If you buy eggs that are labeled organic, you will also be buying free range eggs. That’s because the rules governing farms that produce organic eggs insist that the chickens have access to the outside during daylight hours. Organic chicks for egg production are usually born from an organic flock and have access to an organic range during rearing (before they start to lay eggs). They must have access by 12 weeks of age at the latest.
In some circumstances, fully organic birds aren't available so producers will source part organic reared birds that have the same stocking density and diet as an organic chick, but that haven’t had access to the outside.
These birds then have a six-week conversion at the laying unit until they are classed as organic.
Organic birds aren't routinely beak tipped, which is the process of removing the sharp tip of a chick’s beak with an infrared laser The process prevents significant injury to other birds in the flock if a case of pecking breaks out, which can happen in any production system.
They must also be fed on a diet based on organic crops that are grown without the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides, and the outside range they access must also be managed organically. There are strict rules regarding the medicines that can be used should the hens fall ill.
Hens that produce eggs in an organic production system are also given more indoor space than in other free range egg systems. There will only be up to six hens per square metre in an organic flock, and the total flock size is usually capped at between 2,500 and 3,000 birds.
Outside, organic laying hens are permitted a lot of space too – although all free range systems proved ample space for the birds to range.
Because the organic production system is much smaller scale than standard free range systems, the eggs are often the more expensive option for shoppers which reflects the economies of scale that aren’t as favourable to smaller producers.