Nothing has had a stronger influence on the development of Pipers Farm than the way that we were producing chickens with my father in Kent 25 years ago, for one of the well-known High Street chains. We were growing food that we were not prepared to feed to our young children. As farmers we were determined to do something about it! There is a world of difference between that industrial system in Kent and the Pipers Farm chickens of today.
Our chickens are grown by Sam and Felicity Ursell on their Domesday Farm at Windout, set in the rolling hills just south of Exeter. They run a breeding flock producing eggs which are incubated in the hatchery in one of the ancient timber barns next to the farmhouse.
The newly-hatched chicks are transferred across the yard to brooding sheds where they are kept warm under “electric hens”. These provide an environment which is as close as possible to being snug under their mother's wing.
At 3½ weeks old they are taken the short distance up onto the open hillside above the homestead. They are in groups of no more than 250 and they have shelter in tents by night and plenty of space to roam freely in the fresh hillside air by day. It is so important to us that they have plenty of exercise, running free and scratching and dustbathing whenever they want.
We only feed a simple cereal diet to supplement the grass they eat, so that they grow slowly and develop strong bones, real leg muscles (big drumsticks!) and a texture which is so different from the ones we grew back in Kent!
At 12 weeks old we kill them individually by hand, on the farm. We then hang them in the traditional way for up to 12 days.
Properly Free Range
Find out more about how we grow our Free range chickens.