Secret Sauce to Free Range Chicken Farming – Large Scale


Secret Sauce Free Range Chicken

There has been a resurgence of interest in free-range poultry farming in recent years in developed countries, as a result of welfare concerns associated with the farming of poultry under intensive conditions. For the “best positive welfare outcome”, birds should be free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, disease, fear and distress and able to express normal behaviors. Under free-range conditions, the birds show high vigor, a firm and strong feather coverage, warm red combs and wattles. Birds show typical signs of calmness and comfort, such as dust and solar bathing, stretching wings, and beak cleaning and preening.

Eggs and meat offered for sale as free-range are from flocks that are kept in the following conditions:

  1. The hens must have continuous daytime access to open-air runs.
  2. The ground to which hens have access must be mainly covered with vegetation.
  3. The maximum stocking should not exceed 1,000 birds/hectare (400 birds/acre or 1 bird/10 m2).

The interior of the building must conform to one of the following standards:

  1. Barn, where there is a minimum of 15 cm perch space per bird and a maximum stocking density of 25 birds/m2 in the building.
  2. Deep litter, where at least one-third of the floor area is covered with litter such as straw, wood shavings, sand or turf, and a sufficiently large part of the floor area is available to the hens for the collection of bird droppings.

The average commercial free-range flock consists of 1,000- 2,000 hens.

Consumers have the perception that free-range eggs are healthy and wholesome food, low in calories and saturated fats, high in protein and vitamins. Many consumers are prepared to pay an increased price for such a product because of the higher cost of production associated with the greater land area required increased labor output per bird, higher feed consumption, and poor economies of scale in grading, packaging, and distribution as compared to the cage industry.

HOUSING FOR FREE-RANGE POULTRY

1000 Hens on Pasture

Free-range farmers generally use either barns or aviaries for housing with access for the birds to the range through pop-holes. The free-range area can be accessed directly or via a walkway to the end of the shed to access paddocks, pastures. The pop-holes can be shut in the evening. Water is generally available outdoors. Alternatively, a single pop-hole with bars, to exclude foxes, may be left open to minimize the need for after-hours labor. To minimize the amount of dirt carried back into the sheds a number of farms have wire mesh grates in front of the pop-holes. Both fixed and mobile shedding are commonly used in free-range systems. The fixed sheds have a litter, perches, and nest boxes. Paddock rotation is not routinely practiced although some farms provide rotation by using electric fences. mobile sheds are used in some regions. These house 100-500 birds and stand on a moveable sled and are towed to positions around a paddock, pasture once or twice a week. Wire floors enable droppings to fertilize the area. These sheds are generally used by grain farmers between crops.

Chicken Pop Hole

Best Breeds for Free Range

The ideal free-range egg layer should have adequate body weight at the start of lay and good hen-housed egg production. More importantly, these birds should reproduce and survive under very harsh environmental conditions. Modern strains can be successfully raised in a free-range condition with a slightly reduced rate of lay during summer. Local breeds are inseparable from the rural scenario due to their adaptability under harsh environmental conditions. However, local breeds have low egg production and a slow growth rate. Apart from these limitations, there is a good market for both meat and eggs from local breeds.

Selection of the breeds that are more resistant to the disease is another important strategy for free-range production. Birds for free-range production should have a better feed conversion, strong plumage, and not susceptible to stress. The selection against insusceptibility to stress and feather pecking is part of a breeding program, requiring data recording and selection to be carried out in an environment that resembles the production environment as closely as possible to minimize the risk of selection errors due to genotype and environment interactions. To improve egg number, shell color, and strength, the proven testing procedures established for all commercial lines are used throughout and implemented in the selection process. Optimizing feed intake and egg mass output in the first third of the production cycle is the most critical trait combination in selecting birds for organic farming.

Raising 20,000 Hens on Pasture

Free – Range Poultry Management

The management of free-range birds is labor-intensive and very complex due to the uncontrolled environmental conditions and unpredictable diet composition. For example, the optimum temperature for a layer is 70 Degrees, 21°C, but it is impossible to maintain this optimum temperature under free-range conditions. Fluctuation in temperature often affects egg production of layers. As ambient temperature declines, feed intake increases as the free-range layer consumes more energy to maintain body temperature. It was also reported that in winter, for every 1°C fall in temperature from the optimum, a laying bird would need an extra 4.2 calories. However, in summer, especially under a Mediterranean environment,

high temperature is one of the key factors limiting free-range production. As temperature increases, egg weight and shell thickness are reduced due to a reduction in energy and protein intake.

Types of Free Range

Drinking-Water Temperature

                                             Water temperature for free-range birds should be monitored, particularly in hot weather. On free-range farms, hens should be provided cool water, particularly in hot weather. This can be achieved by regularly flushing the drinker lines, keeping incoming water lines out of direct sunlight, insulating water lines, and ensuring water storage tanks are shaded. A more expensive option is to install an external water-cooling unit to maintain incoming water below 86 Degrees, 30°C during heat waves, as water intake is reduced above this temperature.

If water is too hot, birds will drink less

, which will result in reduced feed intake, egg production, and poorer shell quality. During heat waves, birds may not be able to keep cool in the shelter. To overcome this problem – Foggers / Misters can be used in shaded areas or in trees. A free-range housing facility must be designed to ensure adequate airflow and temperature control at maximum stocking densities when birds cluster or perch at night or during extreme weather conditions. Orientation and spacing of buildings are another important consideration to reduce the overall heat load.

Nest Boxes

     In a small shelter, nest boxes need to be placed lower than the perches and in the darkest area of the shelter to attract the chickens to select their nest and discourage egg eating. Nest boxes should be above ground level to avoid floor-laid eggs.

Rotation

      The production of free-range poultry is constrained by disease due to the accumulation of parasites and other pathogens in the pasture, paddock, especially when the birds have been housed and forage in the same paddock for a long period. Currently, the recommendation to the free-range industry is to rotate the flock between pastures. This rotation system reduces the danger of endoparasites, including coccidiosis.

Some farms utilize one paddock at a time for a 12-week period before rotating to the next paddock.

Beak trimming

        Taking birds out of cages increases cannibalism. Although free-range systems enable greater freedom to express natural behavior, vices such as feather pecking, cannibalism, and mislaid eggs continue to be a problem in the free-range. Beak trimming is necessary to stop feather pecking and cannibalism under free-range conditions, especially when birds are overcrowded in the shelters. The use of plastic slats in the house reduces the risk of feather pecking.

Feeding Free Range Chickens

Under natural conditions the fowl’s diet is a very mixed one, comprising seeds, fruits, herbage, and invertebrates. The bird browses on the herbage and forages by scratching at the ground exposing small food items. Under free-range conditions, birds are capable of selecting a diet that is adequate for all their requirements. Birds have a great potential to consume weed seeds and pests, which would be of great benefit in a crop/animal rotation system. However, a factor which might contribute to poor performance is toxic plants and seeds on the range, which include vetch (Vicia benghalensis), canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), heliotrope (Heliotropium indicum) and ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis). Poultry should not be kept on land which has become contaminated with poisonous plants.

Natural Foods for Free Range Chickens

Insects They Love to EatInsects they will not eat
Earthworms

Elderbugs
GrasshoppersLady Bugs
GrasshoppersHoney Bees
AntsWasp
TerminatesBumble Bees
GrassesStink Bugs
Green Leafy
Berries
Hookworms
Larvae
Spiders
Scorpions
Beetles
Spiders
Grubs
Mealworms
Crickets
Ticks
Slugs
Mayflies
Parisite Eggs
Gnats
Cockroaches
Japanese beetles
Earwigs
Butterflies
Salamanders
Tiny Lizards
Tomatoe Worms
Cabbage Worms
Fleas
Pill Bugs
Amphids
Misquitos
Fly / Maggots
Fire Ants
Natural Foods for Free Range Chickens
Insects they will Eat
Insects they will not eat

Feeding chicks

            The utilization of fat is poor for chicks in the first week of age. The application of vegetable oils such as soybean or canola oil has limited value. The inclusion of palm oil and animals’ fats in the diet can limit the uptake of essential elements (e.g. Ca, P) and many of the trace elements due to the formation of insoluble soaps with minerals. The diet in the first few weeks should be palatable and rich in indigestible carbohydrates. Maize is a good source of carbohydrates. Grit should be available in the paddock to stimulate early gizzard development.

The growing stage

                        The energy level in the diet is critical during the post chick feeding stage, particularly in the period from ten weeks to the start of lay. Maintaining optimum stocking density is important to ensure that all birds have access to feeders and drinkers to avoid uneven growth. Low energy diets from 6 to 15 weeks should be avoided. The inclusion of enzymes in the free-range poultry ration could improve the energy utilization efficiency, especially when a large amount of fiber is consumed from foraging pastures.

Poor Nutrition in Free Range Flocks

This is a very critical period and many free-range flocks are held back by poor pre-lay nutrition. Calcium is important for the development of medullary bone, but only 2% is recommended for the pre-lay diet. It was found that increasing Ca to 3% in the pre-lay diet did not enhance bone development and an excessive amount of calcium can have a negative effect on feed intake. Oyster shell is a better Ca source than limestone granules because the rate of limestone going into solution is too rapid to maximize blood calcium levels over long periods.

Disease Control in Free Range Flocks

Mortality is high for free-range chickens in comparison with intensively housed birds, especially during the first 6 to 8 weeks of life. One of the major reasons for high mortality is a disease. Free-range chickens and their eggs are more likely to be infected by pathogens than caged birds and their eggs. These chickens are susceptible to the same metabolic diseases affecting intensively kept birds, but the environment can influence their severity and make the birds susceptible to syndromes rarely found in caged layers. Diseases can be transmitted to free-range chickens by old flocks, wild birds, drinking water in the pasture, paddock, and predators, and this is hard to control. To offer maximum protection to free-range birds, all relevant and available vaccines should be used. These include Infectious Bronchitis, Newcastle Disease, Egg Drop Syndrome (carried by wild ducks into water), Infectious Laryngotracheitis, Cholera (Pasteurella infection, carried by wild ducks), Coryza, Marek’s disease, Fowl Pox.

Other Modifications to Free Range Method

  1. the frequent rotation of the free-range birds before the buildup of parasites
  2. keeping the new birds separate from older ones
  3. rearing chicks in confinement for the first 8 weeks of age.

Types of Chicken Breeds

Chicken BreedsOriginMeat/ Layers / Dual PurposeFinished WeightEggs per WeekWeeks to Slaughter
Broilers
Canada/US/EuropeMeat3.3 lbs514 Weeks
Cornish crossesEnglandMeat6.5 - 8.5 lbs38 - 9 Weeks
Jersey GiantsUSAMeat ( Intended to replace Turkeys)13 lbs48 - 9 Months
Hertigage Breeds6 - 9 months
DelawareUSA DelawareDuo6.5 lbs4 - large8 Months
DorkingUnited KingdomDuo10 - 14 lbs5 - med5 Months
BuckeyeUSA OhioDuo6 - 9 lbs4 - med5 Months
Rhode Island RedUSA Rhode Island Duo6 b- 8 lbs5-65 Months
LeghornItalyEggs4 -5 lbs48 Months
Plymouth RockUSA - MassachusettsDuo7.5 lbs45 Months
SussexUnited KingdomDuo7 lbs4 - 5 - large5 Months
WyandotteCanadaDuo7 - 9 lbs5 Months
WelsummerNetherlandsDuo7 lbs4 / Week5 Months
HamburgUnited KingdomEggs7 lb4 - med9 weeks
Black AustralorpAustraliaDuo\3 - 5 lb5 - med5 months
Buff OrpingtonEngland Duo7 - 8 Lbs4 - 58 months
BrahmaMeat11 lbs3 - med5 monthss
Name of Breed
Origin
Meat Breeds
Laying Breeds
Dual Purpose Breeds
Cost to Raise 30 Free Range Chickens

Family Sized Chicken Farm Egg Calculator

Number of ChickensNumber of Eggs / DayNumber of Eggs / WeekNumber of Eggs / MonthNumber of Eggs / YearFamily Size$ Value = .30 / Egg
1.53.52416850.40
217283361100.80
31.510.542504151.20
4214566722201.60
52.517.570840252.00
63218410083302.40
73.524.5981176352.80
842811213444403.20
94.531.51261512453.60
1053514016805504.00
115.538.51541848554.40
1264216820166604.80
136.545.51822184655.20
1474919623528705.60
157.552.52102520756.00
2512.587.535042001260.00
502517570084002520.00
7537.50262.51050126003780.00
100503501400168005040.00
How Many Chickens Do I need to Provide Eggs For my Family
Per Day / Per Week / Per Month / Per Year / Dollar Value
Training Your Free Range Chickens

Rare Breed Chicken Farming

Rare BreedsCountry of OriginEggs/WeekAverage WeightPrice / Chicks
Black PenedesencaSpain3-44-5lbs$ 13.43
Black SumatraSumatra4 / Tinted in Color4lbs$ 4.56
AmeraucanaUnited States / Chile3 / 4 Blue5 lbs$ 4.25
Lavender OrpingtonEngland4 / 5 Brown 5 lbs$ 6.08
Partridge ChanteclerCanada3-5 / Brown7 lbs
WyandotteUnited States3 - 5 / Tinted Brown6 lbs$ 4.90
WelsummerWelsum Netherlands4 / Dark Brown5 lbs$ 5.95
Silver Grey DorkingUK / Roman8 lbs$ 5.95
Light BrahmaUnited States / ChinaBrown13 lbs$ 4.90
Silver Laced Cochin / ShanghaiChina5-6 / Brown6 lbs$ 4.90
White MaransMarans / France4 / Dark Brown5 lbs$ 6.08
DominiquesUnited States4 - 5 / Brown 7 lbs$ 4.90
Exchequer LeghornTuscany ItalyWhite5 lbs$ 4.25
Silver Spangled Appenzeller
Spitzhaubens
Switzerland54 lbs
Buff Brahma StandardShanghai ChinaBrown13 lbs$ 4.90
Silver Laced PolishPoland / Netherlands4-5 lbs$ 5.95
White Sultan / Fowls of the SultanTurkey2 - 3 / White 4-6 lbs$ 7.75
Mottled HoudanHoudan Paris FranceWhite4 - 5 lbs$ 7.75
Dong Tao / Dragon ChickenVietnam2/3$ 2500 -
Ayam CemaniIndonesia3 / Cream 5 lbs$ 50 - $ 2500
Onagadori / Honorable ChickenJapan$ 49.00
PolveraraItaly2 / 3
IxworthSussex UK4 / Cream
Naked Neck / Transylvanian Naked-Neck chickens.Transylvania5$ 4.25
CampaignBelgium7 / White5 lbs$ 7.75 / Golden
Deathlayer / German7 / White$ 99.00
Serama / Smallest Chicken in the WorldThailand.5 - 1 Lb$ 39.00
Silkie / SilkyChinese2 / Cream$ 5.75 / White $ 5.75 / Blue $ 5.75 / Buff
$ 5.75 / Black
Pricing is buying 1 Chick - Bulk gives better prices - they are also only available during a special date ranges

Chicken / Poultry Breeder Associations

Rabbit AssociationLocationLink
US Poultry & Egg AssociationUnited StatesUSPA
American Poultry AssociationCaliforniaAPA
Ohio Poultry AssociationOhioOPA
National Chicken CouncilUnited StatesNCC
British Poultry CouncilUnited KingdomBPCE
Poultry Club of Great BritainUnited KingdomPCGB
Association of Poultry Breeders in EUEuropeAVEC
Australian Chicken Meat Federation IncAustraliaACMF
Australian Poultry HubAustraliaPoultry Hub

Do Free Range Chickens Need a Run

Generally, Free Range Chickens are allowed to freely Roam Pastures and Paddocks. These usually have perimeter fences, so they are exposed to as much exercise they need as they forage for food in pasture. If your area is smaller, chickens will need a chicken run, but care must be given to monitoring whether the chickens are getting enough nutrients.

How Do You Handle Free Range Chickens

Free Range Chickens are Raised in Different, more natural Enviornments, than in intensive poultry farming.
1) Chicken Coop Provided – Night / Predator Protection
2) Pasture Rotation – to minimize parasites hurting your floc
3) Monitor so Chickens have proper nutrition
3) Nesting boxes so you can find eggs
4) Predator Protection – Dogs – Fences – Night Coops
5) Always have available water
6) Predator Protection from the air – Eagles, Hawks,Owls

What Should Free Range Chickens Eat

See Our Data Chart, But Free Range Chickens eat anything that crawls. Insects, caterpillars, worms, Bugs, Weeds, Grasses, Parisite larva and eggs.

Can I Let My Chickens Roam Free

Free Range Chickens are let to run and have freedom. Usually this is contained by a perimeter fence. Smaller farms just let chickens run and forage. They will return at night to whatever, coop you have set up.
Shutting them in at night for the following reasons.
1) You can Count
2) Gather Eggs
3) Protect from Night Predators
4) Check Chickens for wounds and diseases
5) Provide additional supplements – to top off their Foraging

Recent Content