Organic Poultry Farming
In domestic chicken farming, organic farming can focus on either the production of organic eggs or organic chicken meat. In both cases, the animals must be provided with access to an outdoor enclosure. Due to different weather changes, it is necessary that the chickens have access to the enclosure for at least one third of their life. The enclosure should be covered with vegetation with shelters or with trees and shrubs where birds can hide. They should also have access to water or feed. Both hens for egg production and chickens for fattening must be fed with feed from organic production and self-produced feed should be used as a matter of priority. To meet the need for vitamins and minerals, mineral-vitamin premixes may be used, but synthetically produced amino acids must not be used. The protection of animal health should be based in particular on prevention. However, even for precautionary reasons, chemical synthetic substances cannot be used, especially as regards anticoccidials. Organic egg production hens for organic egg production cannot be kept in cages. In the hall, at least one third of the floor area must be covered with bedding in which hens can dig, bake and ash. The hen must have castles, because fortification is a natural behavior of a chicken; the length for one hen must be at least 18 cm. No more than 3,000 hens can be housed in one hall. The concentration of hens per m2 can be a maximum of 6 individuals. In the outdoor enclosure, each hen must have 4 m2 of space available. The length of the light day is important for the intensity of laying hens. In organic farming, it is allowed to supplement the length of the natural day with artificial lighting for a maximum of 16 hours a day. Top organic hybrids can be used for organic breeding, but also hybrids bred in our country, which can achieve very good results, because they are bred for long-term breeders and in worse environmental conditions and are thus able to achieve higher productivity even when using lower concentrations of nutrients in feed mixtures. To increase the residence time of hens in the outdoor enclosure, trees, shrubs or other shelters are important, where hens can hide. The higher proportion of hens in the enclosure has a positive effect on reducing the incidence of feather peaking and cannibalism, which is a serious problem due to the ban on cauterization (trimming) of beaks in organic farms. Organic chicken meat Chickens are fattened mainly on bedding; fattening in cages is prohibited. A maximum of 4,800 chickens can be housed in one hall, which must be easily accessible to the outdoor enclosure. The load in the hall can be a maximum of 10 individuals per m2 and must not exceed 21 kg live weight per 1 m2. In the outdoor enclosure, there is an area of 4 m2 per chicken. Even in fattening, the length of the light day cannot be longer than 16 hours and the chickens must have at least 8 hours of darkness without interruption. To avoid intensive fattening, breeders should use slow-growing hybrids; if fast-growing hybrids are used, the chickens must be fattened for at least 81 days. In the organic system, thanks to the use of organic feed with a lower concentration of nutrients and external run-out, growth is slowed down and feed conversion is worsened. The slaughter weight will be reached by chickens aged 70 – 81 days. Movement in the paddock and longer fattening time also affect the quality of the meat. From a sensory point of view, meat tends to be rated as firmer, juicier and generally more mature than the meat of fast-growing hybrids. However, it very much depends on the habits and expectations of consumers. The importance of eco-breeding animal health is an important indicator when it comes to welfare. Mortality in organic farming is very variable and ranges from 0 to 25% in chicken farming. The most common causes of death may be E. coli, infectious bronchitis, coccidiosis or chicken ticks, which is a major problem in the production of table eggs. In the outdoor enclosure, contact with vectors of various diseases (wild birds), which can cause zoonoses, is more likely. These are mainly Salmonella and Campylobacteria. The importance of the production of organic eggs and organic chicken meat in the world is still limited. Better welfare and demands for organic quality feed are significantly reflected in the price of organic food, which is one of the main reasons why the consumption of organic eggs and organic chicken is relatively low. The low interest of consumers is also reflected in the low numbers of farmed animals. The main countries in the Europe where organic eggs are produced include France, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. In these countries, the number of hens in organic farms ranges from 2.3 to 1.2 million. Also in Denmark, almost 900,000 hens are reared in the organic farming system. The situation is similar in fattening chickens. In France, about 7 million chickens are fed in the organic system each year and in the United Kingdom 3 million. Major producers of organic chickens include Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece and Denmark.