Your eggs come from two small-scale organic farmers: Duncan Janaway of Upper Norton Farm, Hampshire, and Jerry Saunders of Orchard Farm, Devon. They both look after some exceptionally happy hens!

Jerry and his wife Emma converted their land to organic in 1995. As well as acres of apple trees (hence the name), Orchard Farm is home to several small flocks of laying hens. Their birds live in groups of just 600, even though organic flocks are allowed to contain up to 2000. Smaller groups mean less stress; as Jerry himself says, “The health, welfare, and quality of life of our hens is our number one priority.”

Looking after the hens also looks after the land. Organic fields are rotated between crops, grazing animals, and rest, to keep the soil naturally clean and fertile. “When we change flocks over and move the henhouse onto a fresh field, we plough up the old range and grow a crop,” says Jerry. “The hens provide us with a lot of rich manure, which is a really valuable resource to an organic farm.”

Jerry tending to his hens
Jerry tending to his hens.

The Soil Association’s organic certification demands the highest standards of animal welfare of any farming system, according to Compassion in World Farming. Jerry’s hens have a fantastic quality of life; they spend 365 days a year pottering freely on clean organic pasture, with grass and clover to forage in, trees, shelters, and sand pits for scratching. Unlike the majority of UK hens (including free range) they will never have their beaks trimmed; a painful practice used to prevent stressed birds from pecking each other. Instead, stress is avoided in the first place, by giving the birds as natural and enjoyable a life as possible.

The hens are encouraged to leave their spacious houses each morning and engage in natural behaviours. They get plenty of human interaction, being checked on and chatted to throughout the day. Everything they’re fed is 100% organic – including some of Riverford’s graded out veg! Because their feed doesn’t contain any additives or artificial colouring agents, the colour of the hens’ egg yolks is natural and can vary. Whether golden or paler hued, the rich flavour is just the same.

All our egg boxes are mixed sizes and colours. Hens are not machines; it’s not natural for them to produce eggs that are completely uniform! By accepting mixed boxes that include smaller eggs laid by younger hens, and the larger, paler hens laid by older ones, our customers not only prevent waste – you also allow the hens to enjoy longer lives.