We at Bent Shed Produce like variety. When we moved to our property in 2006, we naturally thought of chickens to improve the soil and produce eggs. We were mildly astonished to find that there was more to chooks than the usual brown birds portrayed on egg cartons, and that eggshells came in shades other than brown or white.
We therefore decided to specialise in the breeds, and crossbreeds, that add colour and interest both to the yards and the kitchen. We don't run large commercial numbers of poultry; just enough to provide colour and interest to local consumers, which is about 250 birds at any given time.
More or less logically, we've extended our range to cover almost all of the common domestic species of poultry - chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, and geese. The only species we don't currently have is quail, because they have this vertical take-off-and-landing capability that's not suited to rural ranges without being covered.
Please use the "Poultry" links to the left to find out more about the species in general, and our breeds in particular.
Our birds are run in relatively small paddocks of about 50m x 50m, with about 50 birds in each area. This equates to one bird per 50 square metres.
Since the official definition of "free-range" has been hijacked by the commercial interests and set at 10,000 birds per hectare (one bird per square metre) we (and others like us) prefer not to use the term any more. While better than battery farms, where each bird has a space about the size of an A4 sheet of paper in a cage to move in, it still doesn't allow for good movement of birds.
The preferred stocking density for true free-range is 750-1,000 birds per hectare (one bird per 10 square metres). This provides for natural movement of poultry and permits the easy regeneration of the green pick.
Our property is on land that was once sheep country, and which has been regenerating back to native bush for the last 15 years or so.
What that means is a lot of blackwattle and she-oak, with open areas of kangaroo tussock and tea-tree. We are sowing native grasses in those areas that will support it, and running goats and poultry through those areas to build up the soil, ever so gradually.
Thus, "bush-ranged" chooks.
The main difficulty with poultry ranging through native grasslands and forested areas is that they tend to revert to a semi-wild state, and start laying their eggs in nice little nests on the ground. We humans would prefer them to lay in the central nesting boxes we've provided for easy collection.