Chickens love to free-range, and many folks allow their chickens to roam freely around their yards, fields, and acreage to their heart’s content. Free-ranging a flock has plenty of benefits, including access to pasture and bugs, and helps to prevent issues that confined birds face. Sometimes, free-ranging flocks face issues that can be avoided. Here are a few tips to help make the experience better for the flock.
Know your predators. Be sure to check out which predators are in your area. Predators can attack from the ground or sky, and are out twenty-four hours a day. Consider supervised free-ranging. Consider predator deterrents, but accept the fact that free-ranging flocks will have losses to predators on occasion.
A Safe Place to Harbor. Free-ranging birds should have places to hide and seek shelter from the elements, predators, and any other perceived threats. Such places can be small nooks of branches, evergreen bushes, thick woods, and even man-made things such as pallets or farm equipment.
Foreign Objects. Chickens naturally peck at things out of curiosity. Sometimes small objects can be ingested and cause problems in the crop and digestive system of the chicken. It is a good idea to survey the area where your flock free-ranges from time to time. This includes picking up plastic pieces, nails, and other litter or garbage.
Long Grasses. Grasses longer than two to three inches long can get stuck and impacted in the chickens’ crops. Keep areas where the flocks are free-ranging mowed.
Body & Feet Inspections. Free-ranging flocks should regularly have their feet inspected for any injury and infectious issues such as bumblefoot. Chicken feet are susceptible to thorns, splinters, scrapes, wounds and other orthopedic injuries. It’s also a good idea to check their bodies over too- especially their combs and wattles. Keep a chicken first aid kit nearby.
Poisonous Plants. Some plants can be harmful to chickens, even ones that are safe for humans to consume. Try to remove or keep those plantings off limits for your flock.
Pesticides and Herbicides. Chemicals, whether synthetic or organic, can be potentially hazardous to your flock, or end up in their eggs that you eat. Take precautions found on the labeling, and when in doubt, don’t let your chickens out. If you would like more information on specific products used in your garden or yard, check out their Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).