Madelaine started her business Madelaine's Eggs when she was eight years old back in 2002 as part of her home education curriculum. Her parents believed that being able to interact with all sorts of people and learning how to establish and run a business would be invaluable skills throughout life.
Now fifteen years later, 23 year old Madelaine Scott manages 3,000 certified organic laying hens on her family farmHollyburton Park located in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria. Her chickens, and their eggs, areNASAA certified organic, which means the chicken must be free range, be fed certified organic feed - feed which has no added hormones, no antibiotics - and not be exposed to any artificial fertilisers or pesticides on the pasture or in the grains the chickens eat (even from surrounding farms). GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also restricted entirely for organic standard compliance.
Madelaine's chooks are kept at 250 hens per hectare, well below the Australian standard of 10,000 hens per hectare for free range hens and each hen is free to roam throughout their paddock, foraging a healthy banquet of bugs, grass, wild plant heads and leafy greens and dust bathing in the soft ground. Just as if they were in the wild.
A true inspiration, Madelaine took some time out to chat with us.
Who are the team behind Madelaine’s Eggs and what made you launch?
The team behind Madelaines Eggs is my Partner and I and two part-time employees. But when I launched as a business it was just myself.
What does a day in the life of the Madelaine’s Eggs team look like?
Madelaine's Eggs is a 7 days a week business, 365 days per year. Because the chickens cant be turned off!
A typical day often involves an early start by myself or my partner (usually me!) to either pack eggs or pack the van for delivery. Every second day the chicken houses get moved on to fresh ground and routine flock maintenance. There is also normal administrative and management duties for the business to do each day.
Feeding and maintaining the newest generation of chicks being raised to be our next egg layers, with an occasional batch of organic meat birds. We spend a few hours to focus on our daughter, Lorien and other farm duties, then usually my partner collects the eggs after lunch. Often there will be another session of egg packing for delivery later in the day, and answering emails at night. Then twice a week an employee will deliver the eggs throughout Melbourne.
Founded when you were just 8 years old, how did you maintain your momentum and get Madelaine’s Egg’s to where it is today?
My passion lies in food and food production that has been sourced from happy, healthy animals with no nasties added. Seeing my happy healthy chickens is so lovely. This passion has been a pool of inspiration in building 'Madelaine's Eggs'. It has been a simple process of working smart and hard, drawing a lot from the knowledge of older farmers then me, including my parents. Like most entrepreneurs, I have reinvested capital back into the business, building it organically (excuse the pun), I have had amazing grassroots support from various shops and customers over the years and undeniably the experience of running a crowdfunding campaign. Which saw Madelaines Eggs raise $68,000 over sixty days, just perfectly paying off a new Egg-Cleaning and Grading Machine which has allowed for a huge boost in production and allowing us to supply even more Melbournians.
Can you tell us more about your Free Range farming techniques and what sets your chooks apart from other Free Range chooks?
Fundamentally, there isn't much technique to having chickens free-ranging, especially by Australian (10,000 hens per hectare) standards. The trick is keeping them as happy and healthy as possible. My aim is not just maintaining, but actually improving the soil as we go. This involves having chickens at 250 hens per hectare so they are not over crowded and they have warm and dry mobile chicken coops that are moved once every two days, nourishing but not overgrazing the land. They are protected by a fox-proof fence and six brave Maremma dogs, so the hens are happy to wake up and sleep with the sun and roam the paddocks as they please. All of these things and much more are above and beyond the standard of simply no more than 10,000 hens per hectare.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
A successful crowd funding campaign, inspiring many your kids to follow there dreams and hopefully inspiring some change in the industry.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take 3 things, what would they be?
My partner Al who is a survival instructor , my daughter and my cow Glenda and of course Henny Penny, Ruby red and grande cock.