Free Ranging Chickens are happy healthy chickens!
However, you also can’t just free range chickens without precautionary measures. You don’t want to lose your garden crops or ruin your flower bed. You also don’t want them laying eggs all over the place or predators getting them.
Here are some tips and chicken run ideas for free range chickens
Benefits to Free Range Chickens
So long as your vegetables and fruits are protected (see tips below) you can free range chickens in your backyard. There are numerous benefits to allowing them to roam such as:
- Weed Control
- Bug Control
- Reduced Feeding Costs
- Happier Chickens! They’re able to stretch their legs & use their foraging & scratching skills to enjoy some natural behavior
- They are truly free-range. Most ‘free range’ eggs from the grocery store have limited to no outdoor space and it’s become a sneaky labeling term
Tips for Free Ranging Chickens in the Garden
- It’s better for chickens to free range during the afternoon, after they’ve laid their eggs.
Otherwise you’ll be hunting for eggs like it’s Easter!
- Make sure they have plenty of shade and water access.
- Protect any baby seedlings or beds that have tasty veggies or fruits in with some chicken wire. I’ve seen people use pvc pipes over beds with chicken wire. By protecting your garden beds, the chickens free range in the paths instead.
Fall & Winter is a great time to free-range your chickens.
- Most of the veggies in the fall or late summer are large and can handle the trampling and scratching.
- It’s common for seedlings or direct seeded veggies to get scratched up. Because of this, you’ll need to protect the beds or use a chicken tractor.
- Be sure to make sure your chicken run is predator proof.
- If you have lots of veggies to protect, fence off that area of the garden & reserve it for after you’ve harvested. I love chicken garden designs that are sectioned off into 2 or 3 areas. Therefore, you can choose to free range depending on the time of the year.
Our chicken coop has 3 rotational chicken runs. Below is an example from a wonderful book ‘Groundbreaking Food Gardens’ by Niki Jabbour.
- Fall & Winter is a great time for the chickens to ‘clean house’ and scratch up all the weeds & seeds in the garden.
- If your garden is too complicated or large to protect from chickens consider building a chicken tractor that you can move around your garden.
- Supervise them the first few times. It’s common that you missed something and need to protect it.
Good observation allows you to know the chickens are happy & safe.
How to get chickens in & out of your garden
It’s common for chicken coops to be close to the garden or your free range areas. We designed our chicken coop and runs with a 3 pasture rotational system . If you have a fenced yard you can often convince chickens by shaking a grain bucket to follow you to the garden & back to the coop.
If not a chicken tractor is the best way to move chickens.
Source: Fix.com Blog
Here are some great books on gardening with chickens
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.