What is considered "Free Ranging"?


🌞East of the Sun and West of the Moon🌝
Sep 22, 2018
Bremerton, WA
My Coop
My Coop
I have my little flock of 8: 3 hens and 5 pullets "free ranging" in their run. The run is all dirt, amended with compost, and lots of stuffs. They scratch in it all day long and don't eat as much of their feed. They dig out nice big juicy worms and whatever bugs and stuff they like. If they are mostly doing this and not eating so much of their feed, is this considered free ranging? Or do they need more variety, more space and more grass in order to be called free ranging?
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Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
Free ranging inside a run is like camping in the living room under a blanket tent.

Free ranging is when chickens leave the safety and confinement of their run and range freely in a backyard or pasture with all the freedom to go where the spirit moves them and also the attendant dangers of predators. It's like going camping in the woods with bears and panthers lurking behind the trees instead of the safety of the living room under the blanket tent.


9 Years
Jul 18, 2013
Kalispell MT
Free ranging it not keeping them confined in a run. It is allowing them to roam around. I have done a modified version that is not true free ranging. The chickens were let out of their run but were confined in a large area surrounded by electric poultry netting.

Chickens do not need more area than what is available in their run as long as the run is large enough for the number of chickens you have. It is suggested that there be 10 square feet of area for each chicken. I think more space it better. I have 112 square feet of run area for 4 chickens. If you crowd too many chickens together in too small a space the chickens will get stressed. The result will be fewer eggs and more fighting.


Nov 1, 2019
I joke with my family that our birds are free range when we let them out of their run into the backyard. I think it's like what you said about them finding all the bugs they can so they're slightly more self sufficient, and having that extra yet relatively protected space gives them the feeling of being able to do more and be a little happier.
I've seen "free range" be used from not having chickens in cages to them out and about on their own with no protection like they were wild until they return to roost at night.


Free Ranging
5 Years
Jul 26, 2016
Connecticut, USA
I only let my hens free range for an hour before sunset daily, weather permitting. No barrier fence.
As soon as I let them out they eat grass, then they look for bugs and finally dig through leaves and dirt.
I lost my first chicken while foraging, to a Fox last month near sunset.
So three years without a loss.
I don't like losing a hen, but they do love foraging even if it's just an hour daily. 20200521_193956_resized.jpg . I now go out 15 minutes before sunset to supervise their return to the pen.



Jul 24, 2018
I've got 6 hens that live in a predator proof coop/run (coop is 4'x6', run is 10'x6'), I don't consider this free ranging, free run maybe?
The coop sits inside a 30'x50' fenced area that they get to "free range" in when I'm home. Would they go further on their own? Sure. Would my dog or the neighbours dog kill them? Absolutely.
This is best of both worlds. They get out enough that they can find bugs and satisfy their chicken desires. Locked up enough that they don't destroy all of the grass and plants.

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