When you first get chickens, one of the first questions you may ask yourself is “Should I let my chickens free range?” It’s a loaded question, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of all the options.
Most people either free range their chickens or keep them fenced or in a chicken run that’s attached to the chicken coop. You also have the option of using a chicken tractor.
Should I Let My Chickens Free Range?
Location, location location. When you free range chickens, location matters for a couple of different reasons.
Neighbors – Your chickens might visit your neighbors if they happen to be close enough. Will they mind?
Predators – My neighbor has chickens, with two large fields. There are not many hiding places for the chickens, such as under a porch, bushes, tree, etc… Her chickens are constantly being stalked by predatory birds and other animals.
Back on our land, our chickens have plenty of places to hide. Our property is set in the woods. There are plenty of bushes, trees, and even two big porches they love to hide under.
Grubs – Another benefit about free ranging your birds is that they’ll be able to scrounge up some grub. Not only is this good for their diet, but it’s also a great way to get automatically deal with some pesky business.
My girls love to eat ants. Here in Florida, if you don’t know, they can be a serious problem. They also love to eat ticks, mosquitos, cockroaches (thank goodness), and more!
They also love to eat my wild blueberries, blackberries, clover and more.
Mostly Free Range | Our Setup
We have two flocks, which take turns free ranging. We have dog kennel panels wrapped around the chicken coop, as seen below.
This is the horse trailer chicken coop that we built ourselves.
This is our truck topper chicken coop, that we made ourselves. This chicken coop doesn’t have those expensive dog panels, we have just have some galvanized fencing for this pen.
Obviously, we like pulling items out of the woods and give them purpose again. To see what they looked like before, click on those links to see a ton of before and after pictures!
Having fencing for both chicken coops is a good idea. There are some days when we need to keep the chickens locked up. Like when we want to mow, or when we are having company over, it’s good to keep them locked up where they won’t get run over.
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’s 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. Read more about taking a vacation when you have chickens.
- 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’s 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’ll go through more chicken feed. They’re 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!
- A compromise – 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.
- More room to roam – My fenced chickens still have a little access to a wild blueberry bush, plenty of bugs, and they have plenty of room to roam. This also helps keep chickens from constantly bugging each other in close quarters. With the pecking order, it’s just not great for chickens to be confined to a small area. You may see more injuries with chickens kept in a small chicken run.
A chicken tractor is a chicken coop on wheels basically.
- Moving daily – A con of using a chicken tractor is that you’ll 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 a 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’s 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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