Stocking density

Regulations insist that each farm must provide at least an acre of field for every 1000 hens and flocks are free to roam over the pasture during the daytime. 

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Regulations insist that each farm must provide at least an acre of field for every 1000 hens and flocks are free to roam over the pasture during the daytime. 

Because they originate from jungle fowl they enjoy overhead shade and that means they may be reluctant to go outside in bright, sunny weather, although many farmers are now planting trees to give their hens shelter and a feeling of security whilst outdoors. Of course if it is cold, wet or windy, they can choose to stay in the warmth of the chicken house.

Q. What is stocking density?

There are legal requirements in the UK for the number of birds per hectare for hens to range outside and enough square metres inside the shed.

Q. What is the UK external stocking density rate?

The EU legal maximum is 2,500 hens per hectare. That means a farmer who has 12,000 birds must provide around 5 hectares of outside range. If a producer is RSPCA Freedom Food approved then the external stocking density rate is 2,000 per hectare. That means a farmer who has 12,000 birds must provide 6 hectares of outside range.

Q. What is the internal stocking density rate?

The internal stocking density is the number of birds you are allowed in a shed. For free range flocks the stocking density rate is nine birds per square metre. For Organic free range flocks the stocking density rate is six birds per square metre.

Q. What is the maximum number of birds kept in a shed?

The maximum flock size is 16,000 birds in one shed. However, flocks are separated within the shed to flocks of 4,000 birds. Each flock has separate feeding, watering, lighting and ventilation facilities as well as separate ranging immediately outside the shed.

Q. Is there a minimum number of birds per shed?

No. Birds like the company of other birds and gather together for warmth and safety against predators. Bird numbers over 6,000 have to be split into flock sizes of 4,000.
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