Pros and cons of free range chickens. Chickens are so often referred to as the “gateway livestock”, and I have to agree. SO many people start with chickens, including us. For great reasons too, chickens are a great introduction to raising and growing your own food. They have a low start up cost, easy care and they give you EGGS! Everyday! Free ranging chickens is definitely a popular topic among many who buy eggs. Let’s discuss the Pros and Cons of raising free range chickens.
Free Range Pros
Here are 5 reasons why we love our free range chickens.
We enjoy that our chickens are living in a natural environment. They are able to go anywhere their little heart desires on our property. They have access to the grass and bugs. Hens can hide away with a clutch of eggs to hatch, and roosters can protect their hens. Truly free range, pastured chickens is the ideal life.
We have all seen pictures of those dark orange egg yolks from free range hens, right? It’s true! Free range chickens are healthier. A varied diet of bugs, grass and feed vs a diet of only feed, it only makes sense.
Cleaner Bedding/Disease Resistant
When the chickens have plenty of space to roam, their chance of catching a disease and spreading it through your flock decreases. It also means that you don’t have the clean up their coop as often.
Stay Cool in the Heat
Free range chickens have the ability to dust bathe, find shade, and do what they need to escape the heat of Summer. Chickens who live in coops can die of heat exhaustion because they can’t escape to find a spot to cool down.
Free Range Cons
Though free range chickens are talked up to be the ideal, there are always some downsides.
Poop on the Porch
My biggest complaint. Our chickens think the porch is their hangout, and poop everywhere! It’s gross and near impossible to keep clean with them around.
Free Range Chickens Hide Eggs
When you have a lot of chickens it’s a good idea to have several nest boxes spread out for them to use, but know they will still hide eggs. Easter egg hunts are fun, but disappointing when you find a nest of 20 rotten eggs. It’s a good idea to keep track of the amount of eggs you collect each day so you know if there is a drop in number. (There are several reasons you should be keeping track of egg count, I talk all about it in my ebook here) If there is a drop in number, you know it’s time to go on an egg hunt.
Dig in the Garden and New Trees
Especially sprouts, chickens love to eat new plant sprouts. Make sure you have your garden and orchard fenced so that you chickens can’t get through unless you want them to. At the end of the season they can be a great garden help, but they will also destroy your plants if they have full access.
Sure, some roosters are nice. I used to tell people that too, until my baby was attacked by a rooster. We had him for over 2 years and he never hurt anyone. Now I’m biased, and we don’t let roosters stay around for more than a year. If you free range your flock, roosters are great protectors, but make sure that you always watch them. Roosters make a yummy chicken soup when their time is up. If they lived in a coop, their opportunity to attack is lessened.
Don’t Eat Kitchen Scraps as Well
This is odd, right? In our experience, our free range chickens don’t eat kitchen scraps as well as our chickens who live in coops. Our theory is that the cooped chickens are bored, and will eat whatever new thing you put in there with them. The free range chickens can be picky, because they can eat whatever they want whenever they want
Are you conflicted now? There are a couple compromises. A run is a great idea, or raising them where you want them to live.
When we decided we couldn’t handle our free range flock anymore, we did an experiment before we decided to lock them all up. We utilized our mobile chicken tractor, and raised a new flock of chickens in it. We made sure and moved it to the back of our property so they wouldn’t find our porch while they were pullets. They have food, water and shade right next to their coop, so they don’t need to wander far for it.
They may still hide eggs, and refuse to eat kitchen scraps, but there is not longer poop on my porch or chickens in my garden. I’d say it’s the perfect compromise.
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