Free Range & Organic Chicken

At Swillington we sell both organic and free range chickens, all reared outdoors, to ensure a consistent supply.

Our chickens are available in the farm shop, farmers markets and in our meatboxes and will always be labelled so you know how they’ve been raised.

Our Organic Birds are produced both here at Swillington and when seasonally required on the Rhug Estate in North Wales and our Free Range birds are reared in Harome North Yorkshire.

If you only want 100% organic meat in your box please let us know when ordering and we will provide it but this can mean there will be less in your box and less variety based on seasonal availability.

Organic Chickens

Day old chicks are reared indoors for their first few weeks (depending on weather conditions), after this they are introduced gradually to outdoor life and spend the next 2 months free range on organic pasture. They are housed at night  in small groups of less than 200-600 birds depending on the house size.

They are fed a certified organic feed and are aged at least 10 weeks old before they reach your plate, this produces larger, better tasting chickens than the average supermarket birds. All chickens are  butchered on farm and slaughter is carried out at organic abattoirs either on or local to the farm to ensure high welfare. Shop for Organic Chicken >

Free Range Chicken

These birds are reared from the hatchery following a similar production system of small groups outdoors, they are fed a bespoke milled non-organic feed. The welfare standards are as high as for our organic birds and they spend their lives outdoors in small groups. They are slaughtered on the farm in Harome and butchered and prepared in Swillington. Shop for free range chicken >

The Difference Between Swillington Organic and Free Range Birds and where they’re produced.

Originally we produced both free range and organic birds at Swillington. The only difference between these birds is the feed.

However due to Defra restrictions and the risk of avian flu, the need to rotate our land and not over farm it and staff resources (our farmer Jo has had to have an operation and be out of the business to recover for a number of months)  we have split production between farms, you can read more about this on our blog here and see the comparison table below.

There’s absolutely no difference in welfare and slaughter between our organic and free range birds depending on where they’re produced – they’re the same breed, housed and free to roam the same, and slaughtered to the same standards.

As the feed is not organic certified we label any bird fed this as free range to not mislead anyone – the downside being ‘free range’ comes with some assumptions with regard to welfare, but this is not the same as a supermarket ‘free range’ bird which would likely never see the outdoors.

All birds are reared to the same welfare standards as including slaughter which is  carried out at abattoirs either on or local to the farm to ensure high welfare which you can find more information about here.

Laying Hens

Our organic eggs are produced from Silver link/Bovans Nera (brown eggs) and White Leghorn (white eggs). Organic hens are bought at about 18 weeks old, we then keep them for 3-4 years in groups of 120 birds, they are totally free range during the day and are locked up at night to protect from foxes. They are fed on an organic layer pellet plus whatever they can find from foraging. When they are finished laying we slaughter the birds on farm and sell them in the shop/markets for soup making or casseroles – a very cheap alternative to organic roast chicken.

What’s in a label?

Sold by Swillington:
Organic Free Range Would Never be sold by us:
Factory Farmed Birds

Source: The Guardian
Birds Reared from Day Old Chicks, slow grown for approx. 3 months. Reared from Day Old Chicks, slow grown for approx. 3 months. Bred to grow unnaturally fast. Deaths from heart attacks that cannot supply enough oxygen to oversized breast muscles common.
33-38 days old at slaughter
Feed Organic Certified Feed
No routine antibiotics.
Forage on organic pasture.
Custom Milled Non Organic Feed
No routine antibiotics
The water and feed are medicated with drugs to control parasites or with mass doses of antibiotics
Housing Housed in small high welfare groups. (Up to 600) Housed in small high welfare groups in large open arks
(Up to. 400)
artificially lit shed of around 20,000-30,000 birds
Access to outdoors Free to roam during the day Free to roam 24 hours No access to outdoors or natural light.
Slaughter Pre Stunned and slaughter in high welfare abattoir (Swillington/Cheshire) Pre Stunned and slaughter in high welfare on farm abattoir (Harome) High throughput abattoir, can include use of shackles, gassing and no requirement to pre stun.
Butchered Butchered and Packed on the farm at Swillington Butchered and Packed on the farm at Swillington Part of a worldwide supply chain.