Free-Range Chickens? No Way!

| 6/2/2016 10:04:00 AM

Tags: chickens, poultry, fencing, raising livestock, Pacific Northwest, Oregon, Charlyn Ellis,


Facebook post: Should I let my chickens run freely through my garden? I really like the way they eat bugs while I am working.

At last count: 24 against, none in favor.

For the first few years, we allowed our chickens to free range the entire backyard, fencing off just the garden in full summer. It was charming. Two black-and-white Barred Rock hens roaming around, pecking in the dirt, finding a dust bath.

And then they discovered the back doorstep, or, as Mark calls it, the Big Coop. They spent comfortable hours there, chatting, digging through the sweepings, and pooping on the doormat. When they were not on the doorstep to the Big Coop, they were cruising under the picnic table, brushing again our bare legs looking for dinner crumbs. Again, charming, until George joined us on the table one evening and explored our plates for tidbits.

The entire backyard became a barefoot hazard zone. The last straw came, however, one spring day when I was gloating over the germination of my third planting out of carrots. They were tall and proud — and gone in one swoop of Myrtle’s  leg. I did not mind losing an occasional leaf of kale or a bean to a chicken — they needed greens, too — but those carrots: the last straw.

7/29/2016 8:56:44 AM

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You've have addressed my deepest concern regarding raising I have to free range them. Thank goodness no! I'm an avid gardener and am moving to a new home soon that has lovely gardens that I can't wait to get into. The property also has an area away from the gardens that would be perfect (in my mind) for chickens. They'd have plenty of their own space and I can even have my raise vegetable beds in a nearby fenced area. Everything I have been reading on chickens strongly encourages free ranging but I just couldn't get my head in agreement. All I kept visualizing was my beautiful gardens being shredded by curious hens and poop everywhere. Thank you for the sanity check!

7/9/2016 10:35:16 AM

I'm with you! And a lot of people have had similar experiences. You get this romantic notion that chickens wandering wherever they like is a good idea, and then they decide that sleeping in the rafters of the garage, right above your new car, is ideal. Sorta takes the shine out of the concept (and the paint). With livestock, even small livestock like chickens, you generally need to fence them in or fence them out.

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