Keeping the hens happy

Egg farms often get a bad rap for how they raise their chickens, but most consumers have no idea of the caring attention most farms give their hens to provide quality meat and eggs on the grocery shelf.

Jonathan LaFoe is the live operations manager for Braswell Family Farms in North Carolina. You could also call him the “concierge” of hen wellness and biosecurity. About 50 pullet and egg producers in the state contract with the company, and all must adhere to the strict guidelines of hen happiness. That includes the right feed distribution, housing temperature, water quality, freedom to take a dust bath in clean wood shavings, and plenty of perches.

LaFoe says they spend a lot of time observing the chickens and making sure they’re comfortable.

"You walk in there and they’re moving around, they’re jumping around, they’ve got enough light to do anything they want to in the house or in the free range or in the pasture, whatever set up that they’re in. That tells me that they’re happy," says LaFoe. "If they are able to exhibit all the natural behaviors that we want them to be able to do, and that they want to do, they’re a happy bird."

LaFoe says there are thousands of hens on these farms, so good biosecurity is paramount for hen happiness, and to keep the food chain safe and sustainable.

"We have a broadband disinfectant that we spray on our tires just to prevent anything from the truck carrying it from the road, or maybe a guy down the road is hauling chicken litter that day and we run over the chicken litter and here we are going to one of our farms. It’s as simple as that," he says. "We have booties, coveralls and hairnets that we wear, and we have a process, a line of separation where we put those booties on at the same place every time."