In 2013 after a cancer diagnois from their daughter and sister, Rochelle and Russell decided to change their farming methods back to organic farming for any food they produced. As they sat with Jen through all her treatments they became more aware of how many more people in the prime of their lives, were fighting this disease. The changes Rochelle and Russell have made to their farming practices were prompted by losing Jenny to cancer and the desire to produce cleaner, healthier food.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself and Jen’s Hens.
Jen’s Hens are genuinely organic. We purchase chicks on the day they are hatched and rear themfor the next 16 weeks in a controlled environment. Their diet consists of certified organic feed. Their water is filtered and UV treated for purity. No chemicals are used in this process. At 16 weeks the pullets are introduced to their mobile sheds in the outside paddocks. The sheds and feeders provide shelter, food, water, roosting perches and nesting boxes. Each paddock is enclosed by a netting fence with electric wires to prevent intrusion by predators, such as dogs or foxes. We also use alpacas within the paddocks to deter predators. The mobile sheds are never fully enclosed, so the hens have 24/7 access to open pastures. They are truly free range hens tha tlive and forage outside and only use the sheds for shelter, to roost or to lay their eggs. Eggs are collected daily and taken to our on-farm processing shed, where they are inspected, cleaned, stamped, UV sanitized, graded for size and packed into their cartons. They are stored in a refrigerated cool room prior to delivery to market on a weekly basis. We do not handle eggs from outside sources to minimise the risk of disease or infections.
2) Why did you decide you wanted to create an organic product?
In 2013, our daughter and sister was diagnosed with cancer. As her family, we sat with her through all her treatments and became more aware of how many more people in the prime of their lives, were fighting this disease. As a result of what we saw, we decided to change our farming methods back to organic farming for any food we produced. We now use no artificial fertilisers or chemical sprays on our land. We use no antibiotics, hormone treatments or genetically modified food sources for our animals. It took 3 years to transition our farm to full organic status and certification, which we achieved in March 2018 through the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA). We were milking 700 cows on our dairy farm prior to certification. In changing our farming practices to organicprinciples,protocols and standards, we have reduced our cow numbers to 500 cows. During this time, we decided to add organic egg production to our existing dairy farm operation. The changes we have made to our farming practices were prompted by losing Jenny to cancer and the desire to produce cleaner, healthier food.
3) Where do you source your ingredients from?
As Certified Organic Producers, we raise our own chickens and we source the chicks from Specialised Breeders Australia. They are hatched in the morning and we pick them up in the early afternoon. We rear them in a purpose built rearing shed until they are 16 weeks old, monitoring the heat, feed and water regularly. At 16 weeks old, they are taken out to their new home, a purpose built mobile laying shed. These sheds are always open and the chooks are genuinely free range. In 2021 we built our own feed mill, and we mix our own rations to a nutritionist’s specifications, with certified organic grains sourced from Australian producers. We aim to grow some of our own grains in the near future.
4) What is a typical day in your business like?
Our day starts at the rearing shed where Rochelle checks the chicks and ensures they have plentiful food and water. She also checks for any unwell or injured chicks. Then it’s off to the Processing Shed, where the team are ready to process the eggs collected the day before. Once this is completed, the teams head off to the paddock to collect the eggs, check the feeders/water and look for any chickens that are unwell or injured. When this is completed, the teams head back to the processing shed, where the eggs are sorted, the dirty eggs cleaned and then all are put in the coolroom to await processing in the morning. Russell makes the feed mixes and then puts the feed into a grouper to go out and fill the feeders in each paddock. He does this in between irrigating and working on our dairy farm!
5) What do you wish more people understood about organic products like those from Jen’s Hens?
Being organic is more than just writing the word on your packaging. It involves considerable time and effort to produce a genuinely organic product. Being certified with a national organic body and proudly displaying the logo and certification number on your products enables customers to know they are getting the real deal.
6) Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
We are very proud of the product we produce and would like to thank the wholesalers, retailers and customers for getting behind us. We value the feedback that is provided and are always striving to find better ways to produce our eggs.