Last year, we decided that we wanted to let our chickens free range. The benefits of doing this were largely two-fold: the birds and their eggs would be healthier, and we would have to feed them less. We had tried to expand the fences, but our growing flock (we currently have 39 laying hens) would quickly devour any area we gave them. It was a dream of ours to give them an area big enough that they could never eat all of the weeds, grass, and bugs at their disposal.
We all agreed that the farm feel of having chickens wandering around was desirable, but there were obstacles. We did not want the birds getting into our gardens, and we would have to live with the danger of the birds getting attacked by a fox, coyote, dog, hawk, or various other predator.
Our solution was to build a fence that blocks the back of our property from the front. Since the gardens are in the front, the birds would have free reign of the back. We crossed our fingers (and still have them crossed) that our flock would not be decimated, and we felt that losing a bird here or there would be worth it to us.
It took us longer than we anticipated. First our time got monopolized by building the goat barn and acquiring the goats. Then we had to try and catch up on the garden. But we finally built our fence! And now we get to see the chickens scratching around, enjoying more bugs, weeds, and green grass than they could have imagined a couple of weeks ago.
We do eventually hope to put a fence around the back of our property, providing more safety for the chickens while still giving them more area to roam around in than they could ever keep up with. However, that will be a large undertaking and may not happen this year (I haven’t entirely given up on it yet though).
So now our chickens are free to roam and eat whatever their hearts desire. It does my heart well to see them enjoying their lives thus, and it does my heart well to eat their eggs, too. This Mother Earth News article shows that hens on pasture have 1/3 the amount of cholesterol, 1/4 the amount of saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene.
We do currently have these eggs available for local pickup. They are $3/dozen, or you can prepay $20 for 8 dozen and pick them up as you need them. Click here to order. We also have meat chickens raised on pasture available to order. The first batch of them will be ready in roughly two weeks.