By BENJAMIN SARONDO
Coming out of the pandemic, Johnnel Tepora, a 34-year-old resident of Indang, Cavite, was motivated to do something for his family, particularly to contribute to their health. He wanted to have a food source that is accessible in their vicinity to assure that what they eat is healthy.
Johnnel Tepora, the owner of Paraiso Farmstead, poses for a photo on his fenced free range chicken farm, where he breeds heritage and traditional chickens. (Johnnel Tepora)
Having a small backyard, he ventured into free range chicken farming and established Paraiso Farmstead. “I saw the potential of starting up a chicken business because it is like a multiplier business,” Tepora said. He added that if you have one pair of chickens, they will lay eggs, and when their eggs are incubated, you can have chicks that will eventually turn into adult chickens in at least six months.
Tepora is a graduate of business management and accountancy, and he admitted that he had no experience managing a chicken business. But luckily, instructional materials were accessible online. “I never had to attend formal seminars, but I did watch and learn through videos that I could see online.”
Aside from managing his free range chicken farm, Johnnel also works at Zoom Video Communications, where he sometimes works-from-farm. (Johnnel Tepora)
Another avenue of learning Tepora mentioned are the reading materials published outside of the Philippines. “This kind of practice is already developed outside the Philippines, so other countries have moved farther along with free range chicken farming. They have the technology, know-how, experience, and so much more than I have,” he said.
But Tepora said that learning does not end with watching online videos and reading published materials; it must be put into practice. From a small scale chicken farm dedicated to their family’s consumption, it turned bigger.
Johnnel feeds his free range chickens to ensure that they will grow healthy. (Johnnel Tepora)
Shifting from tourism to free range chicken farming
Before starting a chicken business, Tepora said that he handled different businesses, which helped him gain more knowledge and experience in business management.
“I started a hostel business with my friends and brothers back in 2011. I did it for like, nine years. And then I started to do my own thing, which is still related to tourism, running island tours in El Nido, Palawan,” Tepora said. “Meeting many different people from many different countries, I got exposed to many different perspectives and ways of doing things; I was no longer fixated on a certain idea.”
“I saw the wide array of structures, systems, and ways of doing business,” Tepora said. And he added that he wanted to apply everything he learned from finance, marketing, and sales to his own business.
Tepora said that free range chicken farming is essentially a life-long process of learning. “I have been doing it for a year now, but honestly, I still do not know everything about chicken farming. I believe there are still things to learn; it is a continuous learning process.
Controlling challenges in an uncontrolled environment
“I do chicken farming every day. When I wake up, I check up on them, I feed them, I look after them, and I do research every now and then,” Tepora said. But despite this, he still faces different challenges.
Apart from feed products, Johnnel also harvests azolla, an aquatic plant rich in protein, to feed his free range chickens. (Johnnel Tepora)
One of the challenges he encountered in free range chicken farming was predation by wild animals, such as wild dogs and cats, hawks, and monitor lizards. But he said this can be prevented by providing a fence to the grazing area with predator-proof fencing or by using guardian animals; in his case, he used dogs as guardian animals, which can help deter predators and protect the livestock.
In addition, since free range chickens interact with the environment and wildlife, they are more exposed to diseases and parasites. “Implementing regular veterinary care and monitoring, including vaccinations, deworming, and proper hygiene practices, can help prevent and manage disease outbreaks,” Tepora said.
“Free-range farming requires careful land management to prevent overgrazing and soil degradation. Employing rotational grazing systems and monitoring pasture conditions can help maintain healthy grazing areas.” Tepora recommends implementing practices like reseeding, soil testing, and soil conservation techniques to enhance the productivity and sustainability of the land.
Tepora also said that free range chickens are more susceptible to extreme weather conditions because of their exposure to different elements. “Providing adequate shelter, such as trees, sheds, or windbreaks, can protect animals from harsh weather and ensure their well-being.”
Before putting the chicks on the free range farm, Johnnel ensures that they are incubated and healthy enough. (Johnnel Tepora)
Ranging from table to market
Luckily, after encountering different challenges in his chicken business, Tepora is more eager to learn how to properly take care of the free range chickens. That is why his business continues to be available on the market.
“With this kind of business, you could have different market opportunities. For me, I decided to concentrate on the breeding aspect of it. Primarily, what I am selling are chicks that other people can use to start their own chicken farm, Tepora said. “Also, I sold a few eggs in the market. But mostly, I give them out to my family members.”
Johnnel puts the harvested eggs on a tray laid by his free range chickens. Most of the harvested eggs are distributed to his relatives for food consumption. (Johnnel Tepora)
Tepora said that he wants to stay in the aspect of breeding chickens and selling chicks for other people to breed. “This way, I can empower people, and I want to teach them how to do it by transferring my knowledge and skills. This is my goal, to have as many people as possible involved in this type of sustainable farming.”
Currently, Tepora breeds heritage and traditional chickens. “But I try to pick breeds that are productive, because that is what they are looking for in a free range environment, chickens that are productive egg layers,” he said.
Johnnel boxes the ordered free range chicks, ready for breeding and egg layering. (Johnnel Tepora)
He concentrated on Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps, Silver Campings, Beijing chickens, and many more. “I look for genetic diversity. The very reason why I am in this business is because I want to have some sort of variety in what we eat, and I want to have that natural aspect,” Tepora stated.
Chicken Do It!
Tepora claimed that free range chicken farming is a worthwhile undertaking.
Johnnel Tepora poses with his free range chickens. Paraiso Farmstead raises Rhode Island Red, Black Australorp, Silver Camping, and Beijing chickens. (Johnnel Tepora)
He said that during the pandemic, people lost their sense of connection with nature, and free range chicken farming allows an individual to work closely with nature. “You get to witness the natural behaviors of chickens as they roam freely, forage for food, and interact with their environment. This connection with nature can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.”
Free range chickens, according to Tepora, are also healthier to consume compared to traditional setups that are raised at controlled temperatures and feeds, while free range chickens have the chance to roam freely and forage on their own.
“They have the opportunity to exercise and move around, which contributes to stronger muscles and bones. Access to natural vegetation and insects in their diet also enhances their overall health and can lead to better-tasting meat and eggs,” Tepora said. “Chickens that are raised in a free-range environment often produce eggs with richer flavors and more vibrant yolks. Similarly, free-range chicken meat is often praised for its superior taste and texture.”
A Brahma chicken eats grass. Free range farming allows the chickens to forage for themselves, which is why Johnnel Tepora advised that farm owners should grow grass and plants. (Johnnel Tepora)
Tepora said that operating a free range chicken farm can allow you to contribute to environmental sustainability. “By giving chickens access to open spaces, they can engage in natural behaviors that promote ecosystem balance,” he stated. “Additionally, a well-managed free-range farm can employ sustainable practices such as rotational grazing, which minimizes soil erosion and promotes soil health.”
Aside from free range chickens, Paraiso Farmstead also shelters different livestock, such as ducks, goats, and pigs. (Johnnel Tepora)
Started with a concern for his family’s health and the food they eat, Paraiso Farmstead, managed by Johnel Tepora, is now competing in the market, offering healthier eggs and chickens through free range farming. And with this practice, Tepora hopes to share it with other people.
“I will share my knowledge and skills with other people, mostly for the farms, so they can have a standard, a set of procedures we can follow in raising chickens in a free range environment,” Tepora said.
Photos by Paraiso Farmstead