Free Range Chicken farming
Rearing free range chickens as part of the off-grid lifestyle can be very rewarding.
Apart from being self-supportive with eggs and meat from your chicken husbandry, your free range chicken farming may also be expanded into a handy income source to support your off-grid lifestyle. There are even more benefits to rearing free range chickens …
Before we continue to the advantages of rearing free range chickens, a proper distinction needs to be made between free range chickens and organic chicken farming.
Free Range, opposed to Organic Free Range.
Free range is a term used to describe a livestock farming method where the animals, can roam freely outdoors, rather than being confined to an enclosure. If they are not allowed outside for 24 hours each day, then for at least part of the day.
Free range chickens are a flock that is allowed constant access to the outdoors. Though they need to be provided with shelter, they can roam free for most of the day. Free range chickens enjoy plenty of fresh vegetation, sunshine and outdoor exercise.
You need to decide if you want to raise and keep your birds free range or if you want to keep them as free range and organic.
There are many benefits of rearing free range chickens, but it takes a specific decision and method to keep them organic.
Organic free-range chicken, has a specific meaning to it.
Though most consumers believe that free range is organic, this not true.
Free range chickens are not necessarily organic birds, laying organic eggs.
Because chickens can roam free, it doesn’t mean it’s not fed supplements, antibiotics, or antiprotozoal agents.
Organic chickens must be raised organically immediately, but not later than two days after they hatch. They must always be fed certified organic feed. Organic feed does not include or contain animal by-products, antibiotics or genetically engineered grains. The feed may also not be grown, using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
The use of hormones in raising birds are prohibited, as well as the administering of drugs and antibiotics.
Organic birds must have access to the outdoors and allowed to roam freely.
Though organic chicken products have the benefit of serving a niche market, combined with the possibility of fetching higher prices for their produce, it may certainly pose challenges for the lay chicken keeper. It is therefore crucial to decide which farming strategy to follow, namely free range, or organic free range.
There is a specific niche market for free-range chicken products and there is also a different niche market for organic free-range chicken products.
The rest of this discussion will focus on non-organic, free range chickens.
Benefits of keeping free range chickens:
- In nature, chickens are “yard cleaners”
Free range chickens will eat seeds, grains, insects, worms, green plants and even flowers.
They will scratch in the ground and clean their living area from weeds, small seeds and tiny little insects, even fly-, mosquito- and other -larvae. These are rich in protein and minerals and adds to the health of the birds.
- As the chickens are exposed to a natural environment and natural foods, the feed cost of the flock is drastically reduced.
- One of the results of this “natural balanced diet” that free range chickens can follow, is that they produce healthier eggs for human consumption.
Free range eggs contains higher vitamin A and E content. It also has up to double the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and more nutrients compared to eggs from cage fed chickens. A visible difference is that the yolk of free range eggs is darker yellow than others.
- Free range chickens get the required amount of exercise. They roam about looking for food and get their required “gym” exercises by scratching the environment looking for those food specs that is barely visible with the naked eye.
- The natural environment to which free range chickens are exposed to contributes to stress free birds, compared to caged birds that gets so stressed that they and even opt to cannibalism. A natural stress free habitat for the birds contribute to the general health of the flock.
- The result of natural exercises is that the birds are healthy by nature. Their bone structure develops properly. Their muscles are strong. They eat a balanced diet of proteins and minerals and they produce firm, healthy and full flavor meat.
Good Food / Bad Food
As discussed earlier, the natural foods that chickens may find in your backyard are mostly good for them. These include green plants, wild seeds, worms and insects.
You will however need to add to the natural diet to ensure that your flock keep in good shape and health.
Add ordinary commercial chicken pellets or crumbs to their natural diet as required.
Dry chipped corn kernels are a favorite staple food for chickens
Oyster shell chips –is a valuable source of calcium for chickens and when added to the diet, it will result in stronger egg shells
Grit may benefit the chickens during periods when grains are scarce, but it does not really have nutritional value. It will only retain in the gut of the birds.
Fruit peels or scraps can serve as a treat to the birds and it may vary on the “boring” grit pebbles, grain and shell chips diet.
Chickens need access to clean, uncontaminated water 24/7
Beans, fresh or dried are bad for chickens.
Potatoes that turned green, green tomatoes & avocado are also a no go as chicken feed.
Any foodstuff that went moldy are bad for chickens.
In Closure, Take Heed of the following:
As with everything in life, chicken farming is not always moonshine and roses.
The saying goes; Every sport has its injury, but it remains fun.
- Chickens are prone to disease.
Infectious Bronchitis, Avian Flu, Infectious Sinusitis, Fowl Pox, Infectious Coryza (Croup) are five common diseases that you need to be aware of.
- Chickens are rather heat sensitive. They may collapse and even die during severe thermal conditions. They need proper shelter.
- Chicken feed attracts rodents and mice.
- Rodents and chicken eggs may attract snakes.
Therefore, always take precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of your precious birds 🙂
Thanks for reading this article. I trust that you found it informative.
Your comments will be appreciated. 🙂
Cobus vdM / https://offgridbasics.com