People express a fair amount of surprise when I mention that I free-range my broiler birds. Most folks who pasture the meat chickens still keep them confined to a moveable bottomless pen called a ‘chicken tractor.’ But I found that after five weeks of age, eagles don’t bother them anymore, and they stay pretty close to their hut, because it offers reliable shade and water.
The meaties start feeling peckish around 7 pm, and begin wandering even farther afield than usual. If they see Husband or I near the house, a bit of a stampede ensues. It’s the waddling-est stampede you’ve ever seen, and it always makes me laugh.
Many farmers use feeders inside the chicken tractor, but I find that throwing the feed out in a line on a tarp works very nicely. There’s room for everyone, and the pellets don’t get lost in the grass or dirty. The chickens start to associate the snapping out of the tarp with food.
Having them pastured right between my different fields also makes it easy to take care of weeding or watering in those places while I wait for them to finish.
They dressed out between 6 pounds and 8 lbs 3 oz. A really nice healthy batch.