Why chickens should be free ranging

When we were looking at this property, I was quite excited about the idea of getting chickens. Naturally, I started reading what I could about chickens (that’s how I approach most things I need to learn about – read first, then talk to others). What I learned is that chickens should be free ranging. I already knew that when eggs at the store are labeled “cage free” it does not necessarily mean free range and that even “free range” does not always mean what it should mean. Cage free means the birds are not in cages. In general I am sure that is less cruel than cramped cages, but it doesn’t mean it is humane and it doesn’t mean that they are eating a natural diet. It simply means they do not live in cages. Free range seems like it should mean that the birds are allowed to range freely, but all it really means is that they have some access to the outdoors.

So, what should free range really mean? What is the difference and why is it important? Well, chickens that are free ranging produce eggs that are much healthier (for humans, but I’m sure if the eggs were fertilized, the resulting chicks would also be healthier). Chickens that are pasture fed produce eggs with less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more vitamin A, D, and E, more omega-3, and more beta carotene. Now, according to the article about this study, the eggs they are studying are from chickens that are free ranging or are in moveable pens. These chickens are eating a diet that is natural, which is good for the humans who eat the eggs and also better for the chickens. That is what free range should mean.

As I said, I started reading all this stuff before we moved here. At that point I knew for sure that the first animals we wanted to have would be chickens. One of the articles I read, Raising Free Range Chickens, stated that chickens can range freely and meet their nutrition needs anywhere that similar birds, such as quail, pheasant, turkeys, grouse, prairie chickens, run wild. Our property has turkeys and pheasants, and probably the others, too. I know for sure about turkeys because we saw pictures the previous owner had taken and we saw them ourselves one day.

Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkeys

The fact that chickens can range freely on our land appeals to my frugal nature. I won’t have to worry about feeding them except to maybe supplement a bit or when they cannot forage. They will get proper nurtrtion by eating bugs, berries, and seeds that they are designed to eat. Oh, and the fact that they eat bugs? If they happen to eat Asian lady beetles, they will save us time and effort trying to keep the lady bugs out of our house. Plus, they apparently like table scraps (not sure where I read that or I’d put in a link!). Between the outdoor cats and the chickens all our food waste will either be eaten or composted.

So, some of the issues we’ve had to think about are:

  • Why do we want chickens? Just for eggs or for eggs and meat?
  • Do we want to start with chicks or hens?
  • What kind of chickens do we want? What breed? Do we want a heritage breed?
  • Where will we buy the chicks or hens? Options include hatcheries that ship through the mail, local stores that sell them, and possibly neighbors or someone else locally who would be willing to part with some chicks or a hen or two.
  • Can we let the chickens range freely? Issues include how to get the chickens to forage and what kind of other critters are around that might pose a threat.
  • If we need a coop, do we need it just at night or during the day, too?
  • Do we want to use the coop we already have or build a moveable coop or a Hen hut?I will be posting more about this, obviously. Stay tuned!
  • Advertisements

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

    2 Responses to “Why chickens should be free ranging”

    1. Why we want chickens « A Hippy Girl in the Country Says:

      […] dozen of eggs because I get the organic or cage free eggs (Yes! I buy cage free eggs even though I know that cage free doesn’t mean what it should mean). Anyway, having eggs will save us money and trips to the […]

    2. Chicken observations « A Hippy Girl in the Country Says:

      […] would want to be in there for very long. They love ranging. The benefits of free ranging chickens are numerous. They are obviously happier, therefore they will be healthier. When they start laying eggs, their […]

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: