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Raising Free Range Chickens
Once you get your first chicken you fall in love and you feel the urge to get another and another and another. There is something amazing about a chicken. They all have unique personalities and qualities that make you fall in love with each and every one of them. I know it's been said that chickens are dumb. I disagree, I think they are very smart in a lot of ways. If you spend any time with chickens you quickly realize they know exactly how to get what they want.
There are over sixty breeds of chickens. Some more popular than others and many breeds have different purposes. Finding the breed of chicken that suits your needs isn't as easy as it sounds, because there are so many different breeds you will want to have them all. I love all the different chickens and have different breeds on my hobby farm. I know if I wanted to breed chickens and sell hatching eggs or chicks that I would have to narrow my birds down to one or two breeds, but I raise chickens for their eggs and for the fact that I love them and enjoy having them on the farm.
There is a lot of different ways and reasons people raise chickens. I prefer the free range method, to me a happy chicken is a healthy chicken. Letting our chickens roam freely and have all the space they want gives us healthy birds, rich, tasty eggs and it is cost effective because they don't require as much feed.
Chickens Are Fun!
Whether you raise chickens as pets and for eggs in a small backyard setting or on a large plot of land for meat and eggs, you will find your free range chickens to be curious and friendly. They will run up to meet you every time they see you. I am sure they are in search for a treat more than their undying love of spending time with me. But, I take what I can get in the world of chicken love.
They also make great photography subjects. I just love getting outside with my camera and catching their personality in a great photo. A few of my chickens will stand still long enough to get a good photo that shows off their beautiful characteristics.
Allowing chickens to roam freely, I think, keeps them cleaner and you will find one at any given time taking a dirt bath under a nearby tree where the soil is loose and cool. Keeping chickens in cages and in pens doesn't allow them that natural instinct to find a place for a dirt bath. You have to provide them with some sort of sand or soil in a container for them to bathe in or they can get overridden with mites and other pests.
Happy chickens are a lot of fun and can give you hours of entertainment. They are natures true reality shows. You can enjoy watching them interact with each other or with other animals they live with on the farm. They will squabble and if they find something good, they will will take off so no one else gets it away from them. That in itself is fun to watch. They have unique personalities and characteristics and are very social animals. Raising chickens is a worthwhile pursuit and I can't imagine not having them running around.
Chickens Have Unique Personalities
Free Range or Chicken Pens?
Do You Prefer Keeping Chickens In Pens or Free Ranging Chickens?
Free Range Eggs Are More Nutritious Than Caged, Commercial Chicken Eggs
We tried keeping our chickens in pens when we first started our hobby farm. We built a portable pen that is called a chicken tractor. We moved it around so that they were always on fresh grass but they were protected from all sides. It was a workable situation except for my bleeding heart. I cannot stand to see them in that little confined area it seems so miserable to me. I know that they are safe from predators but they really don't have much of a life in a cage, not matter how big it is. So, I did my research and decided to open the door to the tractor and let my chickens roam free. We built a nice house for them with roosts and nesting boxes. Every morning we open the door and let them out and they spend their day enjoying bugs, grass, and any scraps I put out for them. Every evening they are in their feeding area awaiting their dinner and they retire to their house and get on their roosts for the night. They are much happier and so am I. I know this isn't for everyone and that there are good reasons for chickens to be in pens and runs but for me it just wasn't an option.
Chickens in runs eat all of the grass very quickly and the pens are left as dirt paths, and after rain muddy swamps, along with large amounts of manure that has to be cleaned out very often. There doesn't leave much for penned chickens to peck at and eat so they require a lot more feed to get their nutritional needs met. Cleaning the pens is time consuming and if not done well can cause chickens to be unhealthy mucking around in all that manure.
Did you know that free range eggs have a higher nutritional value? There was a wonderful study done by Mother Earth News comparing free-range eggs to the USDA nutrient data for commercial and caged chicken eggs. The findings showed that free-range chicken eggs produced the following results:
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta-carotene
Wow! That tells me that I am choosing to do the right thing since we keep chickens for their eggs. Free ranging chickens benefits our health as well as theirs.
Free ranging chickens does put them at risk for attack by predators. I have eliminated a lot of the threat of predators by keeping other animals free ranging with the chickens. Great Pyrenees are wonderful livestock protectors, you do need to train them not to be in house predators themselves. I do not have a Great Pyrenees at this time but it is on my list to get on our hobby farm. We do have guinea fowl that are alarm systems to let me know if something is not right and they do a wonderful job. We also have a dog that spends time with our chickens and she does a fine job, although she is a mixed breed and I'm not sure your typical chicken protector type.
Luckily, my chickens seem to enjoy being in the front of the house and don't roam very far from home. I go outside often during the day to check on them and keep my eye on things. Having a hobby farm does require a lot of outside time with the animals.
Great Resources On Raising Chickens
You can get a wealth of information from a few favorite places that serve chicken owners well. I love to use the Grit website as well as subscribe to their magazine. Mother Earth News is another go to favorite of mine and I use their website and subscribe to their magazine and the one farmer I value information from, is Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface farms.
Free Range Chicken, Natures Exterminator
One of the best reasons to allow free ranging chickens is their pest control. They will keep your yard clean and pest free. They will devour fleas, ticks, grasshoppers, millipedes, crickets, and much more. You can't ask for a better, natural way to keep pests from your yard. Along with their amazing exterminating abilities, the are wonderful fertilizing machines. Your grass will be greener just from they wandering around. You can collect their waste from beneath their roosts and mix it in with other elements in a compost pile to fortify your garden with free fertilizer.
At the end of the growing season you can feed all your left over greens and vegetable scraps to the chickens, allowing them to turn that into more fresh, tasty eggs.
You can't go wrong raising chickens and allowing them to work the farm alongside you in all their beneficial ways.
The Difference In Chicken's Diets
What Free Range Chickens Eat
What Chickens In Pens Eat
What Commercial Caged Chickens Eat
Abundant and varied Insects
Grain or Feed
Other Greens, berries and whatever they find ranging
Whatever Is Physically Put In Their Pen For Them
meat and bone meals