Windbreaks and screening
Free range hens

Poplar for windbreaks and screening around polytunnels

Planting Poplar for windbreaks and around polytunnels can give three main benefits to the farmer – shelter from the wind, visual screening and environmental.

 Shelter from the wind The primary effect of a windbreak is reduction in windspeed and subsequent moderation of climatic extremes.

The effect on crops is a reduction of winter kill in severe winters and reduction of the effect of hot dry winds during summer drought periods which can cause high evaporative demand.

For polytunnels the main benefit is reduction in windspeed providing protection from damage by storms and high winds.

 Visual screening Planting Poplar screens around polytunnels, farm buildings and other developments ameliorates their visual impact on the landscape, resulting in a better perception both for planners and the general public.

 Environmental Although not a native tree Poplar host a large number of invertebrate species and provide nesting opportunities particularly when bird and bat boxes are sited.


Poplar and free range hems

 Hens are the descendants of jungle fowl
 Fear of large open spaces prevents birds venturing outside
 Trees provide overhead shelter
 This encourages use of the full range area
 A field full of hens presents an excellent image to the buying public
 Flocks that spend a lot of their day on the range are productive and healthy and lay more top quality eggs

Trees for Free-range Chicken

The presence of trees in areas for Free-range chicken is beneficial as it encourages them to leave the house and adds enrichment to their habitat.

The genealogy of the modern laying hen can be traced back to the red jungle fowl, which shelters in Asian bamboo forests.  Therefore, trees provide the birds with a more natural environment, offering shelter from the elements, shade, a windbreak and an improved perception of opportunities to escape from predators.  It therefore makes sound sense for those producers who wish to provide their stock with a benign environment to plant trees on land to which the birds have access.

This concept has been endorsed in a scientific study by Marian S Dawkins, et al (Department of Zoology, University of Oxford) who showed that trees and bushes were positively correlated with birds venturing out of the henhouse.

Additional benefits are the slower build up of droppings inside the house, a lower density of birds leading to health benefits and the perception of egg buyers in seeing a substantial proportion of the birds genuinely free ranging.

While native broadleaf trees such as Oak, Ash, Birch and Rowan comprise a good mixture, Poplar are also valuable as they are usually pruned to some 15 feet and thus deter the birds from roosting.  A 50:50 mixture of native broadleaf and Poplar makes an aesthetically pleasing combination and achieves the objectives for the birds and the environment. Trees are normally planted at 4m X 3m, which is sufficient to readily develop into a closed canopy while still allowing tractor operations between the trees.  Grass between the trees should be mown for the first two years, to minimise competition for the trees.  Thereafter the trees will benefit from the manure deposited by the hens, which will also keep the grass under control by pecking.

The trees should be sited about 20m from the henhouse and 10% of the area available to the birds planted with trees. For more information please do get in touch.

The Battery Hen Welfare Trust Working with the PTC

‘The Battery Hen Welfare Trust is a small, national charity that re-homes ex battery hens, works with farmers to improve the welfare of caged birds, and educates the public about the benefits of buying free-range eggs. Its ultimate aim is to see a strong British egg industry where all commercial laying hens are free-range. The charity is keen ‘to build a bridge between welfare and commerce’ and one of the ways it is doing this is by working alongside the Poplar Tree Company to encourage farmers to provide cover for birds on range.  The charity has long recognized that once the barren battery cage system is banned in January 2012, the media spotlight is likely to turn its attention to the free range sector. One of the chief criticisms of free range production is the lack of birds actually outside ranging; providing increased cover for the flock is an environmentally friendly way of encouraging birds outside.  A field full of birds presents an excellent image to the public; happy flocks are usually healthy and productive flocks and there is often a second income to be had from planting trees.

Chief Executive of the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, Jane Howorth, says: “It gives us great pleasure to be associated with Will Jackson and his team at the Poplar Tree Company; to be working with farmers towards improved welfare for the birds with the added potential for improved farm profit margins, is the very essence of what we stand for.  To see more hens free ranging the UK countryside is a sight that would be welcomed by many who enjoy a great British egg. Will and his team are doing an important job in improving free range environments for laying hens.”

The charity was founded in April 2005 and has used a national re-homing initiative, (they have homed over 180,000 end of lay birds), as an effective way to reach consumers at ground level.  Media attention has been significant and this unique charity has sought to cut a swathe through bad press on caged production and turn negative spin into positive campaigning.  As a result, free range egg sales have never been stronger.

If you are a small producer who may be interested in working with the   Battery Hen Welfare Trust, please get in touch with Jane Howorth on 01769 580310 or by email at  If you would like to offer a home to some birds, please visit’

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