Free-range chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by lolita117, Mar 13, 2011.

  1. lolita117

    lolita117 Songster

    Mar 12, 2011
    Hestand, KY
    Hello everyone,

    I'm new to BYC, and plan on getting some chickens this week, and hopefully will get enough in the coming months to sells eggs. But I have a question about what free-range means. I'm an agriculture student so I've learn some on industry standard in poultry. I know there isn't a specific thing on what free-range is suppose to indicate but I do know what free-range isn't. Free-range is not a chicken that is kept in a small wire cage its entire egg laying life or a chicken that never get to go outside. And so here is my question, when/if I do get 15-25 chickens I planned on building a coop that is 12X18 (with a little storage area) and a 16X16 outside run that they will have access to every single day. Now from my calculations on what others have said on space requirements I have twice as much room as I actually need (which is what I want). Will I be able to consider these chicken free-range, when I sell my eggs?

    -I won't be able to decide if I can actually allow them to free-range, since I have 5 German Shepherds that have a very high prey drive. When the time comes, I may be able to let them out a couple of hours in the evening a couple of times a weeks. (We'll see when the time comes).
  2. ShadowRooster

    ShadowRooster Songster

    Mar 11, 2010
    claremont, NH
    "free range" means the chickens can go outside. That means they could have 1 foot a bird in and out and still be free-range. They have to be outside for 20 mins a day. This allows factory farms to say they have "free range" chickens.

    This is what I was told when I asked this. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011
  3. secuono

    secuono Songster

    May 29, 2010
    To me, free-range means just that...they have free range of the land. Anything less, I do not consider free-range. In a pen getting fresh air is still not free. Much better than in a cage or stuck in a barn, but not free. I think we should all come up with a new phrase for chickens with a run...enclosure-chickens, penned-chickens or yard-chickens...idk, lol.
  4. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I believe to call the eggs free range you would have to meet a legal requirement for the term. Have no idea what that might be.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    If I bought "free range" eggs from you, then came and saw your set-up, I'd feel cheated and you'd lose a customer.

    If you're selling eggs, emphasize what you have--happy hens with a large enclosure, good food, etc.
  6. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    When I get up in the morning I let my chickens out. They are free to range anywhere they choose on 80 acres. They come back to their coops to roost at night, to be locked up safe from nighttime predators.

    To me, that's free range.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011
  7. lolita117

    lolita117 Songster

    Mar 12, 2011
    Hestand, KY
    Quote:Industry standard does call that free-range just means that they have access to the outdoors for so much time a day (very little time). Some free range chickens in industry standards means they can actually stand up and move around their cage instead of having to sit all day, which is very horrible. I'll be giving my chickens paradise compared to that.
  8. lolita117

    lolita117 Songster

    Mar 12, 2011
    Hestand, KY
    Quote:Well like I said, when the time comes I'll be able to determine if I'll be able to let my chickens roam any. Which will probably be the case, at least a little bit. I would think a little bit is more than nothing plus they will have so much room in there coop and run they may never even want to walk outside. lol. But I think I should be able to call my chickens free-range if I let them out even a little bit each day (more and more as I can trust my dogs). All in due time. Thanks for your input.
  9. Peck Johnson

    Peck Johnson Chirping

    Feb 26, 2011
    Greene County NY
    The USDA does not have a standard for this kind of egg classification but the United Egg Producers has set up some guidelines.
    Although, I think that the determination that nutrients between all eggs is the same seems suspicious to me. It encourages people to believe that it is totally OK to support caged egg production in the interest of their constituents. I would love to see more thorough studies done.

    Classifications as per United Egg Producers:

    Many of our egg farmers have multiple systems for egg production and are able to provide their customers with eggs from modern production housing systems (cage), cage-free barns, free-range and organic systems. UEP Certified farmers believe in consumer choice.

    Modern Cage Production
    This method consists of placing the hens in wire cages with feed and water being provided to each cage. The birds are housed with several hens in each cage, with plenty of space for comfortable movement and easy access to food and water. The cages are arranged in rows which are placed on leg supports or suspended from the ceiling. Water is supplied by individual cup waterers or a long trough outside the cages that extends the length of the row of cages. The feed trough is also located outside the cages and runs parallel to the water trough on the opposite side of each cage and the hens are fed a balanced diet with just the right combination of nutrients to keep them healthy and productive. Housed in cages, birds seldom require medicine and are never fed hormones or steroids. The cages are designed so the eggs will roll out of the cage to a holding area by means of a slanted wire floor. Special tunnel ventilation produces a steady 10mph breeze for lots of fresh air, which fluffs the feathers and carries away body heat as well as manure smells.

    Cage-Free Production
    Cage-free birds are kept in large heated and air-cooled growing houses where they can roost and socialize freely, participating in their chicken behaviors and pecking orders, and laying their eggs in dark, quiet nests. Hens are required to have at least 1.3 square feet per bird floor space in the henhouse. Their eggs are gathered straight from the nest, placed in a cooler, and then processed. Because cage-free hens are allowed to roam free in the hen house, cage-free production is more labor-intensive and land-intensive which accounts for the higher price of eggs from cage-free hens.

    Organic Eggs
    Organic Eggs are produced by hens that receive a special diet and special treatment. The hens that lay the organic eggs are also cage-free birds, meaning they are free to roam throughout their henhouse − entering and leaving their nests at will. Hens are required to have at least 1.3 square feet per bird floor space in the henhouse. They also have access to the outdoors when seasonable appropriate. They eat only pesticide-free 100% organic feeds from the day of their birth; neither the hens nor their feed can be subjected to antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or herbicides. If access to pasture is not feasible, flocks must be fed sprouted grains or fresh plants or hay on a daily basis. Their eggs are gathered straight from the nest, placed in a cooler, and then processed.

    Cage-free hens are not housed in modern production systems. Usually, cage-free hens live on the floor of a barn or poultry house. The nutrient content of eggs from cage-free hens is the same as those from hens housed in modern production facilities with cages.

    Free-range eggs (or free-roaming) are eggs from hens that live outdoors or have access to the outdoors. Again, the nutrient content of these eggs is the same as those from hens housed in modern cage or cage-free systems.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011
  10. lolita117

    lolita117 Songster

    Mar 12, 2011
    Hestand, KY
    Thanks. Great info. Much appreciated.

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