Free Ranging Chickens

Free ranging chickens are chickens not confined to a pen or a fenced area. They are basically “free roaming” because they are not confined to a certain area.

When I was growing up my father had a flock of free ranging Game chickens. They roamed anywhere they pleased (we lived out in the country), so they had a pretty big area to range in.

There was an old Magnolia tree in our backyard and every day late in the afternoon they would gather around and fly up into the tree to roost. They would spend the day foraging in our yard and in the woods surrounding our house looking for food. My daddy fed them what we called “chicken scratch”, a bagged food, but they foraged for their own food as well.

They also laid their eggs wherever they pleased. Even though they had wooden nesting boxes around our yard, they didn’t lay all of their eggs in the boxes.

I remember many times when a predator caught a nest unguarded and all that was left of the hatching eggs in the nest were empty shells. 

I think Daddy raised Game chickens this way because of the way he was brought up. In those days people had chickens and livestock for their main food source. Trust me, Game chickens are not the best choice for either their meat or eggs.

Daddy also had White Leghorn chickens at one time as well as Rhode Island Reds. Both are a much better choice for meat and egg production.

Free ranging chickens are only an option if you have a large enough area for them to range and not be a nuisance to your neighbors. Chickens love to scratch and peck, and are prone to wreak havoc in  gardens and flower beds. Your neighbors may not take kindly to your flock destroying their flower garden.

Cattle are a perfect example of free ranging animals. Calves are raised on open pasture for the first few months of their lives. When the calves that will be taken to market are old enough, they are taken to a stockyard to be sold.  After the sale they are then trucked to feedlots to fatten up in order to reach the desired weight for slaughter. They no longer have the open spaces to graze in. They are fed from feed troughs and are confined to a limited space. In today’s world the feed they eat brings them up to a much higher weight more quickly.  When they reach the desired weight, they are shipped to a slaughterhouse.

Chickens that are free ranging will be leaner than those kept in confinement. But free ranging chickens are healthier than those kept in pens. Mother Nature never intended for chickens, or other farm animals, to be confined.

Chickens allowed to roam free are doing exactly what nature intended. They are feeding on the foods they were meant to eat. No pre-packaged feed laced with antibiotics or steroids. Only natural food that their instinct tells them to eat.

But free ranging chickens are constantly in danger. Chickens and their eggs have many natural enemies. Fox, hawks, dogs, mink, snakes, and other birds and animals  are all natural enemies of chickens. Chickens represent an easy meal to fox, hawks,coyotes,and other animals. Their eggs are a delicasy to crows, dogs, raccoons, fox and snakes.

Raising chickens is a fun hobby and has many benefits. Besides the eggs and meat the birds provide, there is a certain satisfaction of just watching them scratch and peck in your yard. Free ranging chickens are in some respects the ultimate way to get back to a more natural lifestyle and start enjoying the natural world around you.

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