We get all of our chicks from the hatchery when they are one day old and raise them on a bed of sawdust when very young and then home grown straw as they get older, which is refreshed every day. They live under gas or electric brooders at a temperature of about 29⁰C for the first week. The temperature in the chick houses is then reduced over a fortnight until it is similar to the ambient temperature.
As soon as they are old enough, and depending on the weather, they are able to spend their days outside if they wish to. In the summer this can sometimes be when they are as young as 3 days old if it is hot enough for them. As we produce them over a longer growing period (around 12-20 weeks for chickens and more for the other birds) than most mass production poultry farms, the birds have a longer time to enjoy the outdoors and develop a truly succulent flavour.
We take great care to ensure the high welfare standards of the birds, as we’re only happy when they’re happy!
Food and water are available to every bird all of the time and we go considerably beyond the minimum limit in terms of birds per feeder and drinker. Both the straw and their food is either produced on the farm or sourced from our neighboring farms or local feed mills.
Our geese come from Norfolk Geese, based – you guessed it – in Norfolk… Pulham Market to be precise. They are a breed called Legarth Geese. You can view our supplier’s website here norfolkgeese.co.uk. The breed produces a wonderful, full-flavour and a high meat yield. In fact our geese are renowned for their flavoursome, moist meat, that is rich and firm with a natural marbling of fat. It was these very qualities that have won the geese a Great Taste Award and startled the palate of Heston Blumenthal in a blind taste test into selecting our geese for his BBC Christmas special and naming them as the tastiest in the land.
The geese arrive on the farm as day-old goslings in mid June and, as with the chickens, when they are young they have heat lamps in their barns and are fed on a specialist goose crumb, before moving on to a wheat diet when they are older. When they are old enough the geese spend their days out in the meadows surrounding the farm and have access to graze on meadow grass and any fallen fruit from the trees around the farm. The geese love to inspect anything in their way and can often be found tackling any farm machinery in their field, loosening nuts and bolts and dismantling fences!
The chickens are a Cobb Ross breed and they come from a hatchery in Cambridgeshire. We are always striving to achieve the right balance between the highest standard of chick that tastes to perfection, that grows well in free-range conditions with the desire to minimise our carbon footprint, so locality is key. S&T poultry, near Wisbech, supply the quality we are looking for. You can visit their website at sandtpoultry.co.uk.
The chickens are initially fed on a specialist chick crumb, with carefully monitored vitamin and mineral levels, then, as they get a bit older, they move on to a mixture of wheat, grown on the farm, and a wheat based chicken food. Once they are old enough, from 1 week old if the weather is suitable, the chicks are then free to go outside during the day and wander and peck around the meadows on the farm. Once night falls, to foil the fox, the chickens are put to bed!
We grow a large white Aylesbury cross breed of duck as they are tastiest ones we can find and, after all, what is the point of growing something if you do not think it delicious yourself? We get them at day old and try to get them outside as soon as they are old enough as even as youngsters the ducks are paddling, bathing, spilling, splashing and sloshing around in their drinkers. Outside they have massive drinkers that they can go wild in and make as much mess as they want.
Our guinea fowl are a relatively new addition to the farm and as with our other birds they are brought in as day old chicks and live under heat lamps, until they are older. They also come from S&T Poultry at day old. They are fed on a varied diet of wheat and specialist feed from our local mill in Chelmsford and live in a smaller barn on the farm, with access to their own area outside.
Our day old turkeys arrive on the farm from S&T Poultry towards the end of July. They are a Norfolk bronze breed of bird. Like all the other birds they are grown on a wheat based diet from grain grown here on the farm. Turkeys seem highly adept at going over the top of the fences. I opted out of containing them so they spend a large part of their day in the vegetable patch eating what should have won best in show.
We believe in sustainable farming with minimum impact on the environment, whilst maintaining both food quality and the highest of animal welfare standards. This is why all our birds are free-range and are never fed hormones or artificial growth promoters. We also source additional ingredients used in our ready meals from other local farms to reduce the food miles of our produce.
Our pheasants are wild birds that have come from a nearby farm shoot and are then plucked and eviscerated here. Pheasant has a rich gamey flavour and they are ideal for roasting or casseroling. The pheasant season runs from October 1st to February 1st so they are only available during this period.