Pasturing and Free Ranging, Part 1

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There are well over 130 chickens in this pasture but only 7 or so are pecking at the supplemental feeders

There are a lot of terms thrown around when it comes to raising animals, especially chickens.  “Pasture raised” and “free range” are two of the more common phrases that people are hearing these days.  In a free range environment the hens exit their coop in the morning and have access to huge swaths of land.  They can roam wherever they want and they often do.  I tried free ranging at first and it was a beautiful sight, with chickens of all different colors dotting the landscape happily eating grass and bugs. However, living against over 15,000 acres of woods posed a problem. The forest is home to foxes, raccoons, possums, coyotes and bobcats.  Strange dogs can also show up out of nowhere, posing the same problem.  Over the course of a few months I noticed some of the girls never made it back home.  Sometimes I’d find a pile of feathers in the woods and other times they disappeared without a trace.  Not to mention they liked to sit on my porches, rocking chairs and cars where they would poop all over everything.

So I switched to pasture raising and if done properly, the chickens don’t mind the difference.  When the hens leave the movable coop in the morning they are still greeted with a fresh field on which to feed , the only difference being they are enclosed in a massive corral of portable electrified poultry netting. The hens don’t get shocked (feathers are a great insulator) but any predator that tries to bag a free lunch gets a nice jolt to remind them to stay away.  No animals are harmed by this, it’s just a quick bit of unpleasantness. IMG_2514

After a week or so of sitting in the same spot, the poultry netting is taken down and the truck gets backed-up to the coop. Right before dark all the birds instinctively head into their shelter to roost for the night and the coop is driven to a fresh field for another week of foraging.

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