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The animals of the Keller family’s laying hen operation in Freimettigen near Konolfingen BE have plenty of space and even more panoramic views.
Marc Keller practically gets up with the chickens. When the 32-year-old farmer and agricultural technician comes out of his feathers in Freimettigen BE, the animals are already awake – around two hours to be precise. The light in the stable goes on at three in the morning, after which the big cackling, scratching and laying begins. A 15-hour hen working day has started.
Before six o’clock, Marc Keller starts his inspection tour through the large hall with the 6,000 chicks. «The chicks or young chickens need intensive care in the beginning. We have to make sure that they eat and drink well in order to gain weight and resistance, ”says Keller about his little ones. After about 18 weeks they move to one of the two large halls to join the 12,000 laying hens.
After completing his basic training, farmer Marc Keller specialized in chickens.
Here, in the double stable, Keller continues his inspection round. A very modern building. Solar cells provide electricity, a computer provides information about the chickens: Do they eat and drink enough, is the number of eggs produced correct? Light, temperature and air quality are also measured, and 700 kilos of feed passed through automated feed troughs every day.
The food consists of precisely matched ingredients specified by Coop Naturafarm. The chickens peck corn and wheat as energy components. Wheat chaff as raw fiber. Soy and corn gluten as protein components. Vitamins A, C, D and E. Raw ash. Clam shells and lime for the eggshell. Pigments and paprika for the egg yolk quality. Sand for digestion. Artificial colors are prohibited. “Depending on the age group, the composition of the feed is even different,” says Keller. “But always optimized so that the animal is as healthy as possible and in top shape.” The chickens have to be, too, because with laying eggs they do a “henne Büez” – a top performance that equates to a daily marathon.
Laying hens last around a year and a half. Then the laying curve flattens out on Keller’s computer. It is time to “abandon”, the animals come to the slaughterhouse. But until that happens, thanks to Coop Naturafarm the greatest possible animal welfare. A few key points that distinguish the Coop label from other farms: The herds are limited to 6,000 per stall and 12,000 per farm in favor of more space for the individual animal (the maximum herd regulation allows 18,000). Each chicken has two and a half square meters available on the meadow, shading options offer protection from dangerous birds of prey.
At Kellers there is also a phenomenal view of the Aare valley and, if the weather is clear, all the way to the Bundeshaus. The animals can move freely in a total of three outdoor zones. In addition to the meadow, these are the exercise yard, which, in contrast to the meadow, is available to the chickens even in bad weather. In addition, a covered, laterally open air-conditioning area.
Swiss meat and eggs from animal-friendly free-range husbandry are included Naturafarm indicates. Coop developed the animal husbandry programs for cattle, pigs, calves and chickens with the Swiss animal welfare organization STS and partner organizations. The STS and “beef control” regularly inspect the respective farms independently and without prior notification. Animal transports and slaughterhouses are also audited.
The barn is, so to speak, the home of the hens. A good climate, little ammonia, a lot of oxygen, fresh air and enough space for scratching and dust bathing are the parameters – including enough retreat for the laying hens. The chickens are also regularly given new employment opportunities in the barn so that they can peck, scratch and sandbath », says Keller. This with the aim of avoiding the animals getting bored. “Otherwise you will start picking your toes or pestering other hens.”
Chickens are very sensitive animals that have to be carefully managed, summarizes Keller. If necessary, he can, for example, dimming the light to ensure more peace and quiet. The specialist must also be careful of bacteria such as coccidia or clostridia. These can multiply quickly in the chicken’s intestines and pass to other animals via picked droppings.
In the separate séparée, the laying hen lays one egg per day in the “nest”.
The two biggest challenges for Keller are that the animals are doing well and getting the most out of them every day. And at the same time his greatest incentive. “When I see that the herd is doing well and the laying curve is correct, that makes me happy.” And precisely because he loves his job, Keller also accepts the long working weeks of 65 to 70 hours. The father of the family is often still at work when the lights go out in the chicken coop at 6 p.m. That doesn’t bother him: “Being my own boss and always having my family around despite a lot of work is a problem!”
How did the dual-purpose chicken initiative come about?
Coop launched the project seven years ago for ethical and ecological reasons to promote the compatibility of egg and meat production.
With what claims?
In the laying hen breeds, the male chicks are killed after hatching. With the project we are trying to put a stop to this fact: the hens should reliably lay eggs, the roosters should put more meat on.
Why are “normal” male chicks unsuitable for fattening?
Today, laying and fattening hybrids are used in poultry keeping. In laying hybrids, the hens are bred to lay many eggs. The roosters cannot lay eggs and also put on little meat.
What is better with the dual-purpose chicken?
Both sexes are raised here. Thanks to the breeding, the feed conversion and thus the meat set of the dual-purpose cocks could be improved. In return, the hen lays fewer and smaller eggs than a laying hybrid.
How does the customer recognize the Naturaplan dual-purpose eggs and chickens?
They are marked with the green dual-purpose chicken logo. The products are available in selected sales outlets.
This post was dated Ringier Brand Studio created on behalf of a customer. The content is journalistically prepared and meets Ringier’s quality requirements.
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