You’ll never only have one chicken…. It’s an addiction

Lucy Gray

The new Homestead collection is live and as you may have seen already chickens feature heavily! When creating a collection I love to learn as much as possible about the subject matter and I thought what better way to find out more about the poultry industry then to sit down with Harriet Smith, a fellow Cotswold gal who has since moved to New Zealand to become a farm manager on an egg farm!
Hey Harriet! Thank you for chatting with me! Shall we start with your job? What was it back in the U.K and how about now in NZ?
Currently I am South Island Farms Manager for a company called Mainland Poultry. In the shops here you will see their brands of eggs as Woodland and Farmer Brown (check out the Woodland website!). We have 60% share of the egg market here and supply Free Range, Barn and Colony Cage eggs as table eggs and also as liquid egg. So scrambled egg packs, whites for pavlovas, yolks etc
In the UK I was a Poultry Specialist working for Crediton Milling. They are a Ruminant and Monogateic mill based in Crediton just outside of Tiverton. I loved that job. I covered the South West and Wales selling feed to layer farmers and advising on how to get the best out of their flocks.
Have you noticed many differences in the way in which they farm in NZ in comparison to the UK?
In terms of layer/chicken farming, there’s not much difference. All our sheds here run the same equipment. However, there are only 4 million laying hens in NZ and 40 million in the UK. There are many more varieties of farming hens in the UK and using different breeds. I could go to 5 farms in 1 day in the UK and see 5 breeds, here our company only uses the Shaver Brown. The other difference would be the egg size. The eggs here are graded slightly differently and so we are not producing as big an egg as the UK generally would. We produce all brown eggs here, no white or different colours from speciality breeds. We have less disease pressure here so we only vaccinate for a handful of things compared to around 16 in the UK.
What made you want to work within the agricultural industry?
I have been brought up on a dairy farm on the Berkeley Estate with my parents in Gloucestershire. I wasn’t completely convinced I wanted to milk cows for the rest of my life! But I went and did a degree in Agriculture at the RAU to help me decide which direction to go in. I think I skipped every single poultry lecture, although there was only 3 in a year anyway! Whilst at the RAU I worked in NZ on a beef and sheep farm in Piopio, North Island. I absolutely loved it and from that point I knew I’d come back to NZ at some stage. I ended up accidentally getting a job as a Recruitment Consultant for De Lacy Executive in Herefordshire and got landed with the Poultry jobs. The rest is history!
How did you get into farming?
My whole childhood was spent growing up on the farm and visiting friends on other farms/being in the countryside. So I guess it was just natural to follow are career down that route. Whilst I was at school I was a complete music fanatic and always thought I’d be a music teacher. How things changed!
What would be your advise to someone who wanted to working within the poultry sector?
First of all you don’t need any experience at all. I knew nothing about chickens and now I’ve ended up in NZ working with layers. My boyfriend left school at 16 with no qualifications, he’s now running the biggest layer farm in NZ (160,000 free range). So if you’ve got the drive and passion you can move up the ladder very quickly!
What’s one thing you wished everyone knew about farming?
People who work in farming do it for the love and lifestyle, not necessarily for money. They are passionate about their livestock and caring for them to a high standard. Most people in farming work long hours and 7 days a week and without these people we would not have food on our tables.
One thing you should know before getting your own chickens..
You’ll never only have one chicken…. It’s an addiction 
As long as they have feed and water they’ll lay you eggs. They cope much better with cold than being too hot! 
Thank you so much Harriet! 
Find the new Homestead collection here! 

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