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Rose Poultry has its eyes focused on the future

Rose follows the regulations for production of organic slaughter chickens as they are described in the Instructions for Organic Farming Production, chapter 18.

The 63-day life of a chicken:
Chickens must be organic from the start, which presupposes that the parent animals are organic. In Denmark, only JA757 from the French breeding company, Hubbard, fulfils the conditions. They are hatched and sold by Topæg.
The chickens must have an average live weight of 2250g upon slaughtering as the retail chains require an average slaughtered weight of 1500g. In order to accommodate this measurement and to comply with the permitted average growth (max. 35 g per day), the chickens are slaughtered after 63 days.

Production requirements:
Nine weeks before slaughter + 2 weeks’ marking time between the batches gives a production period of 11 weeks per batch – and thus 4.7 possible rotations per year per farmer. One batch comprises max. 4800 chickens and each farmer typically has 1-3 batches at a time. The farm must be converted to (approved) organic operation and other species of poultry may not exist on the property.

Chicken house conditions:
There may be 10 animals per m2 (max. 21kg live weight) so a batch of 4800 chickens at 2250g requires a net area of 515 . The area in a chicken house for slaughter chickens may not exceed 1600 m2.
If there are more flocks in the same house, they must be separated by a permanent partition so the flocks cannot see each other and only hear each other with difficulty. (Specifications exist for the ratio between the partition’s height and the ceiling height of the house).
There must be free access to outside areas from the house and good approach conditions so the abattoir’s vehicle can get to the house when the chickens are to be collected.
The floor in the house must be level and there must be outlets for washing water.

Chicken house layout:
There must be a front room with space for spare clothing, tools, log book, etc.
• Heating system (the house must begin by being 35 degrees and then lowered to 20 degrees over the next four weeks)
• Ventilation
• Feed machines throughout the house
• Drinking nipples/bells spread throughout the house
• Sufficient number of perches so all chickens can perch at the same time
• Electric lighting evenly distributed throughout the house
• Windows, so natural light is available in the daylight hours
• Exit holes (total length of 4 m per 100 m2 house) so all chickens have unobstructed access to the outdoors.

Outside area:
The chickens must have free access to the outside area when weather conditions allow. Shelter must be established and shade with hedges (min. 1.6 m high and secure against foxes) plus various forms of hiding places spread around the area. There must be 4 m2 per chicken – which for a flock of 4800 birds requires an outside area of 1.92 hectares. In order to comply with the marking time period every second year, there should be two outside areas to switch between. The distance to the nearest exit hole must normally not exceed 150 m.

A number of things must be done every day. The water and feed machines must be filled up and the chickens must have grass/course fodder when inside. Dry litter must be spread, the temperature and humidity must be checked, equipment must be inspected and the weight, feed intake and mortality amongst the chickens must be registered. Any sick birds must be immediately culled and dead chickens must be collected.
It is immensely important to keep the litter dry and loose on the surface so that pad fluctuations are avoided (see the point regarding this). Singeing is a completely unacceptable welfare problem in organic production. Spillage of water must be avoided and the chickens must preferably use the perches. In the summer period, they must be encouraged to be outside. Moreover, they must have a total dark period (= rest) without artificial lighting of min. 8 hours per day.

Organic chickens grow slowly and may not gain more than 35 g per day (on average). The growth is controlled by weighing once every week. If the chickens are growing too fast, the feed compound must be regulated. The feed must be completely removed 8 hours before the birds are to be transported for slaughtering. The water is removed just before. As soon as the house is empty, cleaning commences so it can be ready for the next batch of chickens. (See cleaning). There must be a marking time period of 14 days between two batches.

From 2012, the chickens may only be given organic feed but until then 5-10% of the feed compound may be non-organic. The feed compound changes in line with the chickens’ growth. The starting feed is very rich in protein, whilst the adult feed has lower protein content. In the last part of the chickens’ lifetime, 10-20% whole wheat must be added. The chickens must always have access to course feed, which includes grass, ensilage, fruit and vegetables.

Organic chickens are robust and are rarely impacted by disease. But if this happens, they must be diagnosed by a vet before they are treated. However, prevention is important. The chickens are always vaccinated with Paracox at the hatchery so they are protected against coccidiosis; and when 26 days old, they must be protected against Newcastle Disease via the drinking water.  In addition, the house climate must be kept clean and all persons must change clothing and wash their hands before going into the house so the risk of infection is minimized.

Space requirements: 
AU stands for animal unit and corresponds to 1200 produced organic chickens – applicable for slaughtering at 81 days. For slaughtering earlier or later, the amount is adjusted by 25 chickens per day. When the slaughtering age is 63 days, as is the case for Rose Poultry’s organic chickens, 1 AU corresponds to 1650 chickens. With 4800 chickens per batch and 4.7 batches per year, this gives an annual production of 22,560 chickens which corresponds to 13.7 AUs. The harmony requirement is 1.4 AU per hectare so almost 10 hectare must be available for the type of chicken production described here.