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Free-Range vs Cooped Chickens

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Free-Range vs Cooped Chickens

So, free-range vs cooped chickens, which one will you prefer? By now you must be aware that they are two major options which are free-range and caged or cooped. In between, there are a handful of middle ground options that offer the best attributes of both worlds. 

The easiest decision to make when venturing into chicken keeping is where to raise your birds. I hereby give you two options to choose from; free-range and coops. But the final decision lies in your hands depending on your capability, location, and budget. 

Letting your birds roam freely is a hotly contested topic given that there are many factors to consider. Also, raising chickens in coops or cages comes with a share of tribulations and setbacks. This sounds like looking at the two sides of the coin before deciding which one is suitable for you. 

But before you make up your mind, it is wise to look at the advantages and disadvantages of allowing your birds to roam freely or confining them in a coop. Since we understand how difficult it is to make a final decision, we will help you get there in no time. Below are the pros and cons of free-range vs cooped chickens. 

Free-Range vs Cooped Chickens, which one is a Better Option?

Free Range Chickens

  • Advantages
    • free range chickensMany benefits come with free-range chickens as opposed to confining them in a coop. When you allow your birds to roam free, they get exposed to quite a lot of useful things. 
    • Chickens on a free-range get plenty of fresh air, food, and water. These three factors play a significant role in keeping your birds healthy, active and stress-free. Below are the beneficial aspect of free-range chickens that you need to know:
  • Free-range Chickens are Healthier
    • It doesn’t matter what you think about free-range chickens. The bottom line is that they are healthier and more lively than those under confinement. 
    • Foraging chickens are exposed to a well-rounded, balanced diet than those in cages. Free-ranging birds have a diverse diet comprising of grubs, bugs, grass, worms, and seeds. All these are favorite delicacies for your flock of free-range birds, thus making them healthier.
  • Free Range Chickens Lay Nutritious Eggs
    • Since your chickens spend their time foraging for bugs and other types of food, their eggs are nutritious. These types of food are full of nutrients and will make the eggs laid by free-ranging hens nutritious.
  • Free Range Chickens Consume Less Commercial Feed
    • For their well-rounded diet, free-ranging chickens require commercial feed. After spending the whole day eating bugs, greens, seeds, and insects in the field, your birds won’t eat much of commercial feed. Consequently, you will save a lot of money on commercial food for other projects. 
  • Free Range Chickens are Natural Pest Control
    • When on free-range chickens can become a natural pest control. This is because they feed on insects such as grubs, beetles, grasshoppers, and ticks among others. With your flock of birds foraging in your backyard, you can rest assured that they will reduce the number of pests.
  • Disadvantages
    • Even though free-ranging has positive attributes for you and your flock, it also comes with its share of problems. There are drawbacks and lots of negative points to consider when raising your birds on a free-range. Therefore, you need to be fully aware of the disadvantages of this option before deciding to adopt it. Here are the most common cons of free-range chickens:
  • Free-Range Chicken can Become a Menace to Your Garden
    • It is an undeniable fact that free-range birds eat less commercial feed, saving you some cash in the process. But the benefit of consuming less feed comes with its own cost. 
    • Besides foraging for delicious grass and tasty bugs, free-range birds can find your garden a rich source of food. Strawberries, ripe tomatoes, lettuce, squash or other garden plants are a favorite meal for your chickens. 
    • On top of feasting on these garden crops, chickens scratch the ground in search of edibles. Such activities can wreak havoc on vegetable seedlings and bulb flowers. This might cost you a fortune if you don’t take drastic measures at the right time. As such, you must protect your garden or other plants around your home before letting your birds loose.
  • Free Range Chickens are at Risk of Predators
    • Free-ranging birds are at greater risk from wild animals and birds of prey than chickens under confinement. Predators such as raccoons, coyotes, foxes and even dogs pose a threat to your free-range chickens. To ensure that safety their free-range area must be protected by fencing all round.
  • Free-Range Chicken love Bathing in the Dust
    • A dust bath is one of the favorite activities that free birds engage in the most. This kind of activity helps to control mites and lice in chickens. On the other hand, it creates large dusty holes around the yard. 
  • Free-Range Chicken Poop Everywhere
    • Free-range birds are fond of dropping their waste matter everywhere they go. It becomes difficult for you to keep their free-range area clean throughout. If you prefer using chicken manure in your compost pile, free-ranging is not the best option for you.
  • Free Range Chickens Make it Difficult to Collect Eggs
    • Unlike cooped chickens, free-range birds make it difficult to collect eggs. This is because they roam about and most likely lay almost anywhere. So, this is another task for you when it comes to collecting eggs.

Advantages Cooped Chickens

Coops play a critical role in confining chickens in one area throughout. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of the cooped chickens:

  • Increases Egg Production
    • Raising chickens in coops increases egg production. Unlike their free-range counterparts, these birds are confined in one place. So, they tend to lay eggs in one spot, making it easier for you to collect and account for the number of eggs produced. 
  • Quality Feeding
    • When chickens are in their coop throughout, it is easier to feed them than when they are left to roam. At least, you can ensure that each bird is well-fed and watered during the day. Simply put, cooped chickens give you an easy time to cater to their needs, making them healthier and happy. 
  • Cost of Labor is Low
    • Chicken coops reduce the cost of labor significantly. This is due to the fact that these structures help you organize your birds, saving you time and energy when checking on them. In fact, it becomes easier for you to provide for them, collect eggs and keep their living space clean
  • Less Food Wastage
    • Given that cooped chickens are confined, it becomes easy to control their feeding habits. This means you can provide them with the right quantity of food knowing that it will not go to waste. Instead of wasting food your cooped chickens will keep feeding on their portions throughout the day. 
  • Limited Space and Maximum Protection
    • Chicken coops require less space but can hold a large number of birds at once. That is the reason you should consider this method when raising your birds on a small piece of land. 
    • On top of that, coops will minimize the movement of your birds, thus avoiding conflict with your neighbors. Again your birds will stay safe from predators if you keep them in a well-constructed coop.

Disadvantages

  • More Commercial Feed
    • Since you are keeping your birds confined in their coops, you will have to provide them with commercial feed throughout. This will cost you a lot of money unlike when you let them free range. The cost of feeding your cooped chickens can drain your pockets and render this investment worthless. 
  • More Commitment
    • 400;”>Keeping chickens in a cage requires your attention from time to time.  This calls for your commitment to ensure that your birds are comfortable. They will need to be fed, their living area cleaned and constantly checking on them to ensure that they’re safe. 
  • More Stress among your Birds
    • The fact that your chickens are confined, they are likely to get stressed and become aggressive. You need to know that different breeds have different traits and aggression is one of them. This behavior leads to all kinds of problems such as establishing pecking order and cannibalism. To prevent such incidents, you will have to provide adequate space and other poultry facilities for every bird.

Related Questions

How do you ensure that your cooped chickens are fed on insects to balance their diet? You may provide them with insects such as mealy worms or bugs to supplement their diet. 

Is there any other alternative to raising chickens? Even though free-range vs cooped chickens are two major options of keeping chickens, there are other methods as well. These include the fenced yard and the mobile chicken tractors. These two options fall in between cooped and free-range chickens.

In Conclusion

When it comes to free-range vs cooked chickens, there are considerations to make when choosing either of them. Depending on your resources and preference, you can go for a free-range option or settle for cooped chickens. Any of these will serve you better

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