To Tree or not to Tree?

12 September 2014

More and more producers are reaping the benefits of planting trees on their ranges. In the UK, over the past 10 years producers have planted over one million trees to create an ideal habitat for their hens.

Modern commercial laying hens are derived from the red-jungle fowl of south-east Asia and still retain an affinity to the protection offered by trees. It is well know that on ranges with tree cover a higher proportion of hens range and range further than on ranges without tree cover. It is therefore not surprising that planting trees on the range can offer a suite of welfare benefits, not least in reducing the risk of feather pecking. We know that the prevalence of feather pecking is increased when fewer birds use the range, consequently as tree cover improves range use it can also improve feather cover.

Other benefits of planting trees on the range include; reduced nutrient load and parasitic contamination around the house, reduced water run-off and contamination of water courses, improved biodiversity and filtration of ammonia emissions amongst others.

Freedom Foods (FF) has acknowledged the benefits of planting trees on the range and the FF scheme will require as of October that a minimum of 5% of the range is planted up on its assured farms. Up until now the vast majority of farmers meet the cost of planting the trees themselves, with the assistance of discounted cost schemes offered by certain retailers. Help is out there though to producers not in those schemes, the Woodland Trust has a team of Woodland Creation Advisors who can provide free on-farm advice for tree planting schemes.

The trust provides expert advice and guidance on creating new native woodland and can contribute funding if the producer is willing to make a contribution to the costs or by helping the Trust to access Forestry Commission grants on your behalf. If you are interested in getting practical and financial help with planting the range, contact the woodland trust direct on 0845 293 5689 or email plant@woodlandtrust.org.uk

More information can be found on their website www.woodlandtrust.org/plant-trees and you can also download their guide to Tree Planting for Free Range Poultry.

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