Free-Range Chicken Challenges

This farmer knew he wanted a healthy, happy, free-range chicken flock on his farm. Learn how to give them space and still keep their eggs and them safe.

  • After studying alternative, twentieth-century pasturing techniques for chickens, Pritchard came up with a method to give his flock protection and freedom.
    Photo by Fotolia/FiledIMAGE
  • “Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm” by Forrest Pritchard.
    Photo courtesy Lyons Press

A memoir, Gaining Ground (Lyons Press, 2013) follows Forrest Pritchard as he returns to the family farm and struggles to bring it back to life. Wishing to imitate to the pure and personal farming techniques of his grandparents, Pritchard learns the hard way what it takes to farm organically, live sustainably, and turn a profit while taking care of crops and livestock. Pritchard writes honestly about his life and his family in this book; he recounts his experiences, his trials and errors, and his personal hopes and fears about the important work to which he found himself called.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Gaining Ground.

As far back as I can remember, chickens have been in my life. It’s been a blessing, with occasional cursing.

When I was three years old, I recall playing in my grandmother’s henhouse, a solid, gray cinder block building that sat a few hundred feet from the front porch of her house. Though the coop had a human-size door, I was fascinated by a tiny, ground-level wooden opening built into the wall. This little door was no more than twelve inches square, big enough for two hens at a time to pass through on their way to their daily constitutionals. Watching them come and go, appearing and disappearing through this little dark hole in the wall, felt hypnotic. It was something akin to the cadence of counting sheep.

Lithe and flexible, I made this little opening my entrance as well. Inside, the floor was bedded with bright golden straw from wheat harvested on the farm. A dozen laying boxes were nailed along one wall, stuffed with clean pine shavings. Nearby, a rickety roost was engineered of rough sawmill lumber, a perfect perch for the twenty-five hens my grandmother kept.

A year later, when I could no longer contort my body through the tiny opening, she put me to work gathering eggs twice a day. Since there were never more than fifteen or twenty to gather at one time, I was given a small galvanized bucket she called her “tin pail.” This little bucket suited me perfectly, as it was directly proportionate to my five-year-old stature.

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6/30/2017 5:59:52 AM

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