COMMERCIAL FREE RANGE / FREE RUN
This has got to be the most misleading statement you will ever read on an egg carton. It is a joke. When most people envision “free range” or “free run” they imagine a bunch of cute little chickens frolicking in the field of daisies munching on worms bugs and berries. Who wouldn’t want that?
However the terms “free range” and “free run” (at least in North America) simply mean the birds are not in cages. The chickens in the photo above would be considered free range or free run for the purposes of marketing.
Thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of hens are crammed in large barns with barely enough room to stand let alone lay down, play or get exercise.
The chickens usually live on a floor made of mesh, concrete, wood or dirt and are able to move around some. In our experience, farmers pack as many chickens into their barn as will fit.
The more birds, the more money they make.
As long as the chickens are not stuck in little cages, or other tiny containers they are technically “free run” or “free range”.
Free range or free run does not mean the girls can go outside; it just means they are not stuck in a cage or tie down in some way.
In some farms, the chickens are allowed outside but this is rare as farmers are terrified their flock will catch diseases from being out of the barn. I have spoken to local egg growers about letting my own chickens live outside (and inside their coop) and they told me that was very dangerous as the hens would likely die from disease. Apparently it is better for them to be stuck in the same barn as thousands of others and live in their own waste so they don’t get sick. What a joke?
If you have ever been in one of these massive egg factories the smell of ammonia is so bad you have to hold your breath. It actually can be a big problem for egg producers as the ammonia can blind the birds and cause lung diseases. To combat the ammonia and heat created by thousands of birds stuck together there are massive vents and fans to remove the polluted air and bring in fresh air. While the fans help, jamming thousands of
While “free range” or “free run” is better than living in a cage, being packed into a barn with thousands of other chickens with little room to stretch or even lay down causes chickens to be stressed and peck at each other. Like in a cage, chickens will need to have their beaks clipped or else they will peck each other to death.
One of the best parts of commercial free range chicken barns is the ease of collecting the eggs, watering and feeding. Most of these modern farms have automatic egg gathering machines, automatic waterers and automatic feeders. All of these automatic units consume a lot of electricity, are expensive and require a decent amount of maintenance. Ventilating these types of barns use tons of electricity. However when you consider how many birds there are, the amount of kWh per animal is quite good.
As promised in the Raising Chickens for Beginners page here are the ratings for raising chickens the commercial “free range” or commercial “free run” method.
- CLEANLINESS – POOR
- FEED QUALITY – POOR
- HEALTH – POOR
- HAPPINESS – FAIR
- COST – GOOD
- LABOR – GOOD
- ELECTRICITY – GOOD