Today's egg production use highly productive laying hens which are bred to lay extremely large amounts of eggs. There is no use for the brothers of these laying hens since they cannot compete as broilers with races specifically bred for this purpose. As a result they are separated out shortly after hatching and killed. The number of "one day chicks" killed annually is roughly equivalent to the number of laying hens - 34 million brothers of laying hens. The growing market for organic eggs makes this an important issue for the organic food industry, with the focus on an ethically justifiable solution.
The Bruderhahn Initiative Deutschland project has turned its attention to the urgent issue of brother roosters and has developed an alternative for handling them. Under the slogan "Rescue my brother - stop senseless killling" all the brothers of laying hens producing eggs for project participants are reared. Even is this entails financial disadvantages.
The formula in this context is one rooster to every 250 eggs laid, since a hen will lay approx. 250 eggs during her active life. The rooster's meat is then offered at reasonable prices, even if this is not economically viable for the farmer. The Bruderhahn Initiative Deutschland has come up with a solution to the problem of the economic disadvantage caused by rearing brother roosters which is as brilliant as it is simple. A surcharge of 4 cents is levied on every egg sold in a shop. 100% of these 4 cents is used to rear and sell brother roosters. Additional costs are offset by the surcharge which Holle pays for meat sourced from Bruderhahn breeders.
The Bruderhahn Initiative Deutschland has set itself strict guidelines for the rearing of brother roosters. Rearing, feed and living conditions meet the highest animal welfare standards.
One male chick per laying hen is allowed to live. It is reared according to Bioland/Demeter guidelines on a breeding farm with access to outdoor space. Wherever possible, as a matter of principle the chicks come from an organic flock of parent birds. Roosters are kept together with hens until they are around 5 weeks old. Following this the roosters are relocated to a rearing pen and fattened up under premium conditions in a rural agricultural enterprise for 18-22 weeks.
During the entire period they are given 100% organic feed. The conditions roosters are kept in must meet higher standards than usual. Unless they are given a lot of exercise and activity they will start to attack each other.
The interior of the mobile pens is based on the natural habit of chickens - the forest. Numerous perches are available at various levels. This ensures the natural, peaceful coexistence of the roosters.
The covered outdoor area of the mobile pen offers the chickens the opportunity to take sand baths and peck the ground. The feed they are given in addition to grass originates from the farm's own mill or, alternatively, from suppliers who also work according to organic principles.
In addition to this, the Bauckhof farm aspires to the greatest possible degree of transparency - for e.g. by installing webcams in all its pens so that consumers can see for themselves at any time how Bauckhof has implemented high standards of chicken welfare.
Take a look at the farmer in his pen: to view more visit the webcam in the Bruderhahn pen at Bauckhof Klein Süstedt.
The main focus of the project is to achieve a self-sufficient commercial poultry business keeping birds in natural conditions and to high standards of welfare. In order to reach this goal the association wishes to raise funds to breed a special race. The objective is to achieve a balance between laying performance and meat production and good nutrient take up which is in harmony with ecological living conditions for the birds. Current breeding experiments have not yet been successful in developing a suitable breed. The cost of keeping existing dual-purpose chickens, e.g. Sulmtalers, would result in markedly more expensive eggs.
Carsten Bauck, co-initiator of the Bruderhahn Initiative Deutschland (BID) project, gives information about the status quo; the BID's goals and perspectives plus Holle's importance for the project.