Caring for free range chickens is a complicated balancing act. On the one hand it is richly rewarding to liberate your girls from the confines of their coop, yet, on the other hand, the mother hen in all of us normally comes out and we find ourselves chasing the girls around the yard, warning them of all the dangers they might soon unknowingly wander into. So, before you fling open the gate and rechristen your chooks as fully free range chickens, it’s important that you consider the pros and the cons of this bold but irresistible move.
The upside of free range chickens
There are so many advantages to keeping free range chickens. From their toenails to their eggs, everything seems to be better when the chickens are left to fend for themselves in the wilds of your backyard. Some of the benefits of keeping free range chickens include:
- Tastier and more nutritious eggs. Eggs from free range chickens are richer in vitamin A, E and omega-3 and have a third less cholesterol than caged eggs.
- Your chickens nails will be naturally trimmed by all the joyful scratching they’ll be doing out in the big wide world, which will make them feel a lot more comfortable.
- Being outdoors will mean that your chickens will be happier and healthier due to all the extra exercise they’ll be getting up to.
- Extra exercise in turn means that your chickens will be less inclined to get up to more destructive behaviours that are born out of boredom, like playing with their food, feather picking and petty pecking order disputes.
- Cost of feed will reduce as your girls will be eggstatically munching on bugs and beetles they find crawling around on your garden floor.
- Your chickens will nourish your garden soil with their dirt enriching little droppings.
- Your girls will be so much cheerier if you give them the free range chicken treatment, as they’ll be able to get plenty of exercise, have lots of fun and basically behave like they would in the wild.
For these reasons and more it’s not just the flock that benefits from being free range chickens, but also you the owner, who can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that your girls are living a life a cut above the rest. With this in mind however there are some dangers that you need to be mindful of.
The dangers and downsides of free range chickens
As is often the case, there are some disadvantages that come from letting your girls live the free range chicken lifestyle.
- It’s a sad fact that your chickens are more likely to fall victim to nature’s predators, like foxes, dogs and stray dogs.
- Your chickens may lose their way and never come back if there are no parameters around where they can wander.
- It will become increasingly difficult to find their eggs if they have vast fields to find secret laying spots. In conditions such as this chickens are more likely to become egg-paranoid and broody.
- Your girls may become increasingly sassy and less sociable with humans if they spend more time in the wild.
Ultimately, safety is the key concern when letting your flock behave like free range chickens do. Your chickens will have some difficulty defending themselves in a free range environment because, to put it simply, they are not at the top of the food chain. There are some tips and hints though that should help your girls adjust to free range chicken living.
How to safely transition your chickens into the free range lifestyle
Some owners make the distinction that their flock is either full-time or part-time free range chickens. The difference being that full-time free range chickens are left entirely to their own devices, essentially free to run wild over the property. Part-time free range chickens spend most of the day out of the coop, exploring the world however they come home at the end of the day to a safe warm coop. There is any “right” or “wrong” way to do this, but we recommend allowing your chickens the live the free range life on a part-time basis. Here are some handy ways to ensure that your flock lives a happy life as part-time free range chickens.
- Electric Poultry Fencing around their forage area will help protect your chickens from predators, as well limiting the possibility of them getting woefully lost.
- Clipping their wings is another great way to ensure that your chickens don’t foolishly wander into situations they can’t come back from.
- Having a sturdy and safe coop for your chickens to spend the night in, like The Penthouse, is the perfect way to ensure that your chickens are safe at the end of each day.
- Also, having a coop with nesting boxes is another fabulous way to make sure that you are able to find and collect those delicious eggs that your chickens generously want to give to you.
- Vaccinate your chooks as they are more likely to come in contact with nasty diseases when they are scuttling and pecking their way across a vast and wild property.
The key to having your girls live happily as a part-time free range chickens is basically to establish barriers and parameters for their own protection. Your girls may never be totally safe from all of life's little dangers, but so long as you put measures in place to protect them from things that you know will prove to be threatening, you and your chickens should live a happy life together.
Letting your flock live the free range chicken dream is a truly rewarding experience for both you and your chooks. Though there are some challenges to face along the way to ensure that your girls are protected from some of life’s dangers, ultimately you’ll feel deeply gratified in knowing that you have brought limitless joy to the life of your flock.
One way to ensure that your free range chickens are safe at the end of the night is to make sure they have a safe coop to spend the night in, like the Taj Mahal, Penthouse or Mansion. Who doesn’t like to come back to a safe home after a fun filled day?
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