Chickens/ Homesteading

Free Range Chickens: The Good, The Bad …

February 23, 2015 (Last Updated: October 11, 2020)

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We have a huge chicken coop….no I mean, a huge chicken palace.  There’s a nesting area with roosts, boxes and a window.  Then there’s a covered area with lots of roosting spots.  This is where we keep the grain and water.  Attached to this is a huge fenced yard.  We also have a separate yard that we can be accessed from the main nesting area. Chickens running in a snow covered yard. With all this, we still often open the main gates and let the chickens roam to their heart’s content.  The chickens love it when we open the gates.  For me….letting them free range has the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

The Good:

  •  I love watching them run around.  They are so funny to watch them nip at this blade of grass, scratch a little and peck in the soil for a little yummy morsel.  When they find a treat, the hens make this clucking sound letting the others know, “Hey, I found something!”  The others all come running.
  • Their yolks turn really deep yellow to orange color.  The more varied their diet, the deeper the color of their eggs.  I’m a believer of a variety of foods (for chickens and people) the healthier.
  • They are great gardeners!  The chickens love to scratch around the base of my established perennials and fruit trees.  Sometimes it looks like someone pulled all the weeds and it is freshly raked!
  • They leave little “presents” wherever they roam.  These presents help supplement the soil.

The Bad:   

  • We live in a very rural area.  Letting them roam means they are unprotected from predators.  Our dogs often keep other animals at bay, but we have lost more than a couple of chickens to coyotes, stray dogs, bear, and even crow (our younger chicks.)
  • If we keep them out for too many days in a row, they stop laying in their nesting boxes.  Instead they find a hidden nesting area and begin stashing their eggs.  We rarely find these hidden stashes and when we do we have no idea how long they’ve been there so we can’t keep the eggs.  Every once in a while a hen will appear with a new brood of chicks!  This is always fun, but I’d still rather have them lay in their nesting boxes in the coop!
  • While the chickens make great gardeners around established plants, they do horrible damage to a garden.Chickens laying in the sun with their wings spread out.

    It only takes a few minutes for a flock to destroy a row of lettuce.  Not only will they eat the whole plant, they will also dig up plants and throw dirt on anything around them.  I’ve been saddened more than once on a completely destroyed garden bed.  Usually once the garden goes in, we fence off the bed or we lock the chickens back up.


The Ugly:  There’s not a lot of ugly….but it does exist!

  • Our chickens don’t understand boundaries.  They love to come onto our back porch and sun bathe.


Chickens on the back porch next to a stack of wood.Unfortunately, they leave more “presents” on the porch too!  I’ve also found an egg or two on the porch.  It’s not an ideal nesting area, but it’s almost like they are so comfortable sunning themselves they just can’t be bothered to go find another place!

So this one isn’t because the chickens are free range.  But it is still UGLY….so I’ve included it!  Often when I do chores, I will gather the eggs in a bucket.  Sometimes I try to put them into my jacket pockets, or in my hoodie pocket.  I can carry quite a few this way.  However, if something were to happen…well a broken egg in my pocket is quite an ugly mess.

So what do I do?  When the garden is planted, I do keep the chickens locked up.  Sometimes I let them out in the evening.  They have just enough time to run about and they are so interested in searching quickly for bugs that they don’t nest on the porch, or dig up the garden.

They are only out for a couple of hours and when night falls they quickly return to their Chicken Palace.  During the summer when I don’t the chicken out, I often throw them weeds pulled from the garden or extra produce from the garden.


Three eggs in a straw nest.

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  • Reply
    Linda @ Today She Loves
    November 17, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Lol, little “presents”! I love reading your posts on chickens.

  • Reply
    K / Pure & Complex
    February 24, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    This is such a fun post. I absolutely loved viewing these photos of the chickens venturing out. Great post.

    Kay of Pure & Complex

    • Reply
      February 24, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    Lynn | The Road to Honey
    February 24, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Ha! Ha! What a cute post. I used to live in Nairobi where they would let the chickens roam about inside the house. . .so I totally get the no boundaries. What my hubby wouldn’t do for a flock of chickens like yours (he had them growing up). . .but we live in the city. no can do.

    • Reply
      February 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      Oh my….inside the house! We had one venture in our house once, and it was a near panic for us. No thank you! I have some boundaries I just have to set down!

  • Reply
    Lori from LL Farm
    February 24, 2015 at 5:58 am

    Great post Kathy. Your set up sounds really nice. I keep our ladies in a fenced area…we have foxes that are bit too daring. Our dog who helps to ‘protect’ them would most likely think they are toys if she could get to them. *Am now following you!*

    • Reply
      February 24, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      Thanks so much Lori! I appreciate it!!!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Kathy, I just loved this post! Your chickens remind me of my dogs! Well, my dogs don’t lay eggs, but the troubles? Yep. This was so interesting. I had no idea yolks could be so varied in color. Don’t fall or run into a wall with those eggs in your pockets! 🙂

    • Reply
      February 24, 2015 at 5:02 am

      Thanks Rachelle,
      The chickens certainly are fun. I’m trying to be more careful when I have a pocketful of eggs!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    February 23, 2015 at 6:37 am

    What a fun post! I’ve always wanted to have free-range chickens, but I’m not sure we have the right space for them. Plus, I think our dogs might get a little confused by the chickens running around in the backyard. Either way, thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      February 23, 2015 at 7:05 am

      Sometimes we have issues with our dogs too. Usually they just ignore the chickens, but other times they think, “Oh look, something to play with…”

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