The benefits of Free-Range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by davemonkey, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

    394
    25
    108
    Nov 25, 2012
    Liberty, TX
    I know that not everyone can do it, but for those that have the option, I hope free-rangers will share the benefits of free-ranging their chickens.

    I'll start. So far I am realizing that I only have to feed my hens 1/4 what I'd feed them otherwise...and that's ONLY if I want tip-top egg production...and then they still somethimes don't eat all that is offered in a given day because they've filled their bellies in the yard. I'm also realizing that introducing chicks to a flock is MUCH easier that what many people seemed to have experienced. I've read lots of horror stories and warnings about what to watch for...and so far, I've had none of those negatives. The hens are too busy frolicking in the field to pay any mind to the newcomers, and too worn out at the end of the day (presumably) to fuss with them at night. (I hope this dosn't come back to bite me...it's only been 1 night together).

    Anyway, so far those are the benefits I'm seeing with free-range. Happy birds with full tummies, and my wallet doesn't hurt yet.

    Anyone else? :)
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    17,956
    2,628
    466
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    You can relax a little on feeding regimen as in skipping a day now and again. Feces is not as concentrated as it would be with a coop or even a run. Feces that is produced while on roost still can be collected for soil management. Birds can avoid heat stress by finding locations providing shade, breeze and access to cool ground. Such locations can vary with time of day, season and even how vegetation is doing. For me parasite management is much easier since birds are not as apt to consume items contaminated by their own feces. Birds can also be used to depress the abundance of some insects.

    To gain benefits on feed side you must be careful not to exceed the areas carrying capacity. Most folks seem to violate this tenant. Breed can be very important and just because a breed is considered to be able to thrive under free-range conditions does not make is so when selection over many generations has involved confinement. My American Dominiques come up short big time when compared to my games; the doms just don't get far away enough away from feeder.
     
  3. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

    394
    25
    108
    Nov 25, 2012
    Liberty, TX
    Thanks for the input centrarchid! Yes, definitely we have to keep in mind carrying capacity and breed disposition.

    Oh, just to double up on my point about being easier to introduce chicks to a flock. Another day and night together and the pecking order has been established and all are happy. To be fair, though, I have 2 areas they rotate in (22 total birds now), each at well over 500 sq. ft. per bird (including the newbies).
     
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,826
    1,499
    366
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Predators can find you. A good rooster will help, and as I have spent the summer trying to free range without a roo (the one I had was too mean) and feeding the local predator population I can attest to that.

    The feed advantage will depend on the season, the height of summer is best, in the dark days of winter here in the northern plains, they won't scavenge much.

    I think that the color of the bird, and how well they blend into the surroundings also has a large advantage or disadvantage with predators. I have a couple dominiques and hope to get a few more, they just disappear into the foilage. I have never had game birds.

    I do like them to get out, and have more space, but I have to lock mine up during the day, and until one of the rooster chicks gets bigger, mine are in pretty much lock down due to predators.

    Mrs k
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by