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Phone: 06-363 0013
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Poultry Producers & Wholesalers.
Purcell Street West, Foxton 4814

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MODERN FREE RANGE: Left, Rodney Caldow of Caldows Builders and Gerald Turk outside Turk's chicken farm shed in Himatangi.

Chickens Loving Life
Sandra Crossbie

Healthy and happy chickens produce a good flavour. And that is at the foremost of the minds of Turks' chicken farmers.

Nestled in the rich rural heartland between the Manawatu and Kapiti, family business Turk's Poultry Farm Ltd has produced eggs and poultry since 1966.

Gerald Turk owns and manages one of the chicken farms which supply chickens to the family's processing plant in Foxton.

His Himatangi (Manawatu) farm is also a family farm. His wife Sue, two daughters, their husbands and six children all live and work on the farm.

A team from Caldow Builders led by Rodney Caldow have been on site for close to 12 months constructing four new sheds to house the birds while they grow. The 2250 square metre sheds are 140 metres long and each houses 30,000 chickens. Full capacity for each shed is 45,000.

All chickens in the sheds enjoy the freedom free-range broiler chickens enjoy. They can move around freely in the sheds and after their first 20 days, hatches in the sheds open for the chicken to wander outside. In the summer, they can enjoy being under shade-cloth.

Strict bio-security measures are in place in all the sheds, and everything is fully automated.

"The venting, lighting, feeding and access is all done electronically," Mr Turk said.

"The sides open to provide some natural ventilation, and the temperature is changed daily to match the age of the chickens."

The chickens are corn-fed through automated feeders.

"The corn ensures they chickens have yellow and succulent meat."

Chickens arrive at the farm as one-day-old chicks. Between the ages of 36 and 41 days they are sent to the Foxton farm for processing.

There are 174 people working at the Foxton site and Turks is one of the town's largest employers – 80,000 chickens are processed at the site each week from five farms.

"A shed of 30,000 chickens will leave here in the morning and on they same day they have been processed, packed and kept fresh and are on refrigerated trucks to supermarkets to be sold the next day. It is a very impressive plant."

Once the chickens have vacated their shed it undergoes an intensive sanitising process. The manure is removed and delivered to a neighbouring dairy farm who spreads it on his paddocks. Every surface is water-blasted and then sprayed with sanitiser. The process keeps a couple of workers busy for two days.

"The new sheds are more pleasant to work in and they are easier to clean.

"Their size is impressive and gives the chickens a good quality of life. They are happy too," Mr Turk says.

Consumer demand has driven the farms to supply more free-range chickens to the market.

"Everything we do is eco-friendly. Natural ventilation, free-range and natural feed. That is what the customers want."

- Central Districts Farmer

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