Free Range Chicken Farming: Is There A Difference
Farming Is not so simple as it once was when the greatest generation were children. AS time has gone by, things change and that change has hit farming as well. Farming is not like you see it any more in the old movies or as your grandparents talk about. Specialization has hit the farming industry and now chickens are a part of that trend.
You have heard the terms free range chickens and free range chicken eggs but are not so sure what they mean or how they differ from organic chickens and eggs or even regular chicken farming. The term free range has hit the vocabulary of many health enthusiasts as the ultimate in eating healthy chickens and their eggs.
Is free range a better, healthier way to raise chickens? The following should answer your questions about free range chickens and free range eggs.
What Are Free Range Chickens?
Free range chickens are animals that are raised in a very stress free environment where they can freely get their food and sunlight requirements. These chickens are also kept anti-biotic free so that you know that you are getting 100% fresh, healthy chicken that has not been doctored by chemicals and processed feeds.
What Are Free Range Eggs?
These are eggs that are laid by those chickens who have been raised the free range way. They are fresh, chemical free and contain no harmful additives that come from other methods of raising chickens.
In a normal year a happy chicken will lay about 270 eggs or roughly 5 eggs per week, some free range chickens, about 900 of them, are laying 60 eggs in a week, so almost 1 per day. This statistic tells you that free range chickens are producing better than normal happy chickens.
What Is the Difference Between Free Range Chickens and Organic Chickens?
Technically, there is little difference between free range and organic chicken farming. True organic chicken farming is free range chicken farming. The free range chicken is an organically raised chicken.
The one difference is that organically raised chickens get a balanced diet with organic feed thrown in with their hunting for their own food. Their water is also given some juice additives like apple cider vinegar. Other than that there is very little difference between free range chickens and organically raised ones.
Unfortunately because organic chicken flocks can be huge, they are often cooped up in cages limiting their �free range’ to a very limited area. Free range chickens are as the term applies, free range which means they have little restriction applied to their wandering.
Operating a Free Range Chicken Farm
If you are an early morning person and not a night owl then this occupation would be perfect for you as you will have to get up very early in the morning, sometimes before dawn to start your chores on the farm.
There will be egg collection as most chickens lay an egg very early in the morning, long before 9 a.m. and most people’s first cup of coffee. They also start looking for food at an early hour so you need to be on your toes when running a chicken farm.
Because free range actually means free range these chickens do not have protection from the natural elements. You need to check your flock to make sure that the freezing cold, thunderstorm or heat has not thinned them out some. Free range chickens and their free range eggs are very vulnerable to the weather.
Even though these birds search for their own food, part of being a good free range chicken farmer is to give them a little feed to help balance out their diets. Then you have to watch out for those animals that also enjoy a good chicken dinner.
Foxes, hawks, raccoons and even other people’s dogs like to prey on the helpless chickens and get their daily meal from your flock. One suggestion is to keep them near you throughout the day so you can keep a good watchful eye on them. You might also want to train a dog or two to help in security issues for your flock.
You need to make sure that they are protected from these enemies. Also you would need to protect them from those predators that do their hunting at night. It really isn’t ruining the free range label off your chickens if you provide them a chicken coop to rest in at night. This will keep them from night time hunters as well as the cold night time weather.
Another problem for the free range chicken farmer is the amount of sunlight these chickens receive. A good laying hen needs about 16 hours of sunshine in order to lay her eggs.
When starting you free range farm the cheapest way to obtain your flock would be to purchase chicks from a hatchery but expect about a 1 to 2 per cent death rate due to problems you can’t stop. It is best to buy about 25% more chicks than you actually need to cover for these losses.
Probably the best age range to purchase your flock is when they are getting ready to enter their egg laying years. These birds are just under a year in age and they will save you the trouble of feeding chicks till they reach that period of their life.
The most costly method is to purchase older hens but they might bring disease with them.
We haven’t said too much about free range eggs as what is said about free range chickens can be said about them. They are healthier, fresh and there is always a market for the best eggs available.
Free range chicken farming, as we said earlier, is organic chicken farming. That is if you keep all the chemicals and antibiotics out of their feed. It is a tough life as you strive to protect your birds from their natural enemies and do not get to sleep in but the rewards would be worth it.
You and your chickens will get a lot of fresh air, sunshine and live a healthier life because of it. You will also have the pleasure of knowing that you are contributing to the healthy living of your fellow human beings.