Free Range Chickens

When I embarked upon this chicken-keeping venture last year I fully intended to let them free-range in my yard.  It’s so much better for them to forage for food and have the freedom to run around and pursue their chicken community interactions, instead of being (literally) cooped up.

Cooped up chickens

Please Let us out!

Unfortunately, they are terribly destructive to my garden, scratching around and uprooting my treasured (and in some cases, expensive) plants.  They have absolutely no regard for all my hard work in the garden, happily rooting around wherever they please.  My carefully prepared seedbeds are perfect for an invigorating dust bath; all that lovely soft, loose soil!

Free range chickens

Free range chickens trashing the garden

Sadly, this bad behaviour has resulted in my keeping them locked up in their coop, although I feel guilty about it.  No matter how many buckets of insect-laden weeds I dump in there for poultry entertainment, I know it’s a poor substitute for the freedom to forage.

One day, while I was pondering this problem, genius struck!  Okay, maybe not quite genius, but a darn good idea – behind my yard is a greenspace, with no garden, where chickens could free-range to their hearts’ content.  If I had a door in my fence I could let them out and not sustain damage to my garden.  Hmmmmm, this sounds like a project for my handy man.

Free range chicken door

Chicken door to freedom

No, I don’t have a handyman, but my husband is pretty handy AND very supportive.  Plus he really enjoys fresh eggs, and happy hens lay more eggs.  So with a minimum of grumbling he built me a lovely, sturdy, predator-proof chicken door to freedom.

Free range chickens

What's this then?

My hens are so happy, now that they get outside regularly to forage and run around, and I’m so happy, because my garden isn’t getting trashed by my chickens.  I think my husband is happy too – it was a relatively simple construction project, unlike some of the things I’ve dreamed up (like building a henhouse from a bunk bed).

Free range chickens

Woohoo! Freedom!

Some of the new chickens have ventured outside too; the Buff Orpington trio, who are fast approaching the size of my adult hens, have discovered the joys of free-ranging.  So far, the little Silver Laced Wyandottes haven’t made it outside yet, but I’m sure they will.

Free range chicks

Can we come out too?

Free range chicks

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About hortophile

I am a very opinionated, slightly obsessed gardener with decades of experience in the retail nursery industry. A lucky resident of the "Wet Coast" of British Columbia I tread a muddy path between practicality and beauty, with my veggie patch, herb garden and fruits vying for position with the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers that I can't resist. DON'T ask me to choose between them! I believe in environmental responsibility and common sense.
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8 Responses to Free Range Chickens

  1. Bibliopharm says:

    Congrats on a very creative solution… you must have some very happy hens!

    • hortophile says:

      Well considering the five hens that are old enough to lay are consistently giving me 5 eggs a day – 8 days out of ten at least – I’d say they’re pretty happy!

  2. Ruth says:

    Good solution. I never thought I would find anything in common between cats and chickens but I just did – they both love digging around where you don’t want them to!

  3. barb19 says:

    A brilliant solution for the chickens – you keep your garden the way you want it, and the chickens get their freedom to scratch around to their hearts content – everyone is happy!

  4. Good for your not giving up on how to make it work.

  5. As Barb says a brilliant solution. Win win for you and your garden, and a win for the chickens who want to forage and scratch around. I am fascinated by chickens :)

    • hortophile says:

      Chickens are pretty entertaining creatures. I’m pleased to report that my adventures in chicken keeping have inspired two other families (that I know of) to begin keeping hens for eggs!

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