Keeping poultry in family flocks


Kees van Veluw (FSE Wageningen UR)
Francien de Jonge (ASG Wageningen UR)


In dairy farming ASG (the Animal Sciences Group of WgeningenUR) and Louis Bolk Institute are developing the Family herd in which cows, heifers, calves and bulls are living in one herd and one stable More or less a copy of nature. It has many advantages such as the fact that the mother teaches her calve the procedures on the farm and it creates a stable herd structure. Ranking fights are minimised since the group is more or less always the same.

In this research we want to develop a similar farm for poultry: breeding should take place not artificially in an incubator but by a mother hen. The pullets (male and female) should be reared by the mother. The hens should develop into layers and the cocks are grown to be broilers. At the moment also in organic poultry the one day old cocks are killed because the breeds are specialised in layers and broilers. The Louis Bolk Institute is developing at the moment a dual purpose breed meant for laying and meat. We suppose that they succeed and want to design a poultry farm as close to nature and natural principles as possible.


  1. To design a Family poultry farm in which hatching takes place by brooders and the laying hens and broiler cocks can stay in one family flock
  2. What is the price of an egg and of broiler meat?


  • Study the natural behaviour of chickens or native ancestors of the present breeds
  • Use the 10 principles of Permaculture to design a farming system in cooperation of some interested poultry farmers
  • Compose a (financial) cost benefit balance of all the products of such a system

Experiences gained

  • Knowledge of the integrity and behaviour of poultry
  • Design skills in agriculture
  • Report writing
  • Cooperation with poultry farmers