I know, I’m totally going against popular opinion here, but I really do think that chickens are totally happy, healthy, and content if they are not free ranged. Sure, I absolutely wanted to free range our girls and actually did for almost a year. But that year was more than enough for me and this year I put an end to it all!
I know, some of you are thinking that I’m totally a mean chicken mama, but I have to disagree. What is mean is letting your chickens go without food or water. Or not providing your chickens warmth during the polar vortex or having a warm, dry place for them to hide during a thunderstorm. Mean is cramming hundreds of chickens into a space meant for just a few. Mean is not equal to protecting my chickens and providing them with the safest, and best care possible.
My girls are now safely contained in a 32×50 foot fenced in run with a big, comfy coop (although they’ve always had their coop). They are safe, happy, and content and so am I. We all sleep better at night and I definitely don’t worry so much about them during the day.
5 Reasons We Don’t Free Range
Poop, Poop, Poop
For real! Chickens are just automatic pooping machines and they totally have no discretion for where they deposit their fertilizer. It was literally everywhere. Our front porch, on the hood of D’s Tahoe, Andrew’s toolbox when he was working on his car, the kid’s toys….everywhere! And really, that just is not for us. We have a ton of kids running around our yard and sometimes in their bare feet. Besides, it is kinda hard to save all that poop for compost and fertilizer when it is spread over 3 1/2 acres of land.
Okay, so we didn’t have a garden when our gals were free ranged, but we are working on putting in a pretty big garden this year. I definitely do not want my girl’s having free choice of whatever fruits and veggies we are growing for our pantry and freezer. We will be putting a fence around the garden, but if you didn’t know, chickens can fly right over the top of a fence. As a matter of fact, my Easter Egger Star does this daily and then runs away to the neighbor’s flower beds to lay her eggs. Which brings me to the next point.
When my girls were free to roam our egg production seemingly came to a halt. That is until Andrew was doing some work on his project car and found 6 dozen eggs under the back right tire. Apparently, my girls thought that was the perfect place to lay their eggs. Sadly they all were a loss and I vowed that we would not make the same mistake again. Now that my girls are in their run, I am getting between 4 and 5 eggs daily from my 5 girls. There is no more hunting around the yard (or woods) looking for eggs, no more waste, no more guessing how old the eggs are, and no more worry that the snakes were going to come hunting.
4 of my girls stay put and they don’t even bother trying to fly out. However, Star, my Easter Egger is a runaway and it is very common to find her making her way through the woods to our neighbor’s house. D nor I are very comfortable with clipping their wings, so we’ll be placing some netting over the top of the run so she can’t run away anymore.
In our part of the world, predators are a really big problem and I’m not just talking about the coyotes who hang out in our neighbor’s field. Several times we have seen stray and runaway dogs strolling past our homestead like they own the place. Just last week Andrew and I were chasing off a few stray dogs that were checking out our chickens through the fence. When stray dogs are hungry, they will stop at nothing to find an easy meal. We also have an issue with stray cats, which is an entirely different situation. The other predators we deal with are wild hogs, foxes, raccoons, skunks, possums, bobcats, bears, mountain lions (even if the game commission says we don’t), bald eagles, owls, and a bunch of other wildlife. Last Spring we lost 2 of our Brahmas to a fox. The bugger came right up on my porch, grabbed one of my Brahmas and took off with her through the woods, a few days later he took the other one. I’m thankful that my neighbor was helpful in solving our fox problem.
Other Safety Concerns
Although we live in a pretty rural area, our road is pretty darn busy. The last thing I want is for one of my girls to get whacked by a speeding dump truck off to drop stone or dirt at the next homestead down the street. And let’s not talk about the UPS guy. Trust me, it isn’t just subdivision neighborhoods these guys fly through.
Sadly, humans can be a concern too. It just takes one neighbor who doesn’t appreciate your chickens scratching around in their flower beds and eating their flowers to get angry and kill your chickens. And it isn’t unheard of for chickens to end up stolen. Thankfully we haven’t had to deal with either of these issues. As a matter of fact, our neighbor was a little disappointed when we penned our girls up, so we’ve been taking him and his wife eggs each week.
Do you free range or are you like me and have your chickens in a run? Please share with me in the comment section below the set up you have for your chickens. I’d love to hear all about it!