Remember, not so many years ago, when all we had to choose from when shopping for eggs was small, medium, large, and jumbo? Now throw into that mix, cage free, and free range, and antibiotic and hormone free? What does all that mean and which should you choose? You don’t have to worry about that when you raise your own farm fresh eggs.
My Rhode Island Reds are my older chickens, almost a year old and lay larger, browner eggs. The little lighter egg comes from my white hen, who has just started laying at about 5 months.
Chickens are turning up in back yards all over the country because people are concerned not only about the freshness of their food, but the growing practice, and how the animals are treated.
There is a lot of misconception about the terms cage-free and free-range and there is not a lot of regulation on how you can label them.Cage Free can mean the chickens can still be raised packed into barns or shelters without access to the outdoors. This is only different from being raised in the cramped conditions in cages that we are used to hearing about.
After watching my hens enjoying scratching in the yard, chasing bugs, and sneaking a blueberry off the bush, I can’t imagine eating an egg from the store. I don’t trust the labeling on the carton. Free range means they have access to out doors, but can be moved from space to space in large pens or tents. Still not what I prefer. They may still be packed in with little space, and confined to a limited area.
There are disadvantages to the homeowner when they allow their chickens to free range.
- Poop can be where you don’t want it. The drive-way and side walk.
- Scratching around plants, and getting in the garden. My hens can’t wait unit I spread new mulch. They wait behind me, and spread it everywhere after I am finished. I am constantly putting it back.
- Danger from predators. Hawks circling overhead can swoop down and pick up a small chicken, or a neighbors dog may attack the chickens.
- Dust baths in garden beds.
When I bought my hens as chicks this spring, the idea was to build a chicken tractor with WHEELS, that could be pulled with the truck to places throughout our property. Unfortunately, the wheels did not make it on due to various reasons. It’s built for 5 chickens, but I don’t think that is big enough to stay in all day while I am at work, so the free range is solution for now. Plans are to fence in the back of our property where the garden and beehives are and use that as their range. Another option that people often choose are building larger pens for their hens. Some pen their chickens during the day, and allow them out with supervised ranging. I think these are all good choices. As long as they have access to the outdoors.
Nothing taste better than eggs gathered daily from the garden. If your city or county allows chickens, and you have the space for them, can protect them, and can overlook some of the disadvantages of free ranging your chickens, I encourage to you keep chickens. They not only reward you with their eggs, but are a pleasure to watch, and can become a part of the family.
Once you start keeping chickens, it seems “chicken décor” starts creeping into your farmhouse décor. This old egg basket was picked up at the Country Living Fair in Nashville, Tennessee. The reproduction egg grader in this post was found at a local antique shop.