free range chickens

14 Amazing Reasons Why Raise Free Range Chickens

Free range chickens farming is a successful business, and many people make a living raising free-range hens all around the world.

To start a successful, long-term free range chickens farming business, you’ll need a good understanding of how to grow organic free range birds, outstanding management skills, and a solid poultry farming business plan.

nutrition for chickens
Chickens on traditional free range poultry farm

This article will show you the advantages and disadvantages of free range chickens farming business and help make you decide if you will follow this endeavor in the future.

The production of free range chickens and backyard poultry is a lucrative enterprise. However, there are a few things you should do before starting this business.

You must choose the scope of your projects, such as the number of birds you want to retain per cycle, the location of the organization, such as a poultry farm, and your target market.

The entire quantity of money you have as well as the size of your chosen industry will influence your choices. You may always start small and grow your business if you don’t have a lot of money.

14 Amazing Reasons Why Raise Free Range Chickens

Keep in mind that Rome wasn’t constructed in a day. You’ll also need to conduct a market analysis (who will you sell the birds to?). At what price?) Also, before getting into the poultry company, it is helpful to prepare a business plan.

The Chicken industry is a good, profitable business, according to Bill Gates, the world’s richest man. He is gifting thousands of birds to help others start poultry farming enterprises and make money.

Bill Gates writes on his website that chickens are an excellent investment that may provide a lot of cash for individuals because they have a multiplicative impact, meaning they lay and hatch eggs regularly, doubling the size of your flock.

arcona chicken

Schools of Thought for Free Range Chickens

There are two conventional schools of thinking when it comes to keeping chickens. The first is complete free range chicken farming. The flock is usually enticed back to the chicken coop for roosting with an evening feeding of grain or another goodie.

Confinement to a secure chicken run and coop is the other school of thought. Feed is being used to meet the nutritional needs of these backyard chickens.

I’ve noticed a growing trend in recent years that falls in between these two schools of thought. There is a trend toward confinement in chicken pens and runs with some free range as more flocks of backyard hens pop up in varied locations. This is known as monitored free ranging.

Of course, the first step in learning how to raise free-range chickens is to define the term “free range chickens.” There are two meanings for free range chickens, in my opinion.

california chickens

The first is relevant to commercial chicken farming. The USDA determines what constitutes free range chickens. According to them, the hens must have access to some outdoor space.

I understand that the term “free range” conjures up pictures of hens scratching over a field of grass, but this is not the situation in the commercial world.

The hens are considered free range if they just have access to a gravel yard or spend a few minutes with their doors open.

This term has a completely new meaning for today’s homesteaders and backyard chicken keepers. It means that our flock can spend all or part of the day outside of limited space.

It could take place in a fenced pasture, your backyard, or open fields. The flock, on the other hand, is free to roam around in nature.

How We Managed Our Free Range Chickens

I was raised on a farm and have been raising free range chickens for more than 30 years. My birds are free-range, which means they have unrestricted access to the big outdoors.

Before I open the gates for free range, they have a large chicken yard to go around in. Once a day, I feed my chickens. During the day, they are free to come and go from their chicken yard as they want.

I feed them first thing in the morning and let them out later. They are free to explore until they decide to roost for the night.

I let them out in the morning and feed them at 5 p.m. to put them back in their yard from late fall to early winter. This is because there are chicken predators roaming the property during these cold hours.

It depends on where you live, how you live, and what you want for your flock, as with anything.

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In the winter, free ranging your chickens is a little different, especially if you live in a snowy environment. Chickens will remain near the coop and will not scratch for food in deep snow.

What do chickens eat
What do chickens eat

Because we don’t receive much snow, if any at all, my flock is able to roam freely for the majority of the winter. I open the gates and let them do as they like, except on the worst of days.

When your flock is confined to a chicken pen and runs throughout the winter, keeping them amused makes things easier for them.

Many individuals who keep backyard chickens as a hobby provide them with chicken swings, special toys in their coops or runs, and special goodies.

Now, I’m a traditional sustenance farmer who doesn’t do such things. When it’s particularly cold outside, I give them special treats like hot oatmeal, roasted squash, or pumpkins.

I just put some hay bales in their yard to give them something to scratch through.

free range chickens

Can You Free Range Your Chickens in Cold Weather?

Chickens can withstand cold weather, including snow and ice, but they are vulnerable to frostbite, particularly on their cones and wattles. I’m sure providing them with a snow-free area to scratch around in is welcomed.

Is it true that chickens require heat throughout the winter? As you know, I’m not for forcing anyone to think or act like me (that would be terrifying).

“There are as many ways to get a farm project done as there are farmers,” my grandfather taught me. Even if it’s just to observe what not to do, you have to be willing to listen, help, and learn from them.”

However, if the temperature drops below 25 degrees F at night, we turn on a heat lamp. The coop door secures it to the 2″x4″ and keeps it out of their reach. We’ve never had an issue before.

Breeding of Chickens

Our coop is adequately ventilated, so there is no chance of frostbite due to moisture build-up. One exception exists. We don’t use it at all if our flock is over 40 birds.

The amount of birds in our 7’x12′ coop is sufficient to keep them all warm from their own bodies. For the winter, we provide extra hay to the laying nests and under the roost.

The Advantages of Raising Free Range Chickens

  1. A high-protein, natural diet. This contributes to beautiful golden yolks, egg production, and long life. When a chicken roams freely, protein accounts for roughly 70% of its diet.
  2. The urge to scratch, peck and hunt has been satisfied. This will keep them busy and entertained.
  3. It is cost-effective. It takes less grain to feed them.
  4. Dietary variety ensures that all nutritional requirements are met.
  5. They’ll create their own dust baths. If the flock isn’t permitted to dust, lice, mites, and feather problems will arise.
  6. You won’t need to use grit. They are self-sufficient.
  7. They are physically fit and keep a healthy weight.
  8. Eggs that taste better.
  9. They consume all of the bugs and spiders in and around your home.
  10. Your garden beds will be tilled for you.
  11. You will have satisfied chickens. Mine dash to the fence and confer on how to get out.
  12. Place fertilizer (chicken poop) all over the place for you.
  13. A rigorous pecking order exists among chickens. Some chickens may get hungry or thirsty if your flock is kept restricted. Multiple feed and water stations will assist, but they will not ensure that each hen gets enough.
  14. You won’t have to worry about making sure each bird has enough space. You’ll have difficulty picking and their health if they’re overcrowded.

smart chickens

The Disadvantages of Raising Free Range Chickens

Surprisingly, some of the disadvantages are linked to the advantages.

  1. They are working in all areas of your gardens. Even if you don’t want them there. You must have a way of keeping them out.
  2. They leave chicken crap all over the place.
  3. They’re in danger of being eaten by chicken predators.
  4. They’ll consume almost anything, including your prized flowers.
  5. They won’t return to lay in their nests unless you’ve taught them to do so in their nests.
  6. If you live next door to a neighbor, the hens may find their way into their yard and bother them.
  7. They’ll make a dust bath out of your flower beds.
  8. Because it won’t be in the yard for you to collect, you’ll lose some fertilizer.
  9. You may have problems getting them to come to roost at night unless you train them.

The unifying aim for our flocks is something we can all agree on. Each of us wishes for them to be as healthy, happy, and secure as possible.

When our flock is in their yard, we employ a stand of trees, chicken wire, hardware wire, and bird netting to keep them safe. When they’re out in the open, they’re protected by the rooster, dogs, and foliage.

We’ve only lost two birds to predators in the last year. One was bitten by a hawk, while the other was bitten by a snake.

FREE RANGE CHICKENS’ LAND, HOUSING, AND EQUIPMENT

The type of accommodation you require and the size of this property will be determined by the size of your poultry operation.

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When picking a location for your poultry business, you must balance the necessity for proximity to the market with the cost of the property, labor costs, safety, and a great water source.

You must choose a well-drained place with plenty of clear airflow if you want to build a free-range chicken home. Proper ventilation and illumination are required in appropriate housing. Ventilation is required to provide for adequate air exchange.

You’ll need to install appropriate illumination in your own facility if you wish to make eggs all year. You should have the necessary supplies, like feeders, drinkers, lightings, and nest boxes.

chicken coop
chicken coop

Free-range hens require enough space to grow properly. They shouldn’t be swollen in any way. Otherwise, they may suffocate to death, resulting in a severe loss for your company.

Each free range chicken takes about 0.1 square meters of floor space, equating to 10 birds per square meter. As a result, the size of the free-range chicken coop will be determined by the number of creatures to be raised.

Barns, chicken coops, or hutches may be used, and the cost of the structure will be determined by the materials used and the size of the free-range poultry home. Foraging pasture is also necessary for free-range chickens.

Broiler chickens are grown inside, confined to the broiler house, as opposed to free-range chickens. Free-range hens, on the other hand, will spend the majority of their day grazing in the meadows and plants.

How I Teach My Free Range Chickens Where to Lay Their Eggs

laying hen

When I add young pullets to the flock, I confine them to the yard until they are ready to lay eggs. When their cones and wattles turn brilliant red, their leg color lightens, and they stoop when you approach them, you know they’re preparing to lay.

They kneel to allow the rooster to fertilize the developing eggs.

In the nests, I also placed porcelain eggs for them to see. I give them a few weeks to lay in the nests so they can get used to it.

The flock is then free ranged again for a couple of weeks, but later in the morning. This encourages them to continue laying eggs. Then it’s back to business as usual.

Day Old Chicks for Free Range Chickens

how long does a chicken egg to hatch

Starting your own free range chickens poultry farming business would be ideal.

After you’ve gained some experience, you can hatch your own chicks, which will save you money because you won’t have to buy day-old chicks.

You should get your day-old chicks from a reputable accredited hatchery or company with well-managed parent stocks.

If you’re new to the free-range poultry industry, talk to other farmers to find out where they get their chicks. The quality of day-old chicks you purchase will play a role in the success of your free-range poultry business.

How I Taught My Chickens to Come When I Call

I’ve been feeding the flock from a white bucket for I don’t know how long. I put garden or kitchen scraps in the white bucket when I take them to them. They’ve known the white bucket symbolizes food since they were a few weeks old.

This is to train them to come to me and the yard when they need the white bucket. I go out with the white bucket if they’re free ranging and I’m ready for them to come to the yard before roosting time.

They’ll swarm in from every direction. I give it a gentle shake to summon any stragglers. Everyone enters to see what I’ve brought.

BREEDS Best for Free Range Chickens

There are many different chicken breeds, and the best one for you will depend on your needs. You can start a free-range chicken business by selling meat, eggs, or both.

Both meat and eggs can be produced by the Rhode Island Red chicken breed. Each year, they lay about 250 eggs. The Light Sussex chicken breed is a dual-purpose species that produce both meat and eggs.

White Leghorn hens are commonly used as layer chickens. They can lay up to 300 eggs every year, each of which must weigh at least 55 grams. The Boschveld chicken breed is native to Africa and can endure a wide range of climates.

It’s also a dual-purpose breed that may be used to produce both meat and eggs. Other breeds include the Golden Comet, Barred Plymouth Rock, Golden Laced Wyandottes, Australorp, and others.

organic chicken feed
Organic Chicken Feed

Compromises

Chicken tractors are popular among individuals who live in areas where free ranging is prohibited or who prefer not to free range. A chicken tractor can be any type of wheeled covered run.

They may easily be relocated from one fresh grass patch to another while leaving a fertilized area behind. This allows your flock to forage on grass and whatever bugs are available in the region.

It also keeps them away from locations where you don’t want them. In the enclosed tractor, the flock is safe from predators.

A covered fenced area large enough for your herd to move around in is another alternative. They’ll obtain some of the advantages of free-ranging while being protected.

Scratching and defecation will be avoided in your gardens and patios. This strategy will necessitate replanting grass or providing them with another source of food.

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In an enclosed environment, they will quickly consume any flora and protein life. This is also a possible option; however, it necessitates careful planning.

FREE RANGE CHICKENS FARMING CAPITAL

free range chickens

The amount of money needed to start a free-range poultry farming business is determined on the project’s size. Bank loans and equity investors are two sources of money.

Do you lack financial resources? Begin small and gradually expand your business! Because free-range hens are incredibly profitable, you can quickly expand if you reinvest your profits.

MEAT AND EGGS FROM FREE RANGE CHICKENS MARKET

The demand for free-range hens is large and growing as more consumers turn to organic and healthier foods. When compared to broiler chicken meat, many individuals prefer organic free range chickens’ meat.

This is due to the fact that free range chickens are more nutritious, tasty, organic, and healthier.

As a result, demand for free range chickens’ meat is increasing. Free-range chickens are more expensive than broiler chickens because they are seen as superior.

In comparison to eggs from commercial indoor layer chickens, free-range chicken eggs are also considered superior.

free-range chickens

Free-range chicken eggs are thought to be more nutritious, flavorful, organic, and healthier than conventional chicken eggs. As a result, free-range organic eggs are more expensive than regular poultry eggs.

Individual families, butchers, schools, restaurants, enterprises, supermarkets, organizations, events, abattoirs, and others can purchase your free-range chicken meat and eggs.

You can either sell your free-range chicken live or butcher, freeze and sell them as dressed chicken.

You’ll be able to export your free-range organic products as your company grows.

LABOR AND MANAGEMENT

The number of farm workers you’ll need will be determined by the size of your backyard and free range chickens enterprise. If you run a modest business, such as 100 chickens per cycle, you and your family may be able to care for the hens.

However, full-time personnel will be required to oversee the free-range hens if you are rearing 2000 birds per cycle.

For commercial success, solid technical knowledge of free range chicken rearing practices is required. You’ll also need to be a good manager.

NUTRITION AND FEEDING for Free Range Chickens

fermented chicken feed
Fermented Chicken Feed

Feeding is critical for increasing meat and egg output from free-range and backyard chickens. Lack of nutrition or water reduces disease and parasite resistance, resulting in increased flock mortality.

Adult hens and roosters should be provided adequate time and space to scavenge in the surroundings on a daily basis in a free range chicken rearing method.

Early morning and late afternoon are the greatest times for scavenging because there are more insects and less heat. When the free-range hens return for the night, supplementary meals should be provided in the morning and evening.

14 Amazing Reasons Why Raise Free Range Chickens

To reduce heat stress, clean water should be available in shady regions during the day. To keep your free-range and backyard chickens healthy and flourishing, you’ll need the right immunizations and treatments.

The benefit of raising free range chickens is that they will eat the majority of their food from the environment. As a result, feed expenses are kept low. If you keep free-range chickens for economic purposes, however, foraging the environment is insufficient.

Commercial stock feeds or your own homemade feed will be required to augment their nutrition. You might also feed them maize, sorghum, wheat, rice, and other grains.

free range chickens

Final Thoughts on Raising Free Range Chickens

So, do you want to raise free range chickens? Don’t worry if it isn’t. You might not want to risk losing a bird to predators. You may reside in an area where grazing is prohibited. Whatever the reason, with a little additional care, you may give your flock a happy, healthy life.

Do you raise free range chickens? That’s fantastic. I’ve experienced the excitement of watching the flock search for treats and communicate with one another, as well as the enjoyment of the entertainment they bring and the satisfaction of a healthy, happy flock.

 

References:

  1.  Steiner, Zvonimir; Šperanda, Marcela; Domačinović, Matija; Antunović, Zvonko; Senčić, Đuro (10 July 2006). “Egg quality from free range and cage system of keeping layers”Stockbreeding : Journal of Animal Improvement60 (3): 173–179 – via Hrčak.
  2. “USDA Fact Sheet: Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms”.
  3. “Getting Started”. American Pastured Poultry Producers’ Association. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  4. “Choice Free Range Standards”humanechoice.com.au.
  5.  “Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry”www.publish.csiro.au. CSIRO Publishing. October 2002. ISBN 9780643069145.
  6. Rebecca Nicholson (18 August 2018). “What does ‘free-range’ actually mean? It’s complicated”. The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
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