What Is the True Definition of Free-Range Chicken?

by Cheryl Long

“Free range” refers to chickens being allowed to range freely outdoors where they can eat whatever grass, weed seeds, insects and worms they choose. This results in more nutritious eggs and meat for consumers, and more healthy, humane conditions for the birds. Some producers abuse this term and label their eggs as “free range” when in fact all they have done is open a door to allow their chickens to range in an outdoor area of bare dirt or concrete, with no pasture in sight.

Thus you need to confirm if your eggs or chicken comes from “true” or “pastured” or “grass-fed” free-range conditions. Also, some producers choose a modified system that involves keeping birds safe from predators by confining them in pens or inside electric fencing, and moving the pens frequently onto fresh pastures. Thus, pastured birds may be true free-range or penned, but either system is correctly referred to as “pastured.” And either system is a better choice than products that come from industrial factory farm conditions.

To learn a great deal more about all the terminology you might have to decipher on egg cartons these days (like “cage free” or “enhanced with omega-3s”), check out How to Decode Egg Cartons.

See also:  USDA definition

The United States Department of Agriculture offers this definition:

FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING: Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

But “allowing access” doesn’t mean much. A small door in a barn with thousands of chickens technically gives chickens an opportunity to go outside, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll have access to grass (it may only be a concrete slab). For chickens to produce the most healthful and flavorful eggs and meat, they need to be able to eat a variety of green plants, seeds and bugs. Unfortunately, you can’t tell how the chickens live by reading the package in a store. I’d encourage you to find a local farmer who raises poultry on pasture.

For more information on this subject, read Free Range vs. Pastured: Chickens and Eggs.

 Troy Griepentrog, associate editor

Source:Mother Earth News
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A Nifty Thrifty Brooder

A Brooder Doesn’t Need To Be Fancy – Just Functional

My brooder is nothing more than a cardboard box, 10ft long 3ft. wide, and 16′ high. If your box isn’t high enough you can easily attach additional cardboard to the sides using zip ties.

Duct tape and zip ties are my friend, be creative, you’ll be amazed what you can build with what was once considered junk in the garage or shed.

I found some leftover ceramic floor tiles in the garage and used them to line the bottom of the brooder. Newspaper on top of any flooring will help make cleanup easier.  Pine shaving are expensive so as an alternative I use shredded paper saved from my home shredder. However, for the first week I use only paper towels on the bottom so food sources are not confusing to the chicks.

I use a few bricks to build a platform in the center of the brooder where their feeder sets, and the same for the drinker in one corner of the brooder. Day old chicks will have no problem accessing their food and water sources if both are raised, this limits feed waste and helps keep the water clean.

Chicken wire simply laid over the top of the brooder will be sufficient in confining them. They have little interest in escaping, but can spook easily when disturbed by basic brooder chores, so better safe than sorry.

The heat lamp is best situated at one end of the brooder, it’s important to have sufficient space for your chicks to find their comfort zone. It’s a good idea to have a thermometer at both ends of the brooder, but if you watch your chicks behavior it’s quite obvious when they are cold or hot.

When they’re cold they will all huddle together under the heat lamp, when hot they’ll lie down holding their wings away from their body. Somewhere in between is where you want to keep your babies, just watch them, they’ll be quick to inform you of a problem.