Despite the free-range Model Code capping stocking density at 1 500 hens per hectare, some farms cram in more than 20 000. And some eggs come from flocks of up to 120 000! Is it any wonder when over half of the free-range eggs sold in Australia come from only three producers? They’re Novo, Pace Farm and Manning Valley and are responsible for many brands in the major supermarkets.
There is no legal definition of the term free-range, so corporations can be creative in how it’s applied. Indeed, Coles and Woolworths made up their own standard for home brand eggs—10 000 per hectare. Shonky much!? Consumers, hens and the environment pay a premium for this.
So what can you do? There’s a plethora of animal welfare certification bodies who look at a range of criteria; Humane Choice have set the standards high.
Alternatively, look out for pastured eggs; if you have a concern, simply ask the farmer! The hens are raised all or most of their lives on pasture and moved every few days to enrich the soil; they’re free to dust bathe, scratch and forage, eating worms and grubs. Their quality diet means creamy, rich-tasting yolks and stronger shells for us.
Make sure you’re getting truly fresh eggs, as these will hold firm when poaching. Look for these brands at farmers’ markets and local independent stores near you. Taste the difference and tell your friends!
Support local farmers and eat delicious fresh food to boot; check our other directories: milk, eggs, pork, fruit and vegetables, garlic, turkeys and chickens.
Contribute: If you know a farm that should be here, email me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com
12 Good Eggs, Barham
Glen and Mardie Gray’s girls roam the paddock enjoying the country air, Barham sunshine and shady Red Gums. They sleep and lay in caravans that are shifted twice weekly; electric netting and Maremmas keep them safe.
Berrima Ridge, Berrima
Anne and Warren Stuckey move their chickens regularly over 50 acres of pasture and olive grove. From dawn to dusk, every day is a new adventure for the hens, especially seeking out any forbidden areas. They sleep in mobile hen houses, protected by a Maremma dog.
Brigadoon Harvest, Tooraweenah
John and Estelle Joseph’s chickens scratch in the mulch piles, mow the green grass shoots and take luxurious dust baths. The chickens live in a mobile house that is moved every few days. They keep things simple and natural, lots of sunshine, wholefoods, grass and bugs.
Buena Vista Farm, Gerringong
On a picturesque property, Fiona and Adam Walmsley have almost 400 laying hens, mostly housed in two mobile chicken caravans. The chickens enjoy big fresh paddocks of grass, moved every few days to a fresh spot.
Calvin’s Eggs, Gerrigong
12-year-old Calvin runs a flock of hens including Rhode Island Reds, Pekin Bantams and Silkies. They’re fed scraps, vegetables and high-protein crumble. Protected by Maremmas, they have day access to fully grassed pasture and sleep in the henhouse at night.
Clarendon Farm, Pitt Town
Ian Littleton’s hens follow the natural rhythms of a wild hen’s year. They’re free from artificial light so there are less eggs during autumn and winter. Hens past their laying prime reside in retirement paddocks. An electric fence and Maremmas protect them from predators.
Cornucopia Bio-dynamic Farm, Paterson River
Kerry Marshall lets her chickens roam freely throughout the day with nightly sheltering in their mobile homes. Every few days the homes are pulled to fresh pasture for a fresh supply of fresh green pick; their supplementary feed is certified organic grain.
Dharma Gardens, Heathcote
Rachel and Matt Fahey chickens contribute with pest control, soil balance and weeding. Besides green pick, they eat organic meal, fruit and vegetable scraps. They’re available from Bendigo WholeFoods and Barrack Reserve farmers’ market.
Egganic, Forest Reefs
The Steel family’s chickens roam chemical-free paddocks near Orange. They’re kept safe from predators by electric fencing and Maremma dogs. They lay and roost in a mobile sheds and eat fresh green feed and certified organic mash. Tip from @UrbanGreenSpace
Farmer Browns Pastured Eggs, Dunedoo
The Fergusson family’s pastured hens live unrestricted in an 85 hectare paddock adjoining a large area of protected woodland. The hens lay their eggs in mobile sheds by day and perch comfortably at night. Maremma dogs provide protection.
Got a photo? More info? Send it to me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com
Free as a Bird, Tooradin
Graeme and Anne Barwise have approximately 300 birds housed in mobile sheds on their farm. During daylight hours the birds have full access to lush, green pastures; they can dust bathe and are free to graze naturally. They’re fed chemical-free grains.
Grandma’s Eggs, Gunning
Stephen Clancy, wife Maureen, son and daughter-in-law are the team behind Grandma;s Eggs. Their chickens are free to roam outside 24 hours a day with portable housing. They are protected by two Maremma dogs.
Hayters Hill, Byron Bay
Brothers Hugh and David Trevor-Jones are fourth generation farmers with a 120 hectare mixed farm just five minutes from Byron Bay. Their 2,000 chickens are systematically rotated on pasture with plenty of room to move.
Holbrook Paddock Eggs, Holbrook
Sam and Prue Pincott’s 2,600 hens roost and lay in portable sheds which are moved onto fresh pasture twice weekly; they’re free to roam the paddock with access to fresh grass, bugs and grubs. Two Maremma dogs protect them from predators, as they’re never locked up.
Long Paddock Eggs, Bungendore
Chickens here are free to range with plenty of fresh grass, shade, leaf litter to scratch in, dust baths and safe shelter. Valia, Amanda, Eileen and Jenny move the mobile sheds weekly. Maremma dogs and portable electric fencing provide protection.
Mayfield Farm, Dorrigo Plateau
Ian and Sandra’s flock of Plymouth Rock chickens are free to dust bath, scratch and hunt for grubs and bugs. Supplementary feed is corn, wheat and sunflower seeds with access to shell grit, Calgrit and seaweed meal throughout the day.
Near River Produce, Hollisdale
Therese and Andre Hearne’s flock of mainly black Australorp hens—with a few Aruacanas—spend their days ranging around the market garden paddock, foraging on the bugs, grubs and grasses, along with an organic grain-based feed in their run.
New England Pastured Eggs, Kentucky
Arron and Kirsty O’Connel’s hens are free to roam and forage on open pasture. They are housed in moveable sheds and rotated onto fresh pasture every few days.
Oaks Organics, The Oaks
Peter and Julie Clinch supply open-range organic eggs from their farm located approximately 70km from Sydney. They are fed supplementary soy-free certified organic ration.
Old Mill Road BioFarm, Moruya
Chickens clean out crops, eat bugs, fertilise the ground and provide eggs for the market. They’re contained by an electrified mesh so Fraser Bayley and Kirsti Wilkinson can give their chickens fresh ground regularly, essential for their wellbeing.
Organic Ways, Bowraville
Tim and Tracy Zanker’s chickens scratch around on organic pastures during the day; at night they’re housed in movable coops. Their diet is supplemented with porridge of organic wheat and milk from their dairy cows.
The Cripps Clark family rear 5,000-6,000 laying hens. They are protected from predators by shady trees, bird netting, electric fencing and Maremma dogs. They’re housed in movable shelter and have access to green peck supplemented by certified organic vegetarian grains.
Oxhill Organic, Wauchope
The Eggert family’s certified organic farm has 2,000 laying hens that are moved every two days to fresh pasture. The hens are fed a fresh porridge mix; the grains are cracked and mixed with organic milk from the on-farm dairy.
These are open range chickens as they’re not contained by fences or ever locked up. They follow a herd of beef cattle in a planned rotational grazing regime, protected by Maremma dogs. A commercially produced layer ration supplements their feed. Tip from Carolyn.
Possum Creek, Bangalow
Permaculture, Holistic Management and Polyface farming practices produce a food system that works with nature. Andrew Cameron’s 150 hens forage on pasture, pecking at bugs and insects, and dust bathe; they roost in their caravan that is regularly moved.
Rock Chic Eggs, Richmond
The Murphy family hens run wild in large paddocks, eating grass and bugs, scratching and rolling in dirt, running, jumping, stretching and flying. The eggs are laid to order avoiding unnecessary waste or use of the soil and grazing areas.
Smith’s Free Range Eggs, Temora
Helen and Dennis Smith have 2,500 hens have sheds with laying boxes, perches, feed and water. They are collected weighted, packed, marketed and distributed by the Smiths. Tip from @bizzylizzycooks
Symphony Farm, Tilba
Mandy and Graham Thompson and their four boys at produce certified organic pastured eggs. Their hens follow their herd of cattle, scratching up manure, sanitizing the paddocks, eating bugs, grass and natural herbs. In these natural systems the impact of the animals enhances the health of the environment.
The Perthville Pantry, Perthville
Hannah and Cameron Plummer supply genuine pasture raised eggs direct to customers within 100 miles of Bathurst. They farm holistically, regenerating their land in the process; the hens scratch through where the pigs have been, sanitising and fertilising the paddocks as they go.
Working with Nature, Guyra
Derek and Fiona Smith’s 1,000-1,500 hens are fed a grain mix, mineral and protein feed plus any amount of green grass, herbs, fresh shoots and insects the girls find. The sheds are moved around daily. Maremma dogs protect them from foxes, snakes, eagles and hawks.
400 acres, Lietchville
Elliot Fehring’s moveable hen house closely travels the wake of a grazing dairy herd. The chickens feast on grubs, scratching the soil and spread their manure on the pasture, enriching the soil as they go. Two Maremma pups guard the feathery procession from marauding foxes day and night.
Al Yanna, St Arnaud
Catriona and Robert Thoolen teach their layers to scratch, dust bathe, hunt for bugs and sunbake. Many are “rescues”, hens bought from the large commercial growers. They now head up to 500 metres away from their mobile shed, under the watchful eyes of Bella and Peter, their Maremma guard dogs.
Berrkers Free Range Egg, Goon Nure
The hens are free to roam pasture, with access to small huts; these are towed around the farm for fresh pasture.
Daylesford Organics, Daylesford
Brendon and Kate believe that producing food comes with a great deal of responsibility to the consumer, to the environment and to future generations. The eggs are laid by 200 hens that live in mobile sheds, that are moved regularly, guarded from predators by Maremma guard dogs.
Eat Local Eat Wild, Bonnie Doon
Carolyn and Erik Suggate produce chemical free pastured eggs.
Elderslie Organics, Ellinbank
The Wallace family reside on a 120ha farm producing organic eggs and milk. The hens lay eggs in old caravans parked around the dairy paddock. Maremma dogs guard the hens and travel everywhere with their allocated vans of hens. No artificial chemicals and fertilisers are used.
Free Range King Valley Eggs, Moyhu.
Neil and Amanda Beach’s hens forage freely, feeding on insects, native grasses, soft leaves and seeds, with supplementary premium feed. Their mobile sheds are rotated to allow their pasture—free from chemicals, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers—to rejuvenate.
Freeranger Egg Farm, Grantville
Phil Westwood’s farm is home to 1,200 hens. They run in flocks of 200 – 300 in separate paddocks; each flock has a mobile roosting shed with laying boxes and is protected by a Maremma dog. The chickens eat a mash of natural grains (no meat meal nor colouring additives).
Gippsland Free Range Eggs, Glengarry West
The hens are free to roam with Maremma dogs to keep them safe from foxes and wedge tail eagles. Their supplementary diet consists of natural grains and seeds.
Girrahween Farms, Mirboo North
Robyn and Robert Mooren run their hens in flocks of 300 with mobile sheds, protected by Maremma dogs. The sheds are moved every 2-3 days, rotating on the chemical-free paddocks. The eat mixed grain, pasture and all the bugs they can find.
Glorious Googies, Korumburra
Emma Brown’s girls feast all day long on fresh green grass supplemented by specially selected grains with no artificial colours, additives, chemicals or animal proteins. They are free to run, flap, squawk, sit, play or dust bathe and do what chickens do best.
Hens of Hallora, West Gippsland
Tania Murray runs 300 laying hens in a three acre range area that is fully enclosed by an electrified fox-proof fence. The chickens spend the night roosting in a small shed to protect them from the elements. In the morning they’re free to come and go from the shed as they please.
Family Homestead Genuine Free Range Eggs, Myrniong Hills
The Luketic family hens are free to run around outside in the paddock with Maremma dogs for protection; they’re never locked up, not even at night. They’re housed in mobile sheds that are moved on a rotational basis for fresh pasture.
Josh’s Rainbow Eggs, Kerrie Valley
Josh moves the eggmobile daily so the chickens are always on fresh pasture. They have a healthy diet that includes foraged seeds, bugs, worms and native grasses with supplementary grains. The eggs are harvested twice daily and delivered the same or next day.
Madelaine’s Eggs, Hollyburton Park
Madelaine Scott’s flock of 1,000 layers roam the orchard which provides them with fruit and protection from the elements. In return, the chickens keep the mold and bugs away. Their diet is supplemented by Hollyburton organic layer feed.
Milawa Organic Pasture Eggs, Ovens Valley
Russell Mickle’s hens have shelters to protect from extreme temperature and predators. Their pasture diet is supplemented with a high protein vegetarian feed, free from meat and fish meal. They Tip from @essjayeff
PlanetClaire Farm, Pomonal
Claire Dunkley of has a mix of chickens—Plymouth Rock, light Sussex, silver Sussex and speckled Sussex—that are free to forage on chemical free pasture. Their egg mobile is moved every three days, protected from predators by an electric net and a Maremma dog.
Real Free Range Eggs, South Gippsland
Dan Green’s flocks are rotated to allow for natural regeneration of the soil. They have 24-hour access to pasture, food, fresh water and shelter. They can dust bathe as they desire, they’re not de-beaked nor fed hormones or any artificial additives.
Taranaki Farm, Woodend
Ben Falloon and Nina Grundner have established an open Australian farm modeled on Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. Their chickens are pastured, with a regime of twice weekly egg mobile moves to keep up with the cattle.
Top Hundred Acres, north of Melbourne
Kate and Judy Rothacker chickens are free to range the pasture with access to a movable caravan for shelter, water, roosting and nesting space. The soil is nourished by a permaculture system, with no artificial pesticides or fertilisers used.
Tom’s Paddock, Glenburn
Sally and Tom Abbotsmith Youl’s chickens have unlimited access to fresh green forage, with a diet of native grasses, clover, rye grass, grubs and bugs. They’re rotated twice weekly to fresh pasture, with an electric fence for protection.
Wild Hen Farm, Myrrhee
Cheryl Graham uses a sustainable production system to produce ethical eggs of the highest quality and flavour, enriched with a pasture diet. The hens are moved weekly and rotated around the paddocks behind the cattle. They lay and roost in their mobile caravan.
Majura Valley Free Range, Majura
Nick Weber and Anne McGrath run 2,000 chickens to produce biodynamic eggs to local stores, restaurants and from the farm gate. The chicken sheds are moved to different parts of the paddock weekly; this means their soils are fertilised with nitrogen-rich manure.
Mulloon Creek Natural Farms, Bungendore
The hens forage on pasture grasses and legumes supplemented by mixed organic grains, and free fed on shell grit and a protein supplement. Their eggmobile is moved twice weekly, with each flock protected by two Maremma dogs. Tip from Carolyn.
Mungalli Creek Dairy, Millaa Millaa
Robert Watson has 4,000 cross-bred bond brown chickens. Their coops are built on skids so they can be moved around the farm, following the dairy cows, on to fresh pastures. Tip from PinkFarm.
Rawganix Farm, Tansey
Cris and Lee-Anne Geri’s chickens are moved regularly to new pasture using movable pens. As they farm without chemicals and antibiotics, they deal with disease and injury by quarantining, using natural remedies and culling when necessary. Tip from @BTHOfarmgirl
Silver Dale Eggs, Calliope
Rob and Sandra Waterson’s chickens are free to roam all day; they’re never confined but have access to shelter, perches, grain and nests. Their mobile houses are regularly moved so they always have access to fresh grass. Tip from @rolley
Fleurieu Free Range Eggs, Mount Compass
Richard & Terressa Langford’s hens are free to range all day and night, every day of the year. Maremma dogs protect them hens from predators. They eat a balanced diet of cracked grains, vegetable meals, vitamins, minerals and fresh greens make for a nutritious and tasty egg.
Kangaroo Island, Kingscote
Tom and Fiona Fryar run 50,000 hens, moved for fresh pasture in a mobile poultry shed. The hens peck and scratch at seeds, insects and grubs; their feed is supplemented by a mixture of grains produced on the farm. They are protected by Maremma dogs.
Green Eggs and Ham, Parawa
Katrina McCullough and Angus Williams run a small flock of hens in the Fleurieu Peninsula. They’re free to range wherever they please.
Gumview Free Range Eggs, Yorke Peninsula
They produce, package and deliver all their eggs direct from the farm.
Katham Springs, Kingscote
Graham and Kathy Barrett have been producing Demeter certified eggs since 1999. Their chickens live in mobile sheds that are moved around small paddocks regularly; they’re guarded by Maremma dogs.
Cackleberries Eggs, Noggerup
Edward and Margaret Valentine’s hens have mobile homes for regular rotation. They sleep here overnight, with sunrise release. Bio-dynamic pastures, certified grains and grain by-product form their diet. Two Maremma dogs protect them from predators.
Charcol Springs, Manjimup
Charlie and Coleen Roberts’ hens sleep in their eggmobile at night and are moved daily to fresh pasture. The hens follow the cows, cleaning up the cow pats, debugging and scratching to promote seed germination whilst fertilizing the ground and replenishing the soils.
Merri Bee Organic farm, Nannup
Stewart Seesink, Bee Winfield and their son Lee have been developing a permaculture for 25 years on the banks of the Blackwood in Nannup.
Shipley’s Farm, Albany
Barb, Mike, Brenden and Tanya move the chickens daily behind the cattle in rotation. The chickens sleep at night in eggmobiles; when they’re released during the day they delight in having open, fresh pasture and all the vigorous insect activity.
ABC Gippsland: Jenni Henderson, Free range on show for World Egg Day, 5 October, 2013.
Brisbane Times: Amy Remeikis, ‘Free range eggs’ definition scrambled, 29 July, 2013.
The Age: Melissa Fyfe and Royce Millar, Coles sets its own squeezier standard, March 4, 2013.
ABC News: ACCC rejects free range definition, November 2, 2012
Weekly Times: Egg supplier fined over ‘free range’ claims, September 5, 2012
ABC News: Free range definition to rise, April 16, 2012
Lexicon of Sustainability: This is the Story of An Egg, November, 2011
ABC 7.30: Truth in labelling bill ruffles feathers, October 7, 2011
Weekly Times Now, Leslie White: Cracks in free-range egg debate, October 5, 2011
Weekly Times, Leslie White: Egg industry cracks, October 6, 2008
ABC Radio National: Produced by Helen Thomas: Free Range Fiddle, 26 June 2005
cc photo by Christy McDonald
Contribute: If you know a farm that should be here, email me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com