Saturday, November 28, 2015

More Than Free Range, More Than a Chicken Run

Although I call my chooks 'free range', I have had people call me out on that because they are, in fact, enclosed (most of the time, but they do break out sometimes.)

According to the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand,
The key difference with free-range egg farming is the hens’ access to the outdoors.
The shelter provided may be fixed or portable, such as a shed, aviary, perchery or ark. In larger farms, flocks are housed in sheds fitted, which include nest boxes and perches, and birds are able to access the outdoors through pop-holes in the shed walls.
But my chooks live in a very different environment from commercial free range chickens. The following is just one picture of many that I found when I Googled 'free range chickens'.
It's certainly better than the conditions of the barn raised, or battery hens. And I'm not specifically criticizing Sunset Free Range Poultry, whose photo it is. But chickens were originally jungle fowl and that's why my chicken run is developing into a jungle. They do escape the run every so often, but rarely stray far and can easily be tempted back in with a little wheat or bread, as I discovered after a few years chasing them.

Our chicken run contains space and food for them, but also includes food for us.
So although you might not be able to see them clearly, against the back drop of bush, there is a grape vine on the fence, two avocado trees that grew up from food scraps, pear tree and apple trees. 
The nasturtiums are taking a break from being scratched up - I have a moveable fence as well as the main enclosure.
 Harekeke reaching over the the chook house roof.
 The ladies are slightly disappointed that I didn't bring down a second breakfast of scraps.
 But there's always something in among the harekeke roots.
 There's a fig tree there in the middle.
 An area of grass which has been seriously 'lumped' by constant scratching. The bunting is to scare away the harrier which was stealing the eggs - some of the chooks refuse to use the nesting boxes, preferring their homemade nest.
 Out in the movable fenced area there's tagasaste, and loquat and sugar cane....
 ....another pear tree and another fig...............
 And scented geranium under the two nashi trees.

They seem to like their home, and it's one of my favourite places, both beautiful and productive.


3 comments:

Farmer Liz said...

Now that is real free-ranging! Lucky chickens! We don't have anything as lush, but we do have trees in the paddock. We keep our chickens in tractors, but they usually are allowed to free-range during the day. I want to start a food-forest and the chickens will certainly be a part of that when its established enough to let them in. I find their scratching can be quite destructive for young plants. I bet they are helpful in controlling any bugs in your forest.

Cally said...

Yes, they can be destructive. So they aren't allowed in the veggie garden. Also, I find it helps to think of it as a food forest in a chicken run, rather than chickens in a food forest. Psychologically, that works way better for me!

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