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Chickens are known as the “gateway animals” in homesteading. So, you get a few baby chicks and then they get big. What do you do with them now? “To free-range or not to free-range?” That is the big question.

We’ve been raising free-range chickens for many years. In that time we’ve learned quite a few things about it. While I prefer the free-range method (because raising pastured poultry is important to us), I know it is not for everyone.

Don’t feel bad if you decide not to have free-ranging chickens. It just might not be a good option for you. If you have a small property, live in a neighborhood, have a lot of predators, or any other reason it’s ok to raise them confined. Just be sure that they have enough space for them to stretch their legs and scratch around.

Another great option for free-ranging chickens while keeping them secure is a mobile coop or chicken tractor. This gives you the ability to move them as needed and keep them safe all at the same time. The benefits of free-range and the security of confinement. Best of both worlds!

Free-Range Rooster- Pros and Cons of Free-Ranging Chickens

The Pros of Free-Ranging Chickens

Broader Diet

Free-range chickens are able to forage for bugs, grass, and herbs. They will have a much more diverse diet than when raised in confinement. This makes them happy and healthy birds!

Fewer Feed Costs

Because the chickens are foraging, this will supplement some of their feed. You will still need to give them chicken feed but the amount will be greatly reduced by free-ranging. Saving money and cutting costs is always a good thing in life!

Free-Ranging Chickens are Fun to Watch 

One of my favorite things to do is sit outside and watch my chickens roam around. They’re very entertaining creatures. If you’ve never watched chickens fight over a worm or two roosters show each other who is the boss, you’re missing out on a lot of fun entertainment!

Richer Eggs 

When you crack an egg from a free-ranging chicken and compare it to a store-bought or confined chicken egg, there is a noticeable difference in the color of the yolks. The free-range egg yolks are a much deeper yellow (sometimes even orange) and are full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. I think they taste much better too!

Free-Ranging Chickens Have Healthier Meat

When chickens free-range, they tend to have a healthier and more natural diet. They are also more active and exposed to more sunlight than their confined counterparts. In my personal opinion, I believe this results in healthier eggs and meat for the consumer.

Free-Ranging Chicken in the Snow - The Pros and Cons of Free-Ranging Chickens

More Exercise for Free-Ranging Chickens

As I said, free-range chickens are more active. We all know that exercise is better for all creatures big and small, human or otherwise. You may also find yourself getting exercise in the case of trying to catch your free-range chickens. Those jokers are fast!

Coop and Run Stay Cleaner

When your chickens spend the majority of their time out and about, they aren’t in the run and coop to dirty it up as much. You still need to clean them on a regular basis to keep your chickens healthy but much less frequently than when confined.

Fewer Flies

When the coop stays cleaner and there is less chicken mess concentrated in one spot, it is less attractive to flies and you’ll have fewer pests on the farm.

If you raise other types of livestock, free-ranging chickens may even find their manure and scratch through it making it less attractive to flies to lay their eggs in. But if they do, the chickens will find the larvae and eat them. Fewer flies on the homestead is always a good thing!

Compost

Remember all of the chicken poop and bedding you cleaned from the coop? Throw that stuff into a heap and you’ve got a compost pile in the making. Chicken waste needs to break down for a year to reduce the excess nitrogen (this can burn your plants) but once that stuff is aged, it’s an amazing additive to your garden soil.

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