Jeanine Gurley wrote:I eat eggs ONLY from 'backyard' chickens so I know what a good egg tastes like. Just recently I got some eggs from a friend who's hens live primarily in the woods. They do venture out in to the yard but tend to stay near the edge of the trees or deeper in the brush.
Those eggs were the best eggs I have ever had bar none! I don't know if it had anything to do with them living in the woods or not but it definitely got my attention and I will be thinking about that as my new chicks get older.
Deb Stephens wrote:I think our chickens have about the best possible world. They have a nice, secure hen house that they roost in at night (locked in against marauding racoons and opposums) and a very secure 1/4 acre main pen around that. It is full of mature trees and shrubs. Then, they have access to the 3 fenced acres where our goats roam from off one-side of their smaller enclosure. The goat herd has dwindled over the years from 15 to only 6 goats, so they do not come close to eating everything in there (plus I take them out to browse in the woods and glades for 2 hours each day to get more variety). The goat area is clear of small shrubs and smaller saplings so only the really huge trees (oak, hickory, elm, ash, a few cedars, etc.) grow there with lots of wildflowers and native grasses beneath. It has both shady and sunny areas, plus a nice patch of bare ground where the goats like to play and hang out, and the goat shed (with a hay feeder). The chickens can hide in the shrubbery and trees when hawks fly over (and boy do they know how to hightail it for the bushes!). they can get dust baths over in the goat play area; forage for young plants and bugs in the grassy areas under the trees; bask in the sunny places;, cool off in the shade; forage in the goat's hay and pick through the droppings for leftover bits of grain; lay eggs in the hen house nest boxes or in the goat shed (and sometimes under brushpiles!) and just generally stroll around clucking and cooing to one another. They are very happy chickens who lay fantastic eggs. In 20 years I think we have only lost about 4 chickens to predators, (and we abut a national forest just on the other side of the chicken house) a few to random injuries and illnesses, and had most of them live to ripe old ages between 12 and 18 before finally passing peacefully in their sleep. I think giving them plenty of diverse habitat -- securely fenced -- and then letting them choose what to do and where to go works best.
Tyler Kumakura wrote:
Hi Deb - this is very encouraging to hear. I have a similar sized area that is treed that I was considering letting some chickens range in. Did you use electronet fencing? Also, did you supplement with any additional feed or did they solely eat off of the land?
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