New York Colony’s ‘furnished’ poultry housing wins sustainability awards

Furnished housing provides a more natural open environment, with nesting areas, scratch pads, and perches

chickens on scratch pads
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State-of-the-art “furnished housing” for poultry has won the New York Hutterite Colony the inaugural Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award for both the table egg industry and the overall poultry industry honours.

The Lethbridge-area colony was praised for being a progressive and forward-thinking egg farm, with a strong commitment to animal welfare and environmentally responsible farming practices.

Levi Hofer accepted the awards at an event in Guelph, Ont. last month.

After deciding their conventional barn needed replacing, Hofer and colony members spent four years researching housing options, including free range, free run, and enriched or furnished systems. They chose the latter, which provides a more natural open environment, with nesting areas, scratch pads, and perches.

chickens in an egg-laying cage
The orange paddles reduce the amount of light coming into the
 egg-laying area. photo: Courtesy Egg Farmers of Alberta

The new system was about 20 per cent more expensive to build and required constant management to have birds properly use nesting, feeding, and perch areas.

Hofer has been an enthusiastic advocate of the furnished-housing system.

“As a manager I love it because I can communicate with my flock by adjusting the tools of producing an egg — feed, water, humidity, air quality, lighting,” Hofer said in an interview earlier this year.

The chickens are more relaxed and that improves egg quality, he said.

It also responds to consumer concerns, he said.

“Keeping the consumer and the distributor happy was a very big factor in choosing and building this barn,” he said. “We need the consumer to walk up to the egg shelf in the grocery store and look at the options and see choices like the furnished-housing system.”

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