A free range chicken farm allows its chickens to roam freely outside, instead of being confined to a barn. Raising chickens outside is more difficult than raising them inside because of the risk of predation and escape. You will have to make sure the coop and the outside area are adequate for your chickens to live in. The chickens will also need water and feed as well as protection against the elements and predation.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Poultry feeder
- Poultry waterer
- Straw/wood shavings
- OSB sheeting
- Electric fence
- Animal-proof door lock
Build, buy or convert a building to a coop. Make it so that each chicken has 0.2 m quared (2 square feet) of surface area. If you want to have 50 chickens, your coop needs to be 10 m squared (100 square) feet.
Use 2.5 cm (1 inch) branches, 2.5 by 2.5 cm (1 by 1 inch) lumber or other scraps of wood to make perches, counting one linear foot of perch per chicken. Make them at different heights and lengths.
Install an auto feeder and auto waterer inside the coop. Put the waterer next to the door to make it easier for the chickens to drink.
Spread straw or wood shavings on the floor to absorb droppings.
Use plywood to build nests of approximately 40 by 40 by 40 cm (16 by 16 by 16 inches). Hang them on the wall about 60 cm (2 feet) from the floor. Put straw and a wooden egg inside to show the chickens where to lay.
Use plywood or roofing materials to build protective shelters in the field. Make them 90 cm (3 feet) high and slanted to avoid standing water. The shelter will be used when it rains and when the chickens see birds of prey.
Hang 22 litres (5 gallon) water buckets under the shelter and put feeders in.
Use electric fences to enclose the free range area to avoid predators. The chickens will stay next to their shelter and food.
Open the door of the coop every morning and leave it open all day long so the chickens can choose to be inside or outside.
Get inside the coop and check for death, injury or illness. Check for water leaks when it rains. If the coop has a window, open it during the day to renew the air. Check the amount of feed present in the feeder, and top it off if necessary.
Fill the waterer(s) with fresh water. Clean the waterer every week or so. Do not leave spoiled water in the waterers.
Bring all the chickens back into the coop at night, and close the door with a foolproof lock.
Tips and warnings
- Do not put a half door on the coop. You will most likely have to haul 22.7kg. bags of feed regularly and will need to clean the coop out consistently.
- If you have layers, install a small light in the coop on a timer. Program that light to turn on early in the morning and in the afternoon to provide the chickens with 12 hours of light to continue full egg production.
- Make sure opening the window will not create too much of a draft because chickens can be sensitive to wind or drafts of cool air, which may result in illness.
- Raccoons and other predators can easily open an unsecured door.
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