Usually when I tell people that I pasture raise my chickens I get a variety of responses like "Don’t you worry about predators?" "You don’t lock them up at night? If they roam all over don’t they leave droppings all over?" "Where do they lay their eggs?"
The answers are really very simple. I do worry about predators. A lot. I have relieved some of that worry by putting a couple of Great Pyrenees to work on my farm as livestock guardians. They not only provide protection for our flock but keep strangers far, far away.
My daughter Olivia and our biggest Barred Rock hen Big Mama.
I don’t lock my chickens up at night. Instead I choose to let them roost where they please. Their favorite place to roost is on the back porch of the house where the dogs sleep. Since this is where they spend a lot of time, the amount of droppings can get a little crazy. In order to keep a little control over it, I lay a large amount of hay on the floor, which makes it much easier to clean up, especially after a good rain. This works well for me because when I clean off the back porch, the hay and the droppings go straight into my garden all winter long giving me plenty of compost for spring planting. During the spring when my garden is in use, it goes into a compost pile to age.
As for where they lay their eggs? They lay them everywhere. Literally everywhere. They get laid on the back porch, under rabbit hutches, in the ceilings of old outbuildings, in the back of my truck, under trees, in the dogs' house, in the middle of the yard and, sometimes I get lucky and they actually lay them in nest boxes. If I actually catch a hen laying her egg in a nest box I give her a special treat of meal worms.
This is a very non-traditional way to raise chickens today, but I enjoy it very much. It’s certainly not for everyone. What do you see as some other challenges raising chickens this way? Or benefits? I would love to hear your opinion.
My daughter Lili and the sweetest rooster you’ll ever meet, Big Boy.