Recently, consumers have shifted their focus on to healthier, more sustainable food choices. The spotlight on ethical animal production has increased the demand for free-range, organically-sourced products. Because of the capital and energy that needs to be invested into free-range, organic farming, the products sell for top-dollar. According to a paper published in the South African Journal of Animal Science, poultry meat and eggs are the most consumed source of animal protein worldwide. Therefore, business ventures that focus on ethical and sustainable chicken production can be very profitable.
That’s why we have created this post to introduce you to the rewarding business of free-range chicken farming. We are going to take a look at some basic concepts and the potential pros and cons a free-range farmer could face. By the end of this post, you will have laid the foundation required to kickstart your own free-range chicken production.
Before we delve into any details, let’s answer the most important question: What is free-range chicken farming? For commercial purposes, the United States Department of Agriculture states that all production chickens need to be able to forage outdoors in order for the farmer to qualify for their free-range certification. On a smaller scale, homesteaders may simply leave their flock to roam free and forage during the day and cozy up in coops during the night. Therefore, in spite of the situation you can generally take free-range to refer to birds that feed outdoors for some time during the day.
Because the term ‘free-range’ is not standardised, farmers are taking advantage of this situation. This is apparent in places like Australia, where free range chicken production is changing the face of the egg industry. Farmers here report that customer demand and an increased ethical awareness convinced them to either switch to or begin free-range chicken farming. (Singh et al. 2017)
The classes of free-range chickens
Generaly, there are 4 classes that free-range chickens can fall under. These are:
The purpose of your chickens will determine many factors, such as the infrastructure you require, which breeds you should use, and feeding and nesting methods, to name a few. If all this seems a bit daunting, fear not! We have a Youtube playlist dedicated to answering all of your questions.
While free-range chicken rearing can be rewarding and profitable, it is by no means an easy road to success. It is important that an entrepreneur be prepared to deal with the pros and cons of their business. To keep your spirits up, lets first take a look at some of the benefits that come with farming free-range chickens:
It is clear that the pros of rearing free-range chickens are plenty. However, that does not mean producers should ignore these drawbacks:
Now that we have made the case for free-range chicken farming, the next question is how does a farmer get started? Here are some brief tips to get you started.