Chicken Pet Free range Farming

Chicken Ranching or Chicken Farming: What’s the Big Difference in 2020?

Grass-fed Chicken Ranching
Grass-fed Chicken Ranching

For many years, a typical concern we have actually been asked is whether raising chickens (on a large scale) means chicken farming or chicken ranching. The answer is not as straight-forward as one might think.

If you are raising chickens exclusively for meat, you most likely fall in the classification of “chicken rancher.” If you raise more crops than chickens, nevertheless, you’re more likely classified as a “farmer.”.

A Poultry Ranch
A Poultry Ranch

If you are raising chickens exclusively for eggs, you can easily fall in either classification. Again, if you raise more crops than chickens, however, you’re are a bonafied farmer!

Now, to complicate matters, if you reside in a place where crop farming is the primary purpose, you’ll find that even cattle ranchers will be described as “farmers.” Frequently, the identifying is local.

I don’t know numerous chicken farmers or ranchers who will be upset if you described them as one or the other, but if you ‘d like to understand the differences, we’ve detailed out the basic definitions for each classification:.

Is it chicken farming or chicken ranching?

Is it a farm?

Although farms and ranches sound the same, both of them have an important difference. Generally, a farm is a place where vegetables, grains, spices, and herbs grow for human consumption.

Veggies such as corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, cabbages, lettuce are cultivated there. Grains and spices consist of barley, rice grains, buckwheat, cardamom nutmeg, mace an so on. Apart from this fibers, and raw materials can likewise be gathered from a farm such as cotton, wool or silk.

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Other types of farms consist of orchards with different fruit producing trees kept for food production. They may likewise be nut-producing trees such as almonds, walnut, hazel-nut, and cashew.

There are likewise hydroponic farms where plants grow in water. Or Aquaponic farms, which integrate crops with fish farming to develop a symbiotic flora and fauna.

Is it chicken ranching?

A ranch is particularly a big farm where ranchers raise animals such as cattle and sheep to produce products like meat and wool. This likewise consists of elk, American bison, ostrich and emu, too.

Ranching originated from Spain. The name ranch stems from the Spanish word ‘rancho’, which means a little farm. With time, the meaning was altered.

Individuals who own or handle a cattle ranch are ranchers, cattle-men or stock growers. The primary occupation of ranchers is assisting the animals to graze and feed. They use animals such as horses or pets to enhance their ability to graze and raise the livestock.

Ranchers might also participate in a restricted quantity of farming, raising crops for feeding the animals such as hay and feed grains. Some ranchers mainly raise young stock, thus they are likewise called cow-calf operator. Individuals managing horses are typically described as wranglers.

Chicken farming or chicken ranching?

If the bulk of property is cultivated for farming production, it’s plainly a farm. If the place is utilized for animals breeding and raising to produce meat or animal items such as wool, it’s more commonly referred to as a ranch.

Bottom line, when in doubt, use the term “farm” or “farmer.” Its widely accepted and certainly a term of honor to the hard-working folks in our farming and ranching industries!

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Sample of Chicken Ranching:

Chicken Ranching Improved Pasture Soil Health in Iowa

When bison wandered the Great Plains, meadow chickens and other fowl played a crucial role as the clean-up crew. They would follow the herds delighting in the larvae in bison manure.

In Doug Darrow’s 160-acre mob grazing system near Oxford, Iowa, his 300 chickens have the very same task, but they ride in style from paddock to paddock in an old-fashioned bus that functions as a chicken coop. “This suggests there are less flies to plague the cows,” stated Darrow. This natural type of insect control, enhances herd health and rate of gain, while offering another income source from the eggs laid by the clean-up team.

The Chicken Ranching Bus Contains 300 Laying Hens
The Chicken Ranching Bus Contains 300 Laying Hens

Along with functioning as public transportation for the chickens, the bus functions as a nighttime shelter securing them from predators.

” Grazing experts from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) checked out with Darrow about grazing systems in 2004,” stated Jess Jackson, previous grazing specialist and present NRCS National Partnership Liaison. “Years later when he was ready to move to a high-density grazing system, we fulfilled to set out the fences and watering system, and established a strategy to execute the new system,” he said.

About a year after transforming 80 acres of cropland into pasture, Darrow was authorized for a 2014 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) agreement through his local NRCS workplace in Johnson County, Iowa to set up fencing and the watering system. The fencing was used to divide his pastureland into 2.28-acre paddocks. The cows are moved from pasture-to-pasture on a 60-day rotation.

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Each pasture is grazed for one day, and rests for the staying 59. Darrow’s chickens follow in the exact same rotation, however 3 days behind the cow-calf herd.

The chicken ranching hens rotate 72 hours behind the cattle herd to provide insect control, and the bus provides easy mobility from paddock to paddock.
The chicken ranching hens rotate 72 hours behind the cattle herd to provide insect control, and the bus provides easy mobility from paddock to paddock.

The high-density, or mob grazing system, also promotes soil health and nearly gets rid of erosion by preventing overgrazing. “By only grazing one paddock each day, the cows don’t have time to overgraze the lawn and clover pastures,” stated Jackson. “With all the roots and much of the leaves undamaged, the plants have the strength to rapidly replenish themselves.”

“And, the undisturbed root system of the continuous pasture enables microorganisms to grow, enhancing soil health and increasing organic matter,” stated Iowa NRCS State Soil Researcher Rick Bednarek.

Darrow made a choice to transform all his cropland acres to a mob grazing-chicken ranch, a time-intensive system requiring daily attention. But for Darrow the advantages far exceed the time requirements.

“I’m attempting to imitate nature,” said Darrow. The system eliminates his need for fertilizer and other inputs, conserving costs, equipment time, and preventing runoff of business inputs.

Producers interested in NRCS technical and financial assistance are motivated to contact their local USDA service center.


22 replies on “Chicken Ranching or Chicken Farming: What’s the Big Difference in 2020?”

Ranch is a term never used in our area. If someone is raising cattle or producing food as persay a business,…it is farming.
Like us, we have but a few animals on our property for our own purpose,…locals here just call it homesteading.
Now if you aren’t from these parts and are trying to “homestead” here,’re just a hippy.

If you only have one thing like only chickens or only cows living off the land I would see that as a ranch. If you diversify or are growing or otherwise providing food for the livestock you are farming.

At my current level of production, i think i’m just a homesteader, who has chickens.

My husband says we’re going to have a ‘full blown chicken farm.’

My friend, who comes to visit, calls our place a ranch, but all we have are chickens and 1 1/2 acres of mostly woods.

Quote:But we all teach our kids about ole McDonald’s FARM that included many different ANIMALS
We often call dairy cows, chickens, pigs and sheep “farm animals”

See I tend to think of non-commercial farmers as glorified homesteaders. In my mind, they have a bunch of crops and different animals. The images of Charolette’s Web movie comes to mind.
I tend to think of the term “ranch” when you have a bunch of one kind of animal.

Really though, I don’t put a lot of daily thought into it. Call it whatever you like. lol

I unofficially call ours a “farm” and I call the backyard a “pasture” (albeit the smallest “pasture” you ever saw, lol)

At my current level of production, i think i’m just a homesteader, who has chickens.

My husband says we’re going to have a ‘full blown chicken farm.’

My friend, who comes to visit, calls our place a ranch, but all we have are chickens and 1 1/2 acres of mostly woods.

This actually came up when my wife and I were first dating. I grew up on a “ranch” that had a considerable amount of farm ground. We raised cattle as our primary source of income, and farmed to supplement and rotate alfalfa out of production. My wife grew up on a farm with no animals whatsoever. She would always correct me when I asked if we were going out to “her folk’s ranch” due to the lack of livestock. Her parents purchased a few chickens three years ago, so I informed her that her parents were no longer farmers, but chicken ranchers. She just informed me that this was alright to post…..hehehe

Moral of the story: If you have no animals, you are a farmer. If you have any animals whatsoever, I reserve the right to call you a rancher.

OK maybe this will help. Do you ride them or herd them? Then maybe it’s a ranch. If you raise them and bury them in the ground feet up then maybe it’s farming. [Feet down doesn’t work, those aren’t roots you know] BUT if you raise them, pet them and love them then maybe more than likely you’re a farmcher. I’m sorry but it’s true. It means a life long goal of making things better for yourself and everyone else. Thanks!

Serioulsy it seems that my family and in my past farms were acerages that were tilled, planted and harvested. Ranching was a management of ground on which usually cattle were run on. I still think it is regional. In illinois the term ranch never came up as far as I can remeber.

As my name suggests, RANCHING

But we’re doing it on a small scale and not really raising anything else other than subsistence gardening and orchards, so I guess we’re on the cusp of farming/homesteading as our spread isn’t very big and we rarely have excess to sell (with the exception of eggs)

Well as I said before I’ve never really thought about which side my chickens belong on, but I don’t think any true cattleman/woman probably would include chickens as part of their cattle operation. I’d include my chickens in our farm, not the ranch part of our operation if I had to make a choice.

well now thats no fun you go get a real live definition. No fuss no arguing no unfounded opinions thanks for spoiling all the fun. LOL

Here is what the On Line Dictionary says about each
Hope this helps clear up the question

ranch (rnch)
1. An extensive farm, especially in the western United States, on which large herds of cattle, sheep, or horses are raised.
2. A large farm on which a particular crop or kind of animal is raised: a mink ranch.
3. A house in which the owner of an extensive farm lives.
intr.v. ranched, ranch·ing, ranch·es
To manage or work on a ranch.


farm (färm)
1. A tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production.
a. A tract of land devoted to the raising and breeding of domestic animals.
b. An area of water devoted to the raising, breeding, or production of a specific aquatic animal: a trout farm; an oyster farm.
3. An area of land devoted to the storage of a commodity or the emplacement of a group of devices: a tank farm; an antenna farm.
4. Baseball A minor-league club affiliated with a major-league club for the training of recruits and the maintenance of temporarily unneeded players.
5. Obsolete
a. The system of leasing out the rights of collecting and retaining taxes in a certain district.
b. A district so leased.

To me it is a regional definition. I grew up in the midwest (Ill.) and there no one had ranches everything was described as farms. Here in Colorado it seems that those who raise row crops, such as beans and corns call that Farming. The big open spreads and grass is referred to as ranches or ranching. I work with many producers in California and it seemed that in that area all the chicken and turkey producers referred to their property as ranches.

It will be interesting to see what others have to say. I live on a small acerage here in Colorado and folks often refer to my 20 acres as a ranch, to me it is neither ranch or farm as it produces no income. I call it a small acerage.

The chickens belong wherever they can get a free meal.

I would say farming, but then again when I go out the door with treats, the stampeed of chickens makes me fear for my life at times.

LOL….I guess I’m in the same boat as you. We have a grain farm plus a cow herd…..never thought about which side my chickens belong to.

My wife and I have quite a dilemma on our hands. We don’t know if raising chickens is considered “farming” or “ranching”. I operate a grain farm, and a cattle ranch…..but where exactly do chickens fall. Any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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