the birds off the ground in wet weather, an elevated roof with wide eaves for extra shelter, heavy insulation to stay cool in summer and permanently open sides, allowing the birds to come and go as they please.
As you can see from the photos, the chooks were happily enjoying the morning winter sun, foraging far from their shelters and food and water tanks.
Every two days, the shelters, the birds and the Maremma dogs that protect them, are moved to fresh pasture, sown to lucerne, a high protein addition to the chickens’ diet of mixed, un-medicated grain. They are processed at six to eight weeks at Tablelands Premier Meats, a small abattoir just outside Canowindra, about an hour away.