Most folks are going to be inclined to buy "free range" or "pasture raised" chicken or eggs, if they are available and reasonably priced. I think customers want their food animals to have good lives and humane care. We have had our chickens loose since we got our first flock. This is not as easy as it sounds to accomplish, though.
Our main problem has been keeping our birds safe from predators. They can be killed in an instant by everything from a visiting friend's dog to area coyotes, raccoon and fox. We have found a number of things help but we still have to start new flocks constantly to replace birds lost to predation.
Fencing has not been much help for us because we have the birds to eat fly and other insect pests and keep that population from pestering our cattle. We close up the birds that will go into the coops at night. Auracanas like to live in the trees though as long as it isn't snowing.
We have a blue heeler that will not leave our property but chases off predators. We also have donkeys in the cattle pastures as predator guards and they seem to keep the coyotes away from the farm in general pretty well.
We keep an old battery run transistor radio playing at night in the chicken coop, or all the time if attacks have been occurring during the day. We have owl and crow decoy birds up on fence posts.
The breeds that seem to stand up the best are the Auracana's becasue they fly well and are very smart, and the Heritage Breed Buckeyes. We have found keeping roosters with the flocks helps too. We have had several roosters killed defending their flocks including one gorgeous Golden Polish.
If you completely enclose your bird yard and then monitor it for fence holes and dig in areas you should be able to have the best of both worlds. This just doesn't work for us because we use the birds for integrated pest control.
Free range also means they range into my salad beds and into the garage to look for things like styrofoam- one of their favorite things to eat for some reason. So while I would never keep birds in boxes, some days it does seem like it would be a heck of a lot easier.
Posted by Cowmomma
@ 03:13 PM EST