Free Range Chickens

Look closely my chickens are out in the pasture.

Look closely my chickens are out in the pasture.

Recently  I wrote about not being happy with a white chicken.   If I kept my chickens confined then this would not be an issue.   Lucky for my chickens I let them free range.   Free range is a natural method of raising chickens.   It allows them time to range out in nature, eating bugs, slugs, seeds, grasses as they naturally would.     Free range chickens produce eggs that with yellower yolks, have a creamier taste, and are naturally higher in Omega-3!   Unfortunately running around free range also has some serious risks.   Predators love chickens.   Predators can be what you all think of,  foxes and coyotes.  There can be some not so common predators from the air hawks or an occasional eagle.   It can also be the neighbor’s dog.  When a pet kills or maims your livestock this can create some serious conflict.   Everyone in this picture has some responsibility.   As a chicken keeper I have an obligation to reduce the risk of running in to predators, by picking chickens who blend in with my landscape.   I also reduce the likelihood they will meet a predator by keeping them in the chicken run until the sun is up and confining them as the sun starts to set.   I have lost one to a hawk.   I have added some more cover for them after that loss.     I have had  to called the neighbor two pastures over when her dogs decided to do a long-distance adventure and came pouncing into my chicken run.  Occasionally I have found the chickens  further from home than I would like.   When that happens I haze them and then reward then with food treats when they come home.     Those birds are my responsibilities.   It isn’t a perfect science. but it works well enough for me.

Now you know why a white chicken wasn’t my first choice.  One look at my photo of my pasture this spring with my existing flock tells you she would have a bull’s eye on her.  I suspect I will have to make some adjustments to how I manage my flock for her safety when she grows up.

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10 comments on “Free Range Chickens

  1. I have kept many chickens and lost a few to predators but I would never have thought to acquire chickens that were a similar colour to the landscape and which because I live in the UK tends to be green. I have added this post to my Facebook page which is a daily round up of the best articles, advice and tips that have been written about chicken keeping.

    • I really have to believe it makes a difference as we have a fox maternity den on our property and have never lost one to any 4-legged predator. Our neighbor (I use that term loosely as they are over a mile away) has lost quite a few and his are all white leghorns. It seems so odd to see white feathers and little remains of chickens on our property, knowing our birds have been closer.

  2. I have always liked the look and description of the Delaware breed, but I haven’t gotten any because of exactly what you are talking about. A white bird is a target and we have plenty of predators wanting to eat chickens here. So I am sticking with breeds that blend in well. I do have one white-ish bird that I got with a group of hand-me-down hens last fall, we will see how she does with free ranging this summer. She does have some brown and black speckles, but not enough to make a difference I don’t think.

  3. Have you seen the pictures of the moveable chicken coop? It’s a wagon/pen that allows you to move the whole gang to a fresh spot, once they’ve picked through the spot they are on – was intrigued by the concept – allows them a wide range of ‘free range’ but provides over-head netting/shelter from predators at the same time ….

    Just thought I’d share, in case you hadn’t seen it – I couldn’t find an online picture of the one I read about years ago, but it would be a combination of the two below ideas:

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/multimedia/image-gallery.aspx?id=2147497443&seq=1#axzz2QkuHRFZo
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/multimedia/image-gallery.aspx?id=2147497443&seq=1#axzz2QkuHRFZo

    The indoor coop on wheels for easing moving, and the fencing/stakes integrated to roll up and store on the coop when moving to a fresh spot….sort of like a canvas porch cover you see on RV’s – I’ll try to find a picture of the one I really thought was nifty!

  4. When my mother raised chickens, they were always free-range. But it’s scary out there in the big world! I can see where a white chicken would certainly be a target. Hope they all stay safe now and enjoy their freedom.

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