Together with Inge (43), Gerjan Pol (45) runs a poultry farm with 53,000 free-range hens. Inge does the administration and spins the eggs every morning. Gerjan's parents developed the RED-L-system together with Vencomatic at the end of the 90s. Now the first RED-L is replaced by a new RED-L. In the new RED-L the whole concept has remained intact: a 'tree with branches', few legs on the ground, completely walkable on all floors, animal-friendly and job satisfaction.
The name RED-L carries the essence of this aviary system: Rest, eat, drink and lay. Gerjan Pol: Yes, that was the starting point from the beginning and it still applies to the new RED-L. My father saw during the development of this system that it is actually a kind of tree in which all birds like to sit. What helps is that a chicken likes to sleep upstairs. I am almost sure that the chickens are happy in this system. That is not very hard to measure, of course, but they can retreat, for example, when they are teased when they are lower in the pecking order.
Gerjan set up a flock with whole beaks last February and that did not cause any problems with pecking; here too he sees proof that the chickens feel comfortable in RED-L: If a chicken feels good, she has no tendency to peck herself or other chickens.
Apart from animal friendliness, the system has also proven itself in other areas. Gerjan: Few ground eggs, for example; that really stands out. And, of course, the equal distribution of the animals over the different levels; sunshine is 60% above and 40% below; that works very well. You put them down and then they go up by themselves.
A perfect system, in fact. So why does Gerjan Pol take out and a new RED-L system is being put back? Gerjan: "That first version has now been running for eighteen years and hasn't actually worn out yet. But the investment for a new RED-L is now a good thing. And there are a few improvements in the new system. For example, the drive of the manure belts has been improved. The first drive was more or less provisioned with engines attached to the system. In the new RED-L, the drive is a ready-made module that can be easily connected to the system.
Manure aeration is now also better integrated into the system. The ventilation shafts are now located directly next to the manure belt. The aeration system now includes a heat exchanger so that outside air can be ventilated not only in summer but also in winter.
The new system is equipped with LED lighting. No more flashing as with fluorescent lights, but the stable, soothing light of the LED tube. I think the chickens will also like that. The LED lighting is dimmable and available in different colours. Gerjan chooses yellow with a colour temperature of 2700 Kelvin. Everything around 3000 kelvin is a good colour. We choose as yellow as possible, because in friendly light the chickens become calm.
In view of the red mite problem, the new RED-L is now equipped with wire grids. Gerjan: Vencomatic fitted the RED-L system with plastic grids and they were fine. However, the red mite can hide too well under these grids. That is why the new RED-L has wire grids. A wire grating has a very open structure and offers no room for the red mite.
Ease of use
Is there nothing at all to be said at the expense of the system? Gerjan: It is an expensive system, but you can move forward with it for a long time: at least 20 years. Other systems do not last that long. Furthermore, RED-L is better for the environment and for animals. But the most important thing I think is the job satisfaction and ease of work that you get in return; you really don't have to crawl under anything anymore.