Ideally, a backyard chicken flock enjoys plenty of fresh grass, weeds, seeds, bugs and other foraged foods, safe from predators and close enough to the coop to lay eggs conveniently in their nesting boxes.
And when you first build or place your coop and enclose a sizable area for them, it’s all beautiful, right? Here are some of my girls in their spacious yard, enjoying the grass:
We do free range our hens many evenings out of the week, but the reality is that foxes, raccoons, possum and hawks mean death to the hens if they are outside all day or when we’re not able to keep an eye on them. There are also neighbors to consider, and our unfenced garden.
With a large lawn, full of unfertilized, un-sprayed, untreated grass, dandelions, clover and other greens, we found a great alternative to the grain-only diet vs. life-threatening free-range dilemma: clipped grass delivered to them thanks to our bagging mower, several times a week (we don’t mow our backyard in full all in one day, but over the course of 2-3 days). Here’s a quick video of the hens enjoying the grass clippings (and a still shot is below the video):
The yard clippings make a great substitute on days when free ranging is limited or impossible:
Do your hens free range — and how do you manage predator threats? Have you ever fed them fresh, untreated grass from your lawn?