Free Range Chicken Farming

What kind of structure do you need for free range poultry farming?

Where to buy

Free range chicken houses and organic poultry structures are very similar to intensive farming houses. The major difference is they have opening along the length of the free range poultry house. These are to allow the hens or broilers access to the outside. There are a number of factors to consider when opting for this type of farming. What most people do not factor in is the fact that they will need nest boxes (if doing layers) and perches. These take up space with their footprint – this needs to be factored in – while perches lets you place up to 12 birds per square meter – nest boxes take away from you available square meterage – you have to subtract the footprint of the the nests.

The regulations state that each hen or bird needs 15cm of perching space. They also need to have a nest hole for every 8 hens. While the regulations also state that you can place 1-0 birds per square meter – one needs to be careful as this excludes space taken up by the nest boxes.

While most nesting boxes have perch space -it is unlikely that there will be enough perching space for the entire flock. A standard 24 hole nest box has two rows of perch space on each side (these are actually for the hens to gain access to the nests – but can be counted as perch space. The trick is to calculate how many birds can perch on the nest boxes, and then calculate how many more perching meters you need for the rest of the flock. A 24 hole nest box has 7.2m of perch space – this equates to perch space for 48 hens per nesting box.

One would then have to calculate how many nest boxes are needed for the flock – multiplied by the number of hens that can perch and subtract that from the total number of chickens in the flock. You would then multiply the number of birds left by 15cm – this will give you the require amount of running meters needed for the balance of the flock to perch.

Free range chicken farming

layer house for free range hens

small farmer poultry house for free range hens

When it comes to calculating the amount of floor space you need for your hens you will need to take the footprint of the nest box multiplied by the quantity of nest boxes and subtract this from your total floor space. Divide this by 10 (which is what the guidelines state as the placement figure per square meter for free range birds), and you will have how many birds you can fit in your house.

The outside range is the other thing to consider. The regulations state that you must have no more than 5 birds per square meter outside, and you need to have 4 square meters of shade per 1000 birds. You will also need 50% living vegetation in the outside range. This regulation (50% living vegetation) is easy when you first place your hens or broilers – but soon becomes a real problem.

Free range chicken house

Free range poultry houses

Free Range Chicken Houses

The free range birds do not have their beaks cut, and have a real mean set of claws. Their love of foraging soon turns your lush outside range into a dust bowl. Within a week or so most of the grass will be gone, and shortly thereafter the roots. The range needs to be rotated before the roots are gone. What this in effect means is that while regulations state 5 birds per square outside – you are actually going to need about 4 times that. Your layout and house will need to be designed in such a way that it makes it easy to rotate the ranges.

Both sides of the free range coop will need free range flaps that can be opened and closed as you allow the chickens access to that range. The house will be placed in the middle of your total range and suitable fencing will need to be used to cordon off the areas. The fencing will divide the outside space into ranges – minimum four, better five ranges – this will save the vegetation and the hens will not damage the roots – they will only have time to get the surface vegetation and then you rotate.

Free range coops

Free range rotation fields

Free range chicken farming

One way to set up a free range chicken house

As you can see, the structure is in the center and you can close off 3 fields while leaving one field open to the birds. You will need to water the recovering fields. What I do on my farm is I plant quick growing vegetables like spinach in the unused fields, and leave the stalks for the hens. If you are doing broilers you will need to follow the same procedure. If a particular piece of land is really being hammered by the chickens I lay down steel chicken wire / mesh and weight it down with bricks – this stops the hens from digging down too deep – while leaving them access to the surface. Some farmers put down welded mesh on top of the grass or gardens – this allow the birds to trim off the top of the vegetation without allowing them to get to the roots. Setting up a free range chicken house is easy if you think it through first. Remember you will need access to all the fields – and the door of your free range poultry house. If you need help with quantities and poultry equipment send me an email and I will give you a quote.

15 Responses to Free Range Chicken Farming

  1. Vivian says:

    Grade A Vaccinated Ross 308 1 day old chicks for sale at unbeatable prices of 5:50.

    Contact 0760887890 for sales

  2. Akinsoji AKINSOLA says:

    Good day sir. My company has several outlets where we slaughtered and sell chicken 🍗 parts. We have acquired 5hectares to move to large scale production. We need International support for slaughtering equipment and modern poultry building. We are appealing to Bill Gate Foundation to lend a helping hand. It’s a company that has prospects to employ thousands of Africans and uplift them poverty. Thanks from Nigeria.

    • Can you give more information about your proposed project? Layer poultry houses or broiler chicken houses? How many birds, how many structures? Where in Nigeria are you planning to set up the chicken farm?

  3. prince says:

    can you please send me all the equipment that is needed to start a poultry farm

  4. Steven fumani sambo says:

    Good morning,am a young guy who is interested in breeding chickens more especially the ones for eggs,but the thing is I’ve no clue what so ever in this, so like which kind of books must I read in order to get more knowledge about this, ‘cos I would like to know for how many times does one chicken lays a day, those kind of things, thanx

  5. Brian K. Simataa says:

    Am having a land of 42 hectors, where I have set up a poultry project but still having more challenges on finances for me to set well this project, I m in need of financially support please for my poultry project to grow. my land is in Zambezi region in Namibia.


    Brian Simataa
    Cell: +264814002940

  6. Lucas mudau says:

    need your help on funding as i’m desperate financialy

  7. david legodi says:

    hi i owned a piece of land about 12[twelve}hectors that I would like to use for poultry farming in the germiston area Ekurhuleni. Any one to assist me with finance to start my business please

  8. david legodi says:

    Hi i own a piece of land12 hectors around germiston in Gauteng province i am in need of financial assistant to start poultry farming leasehold

    Regards David legodi

  9. Sithembiso says:

    We are a registered Co-OP and we have a thousand+ broilers but I don’t have a good market nor proper building structers and it is very hard to breed them without a proper market… We need help, please! We are in Mpumalanga, Piet Retief.

  10. limpopo says:

    I hv smll busnss of poultry farming.Dec I make 19000.I want workshop training,financial suppot to make my bussness grow up bigger

  11. Ofhani RAMALIDA says:

    I need more food for my chicks

  12. Willie says:

    So you actually need a lot more space for free range hens than you think? – I mean the regulations say 5 birds per square meter – but then also say you need 60% covered ground (in vegetation), which get hammered pretty quickly if you are not rotating your ranges.

  13. Pingback: Free Range eggs | Poultry Farming

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