Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
When chickens are said to be raised free-range, they should have access to the outside, and actually use it. The top photo is of a large-scale commercial egg production facility with a fixed poultry house. You can see that the hens do not have much access to pasture. The bottom photo is of a small-scale commercial egg production facility that keeps the chickens on pasture. The structure can be moved to different locations as the pasture is consumed. The structure does not have a house with walls, so they are outside 24 hours a day. They do have a place they can get under to sleep at night and get away from the weather. Predators can be a problem though, since there is no protection from coyotes, hawks, or other animals that like to eat chickens. It is also important that the hens learn to lay in the nest boxes and the nest boxes are kept clean. Otherwise, the eggs will get dirty, which can be a food safety problem.