When keeping hens in a free-range system it is important to make the most of what the system has to offer. It is vital to get the birds utilising the range to satisfy their normal foraging behaviour. Injurious pecking is very rarely seen out on the range and additionally the hens have the opportunity to supplement their diet with what they can find outside. There is good evidence to suggest that flocks which range well with many birds outside using all areas of the range have better feather cover. There are many ways to make the range more attractive to the hens and help encourage them out and about. Click on the links below to find out how >>>
The design and layout of the house is important for social dynamics and normal behaviour. Hens need refuge from bullies and easy access in and out of popholes. To reduce the risk of keel fractures, access between levels needs to be easy with nothing in the way of landing. Try to avoid birds competing for resources and allow plenty of space for the birds. Verandas offer many benefits to a free range system and can be simply constructed from inexpensive materials. A halfway house between the litter areas and the range gives pullets in particular the opportunity to get used to brighter conditions and cooler air before going out on the range. Verandas also help shield the house from the wind and rain and keep the litter inside the house dry.