Raising Free-range Chickens While in Quarantine
This is an article “Raising Free-range Chickens While in Quarantine” by Marc Primo
With the effect of the current health crisis on jobs and companies all over the world, more people have found other niches to try out and make a profit. One of the most lucrative ones while in quarantine that doesn’t really require a huge bulk from your savings is raising free-range poultry. In fact, Missouri-based Cackle Hatchery reported that business has doubled in year-on-year figures during the pandemic period.
If you have some ample space in your backyard, some range nets, shade, and coops, you can turn this simple venture into a full-blown business—all by letting nature take its course.
What is free-range poultry?
In lay man’s terms, free-ranging is the old school manner of raising chickens in your backyard. Not much farming technology or equipment is required in setting up your free-range space as long as your chickens can roam around freely during the day and are well-protected from the sun's heat, other wild animals, or insects.
But why would you want to raise chickens free-range?
Experts have long proven that hens who are raised in this traditional manner lay healthier and bigger eggs, they are better sources of protein than caged chickens, which means that they sell better in the market. Free-range chickens also have higher vitamins and proteins in their bodies and are mostly fat-free.
How to raise free-range chickens
Most poultry farmers prefer to do things organically because it’s way easier than modern farming systems. First, you’ll have to determine your free-range space and how many chickens you can fit into it. By standards, smaller chickens like the Bantam variety need at least 250 square feet per bird. This would avoid cramping and let them go around to forage for insects and organic feeds around the area.
While you’re at it, make sure your space has a good mix of soil, stone dust, grass, and leaves for them to roam on and set up waterings so they don’t become thirsty under the hot sun.
Aside from a free-range space, you’ll also need to install a fencing to keep your chickens in and predators out. Range nets are perfect for this which are made of durable polynets in either green or black. Determine the mesh size you’ll need according to your chicken’s age. Start with a half inch mesh for week-old birds and up to two-inch holes for chickens two months old and above.
After building a fence, install a coop or run area where your chickens can stay during the nighttime that measures 16 square feet per four birds. But as a rule of thumb, the bigger the space for your chickens, the better. Some farmers even house their chickens in 10 square feet coops per bird.
Lighting is another important equipment you’ll need for your free-range chickens. Too much heat can dehydrate or even give your birds heat stroke during hot days, but cooler weather won’t do them any good either. Keeping them warm with the ideal temperature of ten to twenty degrees Celsius by using a light bulb will give them a comfortable living environment.
Taking care of your chickens
Even if you are already providing your chickens ample protection from external factors like predators and temperatures, you’ll still need to give them the proper vaccines especially for New Castle Disease after a week from hatching, and other immunization for parasitic diseases.
For feeds, mix rice, corn, copra, taro, and some horseradish into their diet for proper nutrition. To give them some treats, grow some fruit-bearing plants or trees in your free-range space which they can feed from while roaming. When your chickens have grown to six months, you can give them commercial feeds for maintenance.