Free-range chickens In the free-range system, chickens are free to roam the farm in search of food. Eggs are laid outside in simple nests and are mainly used to maintain chicken numbers. In many cases, up to 75% of the eggs have to be hatched because the mortality rate among baby chicks is high. Few eggs remain for consumption and the chickens themselves do not give much meat.
The advantages of this system are that little labor is needed and waste food can be used efficiently. Very low costs can offset low production levels so that keeping chickens around the house can be profitable if certain improvements are made.
The free-range system is most suitable if you have a lot of space, preferably covered with grass. At night, the chickens can be kept in any kind of shelter, as long as it is roomy, airy and clean. This will minimize the loss of chickens to illness or theft.
Advantages of the free-range system
Exercise in the open air keeps chickens healthy.
Feed, even if it is not well balanced, presents few problems.
Parasitic infections can be kept to a minimum if there is enough space.
Little or no labor input is needed.
The chickens help limit the amount of rubbish in a productive way.
The direct costs of the system are low.
Disadvantages of the free-range system
Free-range chickens are difficult to control.
The chickens, especially young chicks, are easy prey for predators.
Chickens may eat sown seed when looking for food.
A large percentage of the eggs can be lost if the laying hens are not accustomed to laying nests. Mortality rates are usually high.