If you are getting chickens soon there are so many things to think about! What is the difference between letting the chickens free range and keeping them in a chicken run? There are pros and cons to both of these options. You also have the options of a chicken tractor and simply fencing in your chickens. We will explore all of these options. So you can pick the best one for your girls, and guys. Another thing to think about is your location. Chickens will wander, from here to there. We live on about 5 acres. So our girls have plenty of room to roam without disturbing the neighbors.
Do you have any shelter for the birds to hide in during the day away from predators such as bushes or woods? They will be more subject to attacks during the day if they have nowhere to hide. Plus, they will need some shade during the heat of the day in the summer. Day predators will differ with your location. The most common day predators are hawks, and bobcats, and panthers. If you are worried about day predators they will be safer in a chicken run.
We have a chicken run that is amazing. My birds are mostly free range, but I do use the run during stormy weather. It is such a blessing to have in some situations.
It also is great to have if I know I am going to be gone for most of the day. I don’t have to worry about the birds free ranging while I am gone, they can happily hang out in the run. So after reading this post on whether you need a chicken run or not just remember they are always useful!
Chicken Run Pros
- Shelter from predators – Provides shelter against flying predators such as hawks. If you modify the chicken coop it could provide protection against other predators that can dig under a coop run to get to the chickens.
- Shelter from the sun – Some coops may provide a little bit of shelter from the sun, if there is a shady area. You could add a small tarp on top to provide a bit of shade. Just make sure they have access to the sun too. They need a good balance.
Also, check out this post from The Chicken Chick about the myth that if you free range your chickens and supervise them it will ward off predators. This is very important information!
- Vacations – Vacation may be a little easier. You will have to have someone come open and close the coop in the morning. Make sure they have food and water, and collect eggs. It may be easier for a friend to help with the chickens if they stay in the run.
- Garden – Your garden or any important plants will be safe! If the chickens are let loose they surely will eat up some of the stuff in the garden. They even ate my ferns! Ferns are some of my favorite plants! Ugg.
- Chicken Poop – The chicken poop will be contained. If you let those little stinkers loose they will surely poop on the porch and the steps and all of the places you don’t want or need poop, for that matter! No kidding!
Chicken Run Cons
- Pellet diet – They won’t get the benefit of having more variety in their diet. It is healthy for them to roam free, they get many vitamins and minerals from foraging bugs, and weeds!
- Less nutritious eggs – Unfortunately, a diet made up of mostly just chicken feed means that you will end up with eggs that may have less nutrients.
- No pest control – This also means that they won’t be eating all the bugs that they possibly can. I don’t know about you but I could use the chickens to help me cut the population of bugs down! We are outnumbered 67,977,997 to 5 here, lol!
- Poop – Being cooped up means being cooped up with their waste. Waste is gross and can cause problems, like sickness and disease. It will mean more cleaning too.
- More feed – You will go through more chicken feed. They are not roaming free and eating a ton of bugs, so more feed it is!
- Entertainment – They are much more entertaining when free ranging. I just love to watch them run and hop after a cricket!
- If you don’t want to use a chicken run primarily, and you don’t like the cons of free range you can use a compromise and fence them in an area you are more comfortable with. This will help keep them off the porch, and out of the garden beds. It is a great neutral for everyone, if you can do it.
- Moving daily – A con of using a chicken tractor is that you will need to pick it up and move it daily. Maybe a couple times a day depending on the size.
- Small – Chicken tractors are usually small. This means that you can only have small amount of birds in it. Great for people who only want to own 2 or 3 chickens!
- Not good in bad weather – Another problem with these is that it is not a great idea for bad weather. If there is a lot of heavy rain, it usually ends up just being a terrible mess.
- Not as strong as full sized coops – Since chicken tractors must be moved, they are also not very heavy. Thicker wood is stronger, thinner wood is weaker. You get the idea…
- Predator Protection – With chicken tractors not being as strong as a regular coop, it may be easier for predators to get in and nab your chickens!
Many people use them and love them, so really whatever you choose is fine as long as it works for you and your girls.
Our birds currently are free range. As long as they behave it will stay that way!
I hope that you found this post informative, if you have any questions or comment please let me know!
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