Nestled down in a Devonshire Valley, just outside Crediton, is Merrifield Farm – home to Peter and James (Creedy Carver) our Chicken and Duck farmers. Peter and his wife Sue have been involved in barn reared chicken for over twenty years, eight years ago they started to produce free range chickens in response to local demand. Their youngest son (James) joined them and quickly developed a reputation for producing ducks to a very high standard.
We were taken on a tour of the farm to see how our poultry were getting on. We were shown the brooder units where day old chicks are initially reared, until 28 days old when they are moved to free range units. These are either straw bale shacks or special chicken arks. The arks are four metres wide and pop holes along the full length of each side so no bird is more than two meters from the range areas. Here they are allowed to roam grassy fields yet have the protection from predators and the elements in their specialist housing. Peter and James’ standards are based on Soil Association criteria, although Peter tells us that Merrifield Farm is not organic. Their poultry are fed an additive free diet.
The free range ducklings get plenty of space to waddle around, they are reared at a maximum of two square feet per duck in the special field arks that they have constructed. A bathing trough is provided to keep the birds healthy. They do everything possible to encourage the birds to range and take advantage of the healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise. These girls will only come out if they want to. On hot days the chickens prefer to come out early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is not so hot.
Peter is not just involved in the rearing of his barn/free range chickens he is also an avid breeder of rare ducks/geese/birds, you name it, it will probably be in his back garden!
Peter is also in the process of creating a natural spring/nature reserve on the farm, a tranquil spot in an already beautiful setting.