Written by Kerrie Alexander
What do you call 3000 chickens who forage freely on 190 acres, live in chicken caravans at night, and produce a natural superfood? I’d say that’s called living sunny side up!
That’s just the kind of free-living environment the birds thrive on at the Brother Brother Organics farm, which is a Maryborough-based family-owned business who produce premium quality pasture raised eggs.
But it’s not only the chickens who have a better quality of life living out on the land.
Owners Nick and Amanda Kuhn gave up their government jobs in Alice Springs to provide a better way of life for their now nearly three-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter, and another baby on the way.
The two moved back to the Heritage City to set up the business on Nick’s family-owned property two years ago to be closer to family and start the business that he and his brother Matt envisioned about 10 years ago.
Hence the origin of the business name.
The couple sold their home and invested everything they had in the initial start-up, including buying 800 hens and the first of three purpose-built chicken caravans.
“We didn’t want to work 9-5 office jobs away from our young family,” Amanda said.
“Starting this business presented an opportunity as no one in the local region was producing eggs farmed this way.
“It was also a way to reconnect back with the family farm.
“The kids just love it. My daughter just loves getting dirty, being bare foot … she’ll walk through fresh cow pats without batting an eyelid.
“They get so excited when they come to the farm every day, and they get to see their grandparents every day.
“They get so see cows as they’re born … it’s an amazing upbringing.
“They also get to see their parents and grandparents working hard and I think that’s important too. Monkey see, monkey do, and if our children see us work, they will know no different.”
The husband and wife team knew nothing about organic egg farming before they started but after plenty of research and trial and error, the two now have an exceptional business.
The 3000 birds share the land with Nick’s dad’s cows, which is a match made in heaven when it comes to providing the best possible pasture for the chickens.
“The cows and the chickens work together,” Amanda said.
“The cows will go through and chomp the grass; chickens don’t like long grass, and we’ll put the chickens in after that so they can forage through the cow manure and eat all the bugs and chew on the pasture.”
Ethical treatment of the hens is of upmost important to the family, along with utilising sustainable farming techniques on the property.
“A big portion of the hen’s diet is what they can graze from the pasture,” Amanda said.
“A hen’s natural instincts are to forage, scratch and dig for things like insects and grass, so they have access 100% to the pasture and are never locked up.
“They are also supplement fed with a non-GMO high protein grain ration and we also give the birds oyster shell grit to help them digest their food and add apple cider vinegar to their water to help improve their gut health. “
For consumers who eat animal products, Amanda said it’s becoming more important that the animals are living a better quality of life.
Compared to hens raised in a cage or barn environment, the hens live a far better quality of life in their pasture-based system.
In Australia, for an egg to be called ‘Free-Range’ there must be a maximum of 10,000 birds per hectare and are able to roam and forage outdoors for at least eight hours of the day.
In their ‘Pasture-Raised’ system the hens are moved weekly onto fresh pasture and the stocking density is only 40 hens per hectare, which is a substantial difference, Amanda said.
“Our hens are free to roam from the moment the sun comes up to the moment the sun goes down.
“Our sustainable way of farming is also better for the environment.
“We continuously move our hens onto regenerated pasture every week and ensure grazed pasture has a two- month rest.
“We have no need for the use of any chemicals, herbicides or fertilisers on the property either.”
There’s also a major difference in the taste of the organic eggs in comparison to a store-bought range.
“Freshness is key here!
“We only supply local outlets and all our eggs reach the end consumer within a few days of being laid, which makes a huge difference.
“There are absolutely no way eggs you buy in the supermarket were only laid a few days ago.”
Another interesting facet of the business is how the chickens are kept safe from predators at night and sheltered from the elements while they lay their eggs.
When the hens first arrive at about 16 weeks old, Nick and Amanda spend about three days training the birds to sleep in the chicken caravans at night.
All three purpose-built vans are fitted with a centrally levelling devices so, no matter the slope on the land when moved to different locations, the conveyor system for the eggs aren’t on an angle.
“So, come 7pm you can drive out in the paddock and you wouldn’t see a chicken because they will all be in their caravan,” Amanda said.
“Generally, the rain doesn’t really worry them, but if it’s really hot they’ll be under it for shade during the day.
“The nesting boxes are set on timers to open at 4am and close at 4.30pm, so they can’t sleep in there during the night.”
On average, the hens will produce about 2600 eggs per day, which works out to be about 18,200 per week, which is a major coup for the couple who started out fresh but determined to give it a crack!
As the business grew, they were also able to employ two staff to lend a hand.
“Yes, it was an absolute change of life, but it was all worth it.
“Egg farming is a full on seven-day a week business. The early days of starting the business were really difficult as we couldn’t afford staff and had to work long hours, especially after spending 10 hours at a market.
“Our children often come to markets with us and help us collect/grade eggs, but as our business grew, we realised we couldn’t do everything by ourselves.
“We now have two great staff members to assist us on the farm.”
Just as a fun fact, the largest egg collected so far was 130 grams and was a rare double yolker.
The smallest ever collect was no larger than a five-cent piece.
You can find Nick and Amanda selling their eggs through local farmers markets in Maryborough every Thursday, and Urangan Pier in Hervey Bay every Saturday.
If you can’t make it to our local markets, they also sell at various retail outlets all over the Wide Bay. Visit their Facebook page for more details.