Jerry & Emma Saunders, Orchard Farm Eggs
Jerry and Emma Saunders converted Orchard Farm to organic status in 1995. The farm’s 100 acres are home to 3500 laying hens, 1000 apple trees, a beef cattle herd and an annual crop of spring wheat and barley, and their three extra-helpful children, Oliver, Lucy and Charlotte.
The hens are a mixture of Silverlinks, Brown Nicks and Redco birds, with eggs ranging in colour from light to rich dark brown. They are kept in small flocks of 500 birds per house and are free to roam the pastures and orchards during the day before heading to their roomy sheds overnight. They also have ‘scratching areas’ which are layered with straw produced from the farm’s cereal crops. Alongside what they forage from the fields, the hens are fed a 100% organic ration mixed with home grown wheat and barley. They also get a regular scattering of any Riverford veg that is not good enough for the vegboxes, which provides further enrichment and encourages the birds to range.
Unlike most commercial farmers who cull their flocks after one egg-laying cycle, Jerry and Emma allow their birds to moult and go on to produce eggs for much longer than most. As Jerry says himself, “The health, welfare and quality of life of our hens are our number one priorities. Happy hens produce good quality eggs!”