Out with the dairy cows, in with the laying hens
Hendri Teunissen’s dairy farm was located in Wekerom village in the Province of Gelderland in the Netherlands. Because he had a herniated disc, he converted his stable for 90 dairy cows into a free-range housing system for over 18,000 laying hens. Today, this is saving him lots of work every day. Everything is running well and he is very happy with it.
From cows to laying hens
In 2009, Hendri took over his parents’ dairy farm. He perfectly combined this with the assembly business he was running with his brother. Everything was running smoothly and they all enjoyed the work, until, in 2016, Hendri ended up with a double herniated disc, partly losing the use of his right leg as a result. Over the years, he, unfortunately, became unable to do the work at the dairy farm, as well as for the assembly business. This is why, in 2020, he decided to switch over to a livestock farming branch that requires less physical labour, namely free-range chickens.
Converting the stable
Converting the cow stable into a poultry house was not easy, but due to his assembly experience, it went reasonably smoothly. Furthermore, they saved a lot of money by doing many things themselves. First, they removed all of the furnishings, equipment, manure grids, and feeding fences. After that, a new floor was poured over the manure pit. The roof was fully insulated and new interior walls were installed for the winter garden. A well-insulated egg room was constructed against the stable where the eggs are packaged. The feed silo used to store the feed pellets for cows was still in good shape and could also be used for poultry feed. However, to be able to accommodate full loads, Hendri increased capacity and added a new silo.
Special laying hen house
The stable was originally built as a dairy stable, not as a laying hen house, and this still is clearly visible. This is because, in comparison to laying hen houses, it is rather wide, short, and high. However, the stable’s width made it possible to construct two winter gardens entirely indoors. Four Chore-Time aviaries, with a frameless manure conveyor belt, have been installed there. In addition, solar panels have been installed on one side of the roof.
The Lohmann Brown-Lite chickens were raised by the Broederij Ter Heerdt hatchery and are now 35 weeks old. Animal performance is excellent and the start-up really went by itself. The chickens across the entire flock steadily grew to over 1,900 grams. As a result, the hens are robust and hopefully, they will be able to withstand some shocks. They are productive and there are few out-of-nest eggs. The egg weight also progressed smoothly and in week 25 had already exceeded 55 grams.
Excellent indoor climate
Hendri opted for ridge ventilation with mist cooling, combined with Uniflex V-shaped inlet valves. The litter stayed nicely dry despite the fact that the chickens were introduced in November.
Making a virtue of necessity
Of course, it was quite a shock when Hendri found out that because of his herniated disc, he was no longer able to continue his parents’ dairy farm. But now that the cows are permanently gone and everything is going well with the laying hens, he realises that the changeover was a good thing. Hendri: “It is good to see that everything is running smoothly. The chickens are healthy and growing well. They are really nice animals. Seeing them rummaging about gives me a lot of pleasure. Of course, it still takes a lot of hard work, but I am able to handle the physical labour quite well this way.”
Aside from the laying hens, Hendri, together with his brother, is co-owner of an assembly business, Teunissen montage B.V. This company, which employs about 20 people, specialises in roof insulation and assembling stables (generally pig pens and poultry houses) and halls. Teunissen montage renovates roofs for many pig and poultry farmers, which often involves asbestos remediation and installing insulation.