For a long time I let my chickens free range in my backyard. It's a fenced in area, but not separate from the rest of the backyard. I loved having free range chickens roaming around my backyard and I stuck with it for ages. But it eventually it just wasn't working for me.
I got sick of the Chicken Poo which ends up everywhere. Chicken poo is not nice in any situation but especially with young kids running around on the grass. We had resorted to scooping up poo multiple times a day. But you can never get it all. My toddler became an expert in spotting "poooooo" and if there was any in the yard he would somehow always manage to step in it.
And I’ve lost count of how many vegetable gardens they have dug up over the years, despite my best efforts. Here is one of my very poor attempts at keeping the chickens out of my tomatoes.
My efforts did get better and actually has forced me to come up with some great ways of growing food with chickens, like these chicken proof tomatoes.
Chickens also love to dig holes in the grass and they flick bark and mulch everywhere. My tidy garden went out the window.
Any attempts to eat breakfast in my backyard ended with an inquisitive chicken on the table, trying to peck at my plate of food. And no amount of "shooing" would get rid of them, they are very persistent! It made bbq's with friends entertaining but challenging.
A few months ago I finally switched from free range to a fenced in chicken run - with some supervised free range time in the yard each day. It's 10 meters (30 foot) long and 2.5 meters wide (8 foot) and runs along the fence down one side of my house .
It's so much better!
It keeps the poop and mess contained. I can grow Vegetables and herbs in my backyard without having to worry about chickens. And it allows me to create a habitat especially suited for chickens.
I know I know - what took me so long?
I enjoyed looking out my window while eating breakfast and seeing my chickens roam around the backyard. I liked the chickens having access to the whole backyard, with more bugs and plants to eat. I liked the fertiliser they laid for me, on the grass and fruit trees. And I liked seeing my son play with our very friendly chickens. They are best buddies:
So there are pros and cons of a chicken run and free range. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
How do you keep your chickens? What has worked or not worked for you?