Do chickens like to free range? That seems like such a simple question to me. In my experience as a backyard chicken keeper as well as growing up in a rural area, chickens like to free range. Have you ever seen a bird sunning themselves and thought they weren’t enjoying that moment? Dust bath anyone? What’s a yard without a couple chickens pecking and scratching about? At least, to my backyard chicken keeping mind, chickens like to be outdoors.
What brought this question on? Well, I was perusing twitter a little over a week ago and found a new hashtag. #ChickenSummit. Yay! In my mind, there should always be chicken summits. In fact, I attend our local Fowl Fest in Frankenmuth, MI every year. I grabbed a cup of coffee and settled in to see what this was all about. As I was going through some of the tweets and realized this was not at all what I was expecting. One tweet in particular stood out to me. It said “Guess what? Chickens like clean water and food in the henhouse. Free range scares them, too many foxes and diseases.” Well… this is news to me.
Chickens, of course, require clean water and food. How many of us chicken keepers have just gotten over the season of Frozen Waterers? We know that chickens not only like clean food and water, but that it is an essential part of raising chickens. However, when I open my coop door, my birds jump right out into their run or free range the backyard. There is no keeping them in. They may wander back inside now and then, but I am more likely to see them drinking from a water puddle and chasing each other for a tasty worm. I have yet to have my hens, just choose to stay in the coop, unless they were broody or it was snowing up a storm. Outside, scratching in the dirt, always wins.
So, the question I was asking myself, is do chickens like to free range? Short and sweet, my answer is yes. They are not so tormented by foxes and diseases that they choose to stay in their hen house. In fact, in my experience, they only settle back inside when the sun is beginning to set. Now, I am not an industrial farmer, nor am I feeding the world, but I am a backyard chicken keeper who is feeding my family and taking great care of my birds in the process. In my opinion, keeping chickens locked up inside their coop with no access to fresh air or dirt to scratch in, is not the choice a chicken would naturally choose to make.
What are your thoughts? Do Chickens like to free range? Is access to the outdoors, whether a covered run or your entire property, the way a chicken would choose to live?