Free range chicken farming is the practice of having chickens that are raised mainly outside of pens and runs and only enter the coop at night. The chickens are allowed to roam free throughout your yard during the day, where they forage for much of their food. Although most chicken owners still provide them with supplementary food in their feeders and of course, plenty of fresh water.
But the chickens still have the freedom to go where they want. They are not confined to one small area in a chicken run. There are both pros and cons to free range chicken farming. So, it will be a personal decision if you choose to free range your backyard chickens or not.
Advantages of free range chicken farming
The advantages of free range chicken farming are numerous. One of which is that if you are selling the eggs or the chickens you will get a better price, as people are willing to pay more for free ranged chickens and eggs. This is because the eggs and meat are known to taste better, are considerably healthier and more nutritious with higher levels of nutrients and less fat. Since your free range chickens are able to get a much greater variety of food in their diet.
The cost of purchased commercial feed for free range chickens is generally less because of the chickens eating numerous bugs and a large variety of plants when they are outside foraging. They tend to fill up on that and don’t eat as much of the feed. You also don’t have to spend more getting them grit and rocks as they will find their own grit. Because their diet is so varied this way and much more natural, is why free range chickens tend to produce these more nutritious eggs.
Another advantage to free range chicken farming is that chickens which are free ranged will likely weed and debug your yard for you because of their preference for weeds and bugs to the store bought feeds. If you have a small garden and need manure to fertilize, the chicken poop is an excellent manure source which will save you on additional costs.
Free range chicken medical costs tend to be cheaper. Especially if you decide to go with herbal and natural treatments for minor ailments such as lemongrass for detoxification, guava, chilies and garlic work as antibiotics and there are leaves that can be used as anti-mite and anti-parasitic medicines such as ipil-ipil leaves. You also don’t need to spend any more time cleaning up after them and the coop stays cleaner for longer, since they are not spending as much time in it. So you may actually find yourself cleaning less.
Disadvantages to free range chicken farming
Free range chicken farming has its disadvantages too however. So you should definitely take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to free range your chickens. Free range chickens will often poop everywhere. So if there are areas of your yard you may not want to get the chicken poop, you will have to find a way to block the chickens from those areas.
Free range chickens may also lay their eggs everywhere which can make it difficult to collect the eggs. However, this one is fairly easily remedied by keeping the chickens in the coop a little longer in the mornings until they’ve layed their eggs for the day. And then you can let them out the rest of the day after that.
Other concerns though, the chickens may stray into neighboring homesteads and upset your neighbors. The chickens also like to eat up the greenery in your yard and may go after some plants you don’t want them to. So, some parts of your yard may become more bare which can make your yard less attractive.
And probably the most upsetting, free range chicken farming certainly makes the chickens more prone to chicken predators. Because they are left out on their own, predators have a much easier time getting at the chickens. There are some solutions to cut down on predator loss. But if you choose free range chicken farming, you’ll have to prepare yourself for the occasional chicken loss.
Modified free ranging
One way to raise free range chickens without some of the disadvantages of free range chicken farming is to use a modified free ranging method. You can do so by using paddocks or mobile pens, such as chicken tractors. This modified free range chicken farming method helps to eliminate some of the problems such as chicken poop everywhere, your good plants getting pecked at, and lack of safety from predators.
You can purchase a decent mobile chicken pen to move around your yard. Or if you’re handy, you can build a simple pen by using chicken mesh wire and a few metal or wood posts. Make sure it is light for easy portability. Move it every so often so that the chickens have fresh grass and other plants to forage in and so they also don’t leave too much poop in one place.
Whether you go for the full or modified free ranging method, free range chicken farming is an excellent way to ensure happy, healthy chickens with wonderfully nutritious eggs and meat.
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