You have become a proud chicken parent and love the antics and rewards of this poultry endeavor. You tend to your ladies providing them food and fresh water and in turn, they provide you with protein rich sustenance in the form of the healthiest eggs around. The more you watch them, the more you laugh, and it would be so much more entertaining if they weren’t in the coop but rather free to roam your yard or your property. Do know that, though this is the best option, there are a few considerations when free-ranging your chickens.
Easter Egg Hunt (with a twist)
So let me share this little tidbit with you. Often hens are not terribly picky about where they lay their eggs, especially if they are young or not of a broody heritage. They will lay in the grass, under the coop, or even in the middle of your yard. This is obviously not ideal when the main purpose of your poultry keeping is to gain eggs, either for your own consumption or to sell.
Honestly, who has time for a daily Easter egg hunt? You also battle spoilage of the eggs if you have no idea how long they have been out. Combating this problem is pretty simple really. Most hens will lay in the earlier part of the day; therefore keep your ladies “cooped up” until 1-2 pm before letting them free-range for the remainder of the day. This way when they lay, it is usually in their coop and you are spared the hunt.
Depending on where you live there are predators to consider. Often suburban dwelling backyard homesteaders have little more to concern themselves with than an occasional hawk or another flying predator that might swoop down for a large meal; however most backyards have enough obstacles to prevent swift getaways so they are less likely. If you live a bit further out and the space is wider this is a more valid concern for your flock. A simple fix is to either keep a rooster for protection or ensure that there are plenty of places for your hens to gain some duck-and- cover protection. For land predators keeping your flock locked up after dark is the best option, but beware if you forget to lock up your hens you may wake to tragedy from foxes, raccoons, weasels, minks and other hungry mammals.
Though allowing your ladies free range increases the nutritive value of your eggs and the antics for your entertainment, it can wreak havoc on your garden. If you garden it is very difficult to keep a free ranging hen from quickly delighting in your ruby red tomatoes and other delectables. One might think to just fence in the garden but a determined chicken is no match for even a 6-foot fence, unless it has a top to it. This consideration may be the most difficult of all, free range eggs or fresh grown veggies, it is a serious toss up, so beware of this pending problem.
Chickens enhance any homestead, be it in the backyard of suburbia or the plains of plenty. They are laughter inducing, egg producing wonders to behold. Free ranging them is ideal when you keep in mind these three simple considerations and when you make accommodations to account for the problems that can arise.