“How can you do that?” I am frequently asked this question when people hear our chickens are free-range.
“It does pose a risk,” I concede, “but the benefits outweigh the risks.”
How can that be? How can free-range chickens ever survive? There are several factors that work in their favor out here at our place. We have dogs that keep wildlife at bay. We also walk all over the farm, thus leaving our human scent as well. The horses play a big part too in keeping critters away. Though they can injure and even kill chickens as I wrote in a previous post, Faster than You Think—Ask the Chickens. It does not happen often. A healthy horse will defend his domain if feel threatened, or a ‘stranger’ shows up on their turf.
Free-range chickens are a benefit to everyone. They eat bugs which makes us all happy. I leave horse manure several days in the paddock to ‘cure’ a bit. Chickens peck through it eating the worms, thereby breaking the parasite cycle for the horses. Bonus! They also are my first composers. Manure has been beautifully broken down by their work.
Their hen house is in a stall in the barn. This also offers extra protection for them, and a plus for us as eggs are laid either in their house or feed buckets. Rarely is there need to have a daily egg hunt.
While this works here, it may not work at your place. Which does not really matter. I have seen beautiful hen houses and enclosures to keep them safe, all full of a bunch of happy hens!
So please do not feel bad if your chickens cannot be free-range. I am just answering the question of how it works for us.
No matter how chickens are kept, would you agree that they are fun and #chickensmakeuschuckle ?
Happy chicken farming!