Every beginner homesteader has been torn between free-range chickens and caged ones at the thought of introducing chickens to their farm.
To get the guesswork out of it, here is the up and downside to raring free-range chickens.
In this article:
The Pros and Cons of Raring Free Range Chickens
What Are the Pros of Raring Free-Range Chickens?
Insects and Pest Control
Free-ranging birds are exceptional at keeping bugs in control since they eat various types of insects. Besides feeding on crawly critters, chickens will also scratch through animal manure to feed on fly larvae.
Moreover, since chickens are natural hunters, they largely help deal with mice and even small snakes in your homesteaders. They are almost as efficient as barn cats, except that they only hunt during the day since they are blind in the dark.
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Saves You Money by Eating Less Feed
By roaming your homestead all day, your birds spend their day feeding on pasture, critters, and bugs. This naturally results in them eating way less feed than they would otherwise.
Birds will mostly come from roosting in the morning and eat a little chicken feed before foraging around your property. They will later come back in the evening for a few bites before heading to their posts to sleep.
Consequently, through roaming, the birds pick up small rocks, sand, and pebbles to help them breakdown the food they have consumed all day. This reduces the overall need for grit which also ends up saving you money.
Tip: Mix in your chicken feed any nutrients you’re worried your birds might not be getting during their forage.
More Active and Healthier Chickens
By roaming around your homestead all day, chickens get enough exercise to keep them fit and in the right weight. This way, even the bigger chicken breeds get to stay fit and have the right size.
Similarly, free-ranging helps keep your birds healthy by limiting the illnesses they would otherwise be exposed to in a coop setting. Since they are not living in closed quarters, you can easily pinpoint any sickly chicken and quarantine it.
Note: Since free-ranging makes it easier to catch sick chickens earlier before the illness spreads to the rest of the flock. This saves you from tossing too many eggs should medication call for this.
More Nutritious Eggs
Free-range chickens’ diet is diverse and comprises naturally foraged pasture and insects, which enriches their eggs. This is why nutritionists advise against overconsumption of free-range chicken eggs.
Less Coop Space
Coop-bound chickens that require a minimum of four-square feet of living space per bird and more in the run. But you can get away with a lot less space with free-range broods. This is because free-range birds only need the coop for eating feed, laying eggs, and sleeping.
One to two feet of roosting space with free-ranging birds is enough since they tend to clump together. Keep in mind that a two-foot roosting space is still too big unless you have huge chickens.
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Shade During Summer
Free chickens can find shade and the cool dirt under bushes to lounge in during the hot summer days to cool down their bodies. With caged chickens, you have to physically ensure that the coop and run areas are away from the sun.
What Are the Cons of Raring Free-Range Birds?
Predators are the biggest threat to free-ranging broods. They are easy prey coyotes, foxes, raccoons, or bears at night, depending on your geographical location. Things don’t get any better during the day because they are still easy targets to hawks, eagles, and even domestic pets.
Scratching and Dusting Messes
Chickens love scratching, and with the freedom, they will scratch your raised beds, seedling nurseries, and even your front yard. Talking of front yards, they will scratch and dig big holes, which they love dusting in.
Note: Dusting in the holes for hours only makes them bigger, making it even hard for grass to regrow.
In addition to scratching and dusting, birds also make big messes with their poop. Free-ranging means that they get to poop wherever they want, including your deck or even inside the house if they can sneak in.
Another downside is that you miss out on composting their manure and using it like liquid gold because it is spread all over your homestead and rarely where you want it.
With free birds, every day will feel like an Easter egg hunt because the larger the roaming space, the more difficult it will be to find the eggs. It gets even worse because the chickens are constantly changing the laying spot.
Rarely will chickens pass up on a free meal, even the meal is seedlings on a bed, flowers, or even potted plants. This will more often than not call for chicken-proofing these areas, which is an additional cost to any budget.
Exposure to Harmful Substances
Uncaged chickens are at a higher risk of ingesting harmful chemicals and foods compared to caged birds. Though some of these toxins may not directly affect the chickens, you do not want them to end up in the eggs you will consume.
Are Uncaged Chickens Better Than Caged Ones?
Whether uncaged chickens are better than caged ones is relative to your location and the resources you have. By considering the pros and cons of free-range chickens, you will be in a better position to decide which type of raring works for you best.
Tip: All you have to is figure out how to deal with the cons of the raring type that works best for you.
Watch this video by FLANK on keeping free range chickens:
There you go, homesteaders. Now that you know the up and downside of raring free-range chickens, you can better decide which type of raring works best for you. Remember, with a little creativity, you can easily minimize the cons of uncaged raring.
What other pros or cons can you can add to this list? Let us know in the comment section below!
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