The up’s and downs of a free-range homestead
Free-Range homestead. So what exactly do I mean by free-range homestead? Free-Range gets tossed around a lot lately. In the commercial industry this term has been adopted and still doesn’t mean what you would think. However to us homesteaders it means we let animals be generally free. Basic shelter and protection but generally free.
Free-range, to me, always seemed peaceful and natural. Chicken pecking in the yards, ducks gathered around a pond, other livestock out in a pasture. That’s nature right? Natural animal life. Well it does give one a pretty little image right? I mean isn’t that how we think of Old McDonald’s farm?
Well surprising or not, that’s not how most “farm life” gets to live today. Let’s take the egg industry, free-range there means that’s lots of chickens get access to walk around in a warehouse like situation on cement floors. One reason why I think most, I do say most, people could produce their own eggs which I made this case in the case for the backyard chicken. However same goes for most meat production. We live in beef central and feedlots are the name of the game. A place that smells so horrible it’s surprising anything survives. Where cattle are fed grain diets to fatten them up before a slaughter. Where small pens hold tons of animals each.
These things, I believe, have led to many of our modern food problems and also food movements. For one, our food is generally lacking many nutrients, making us require more and more supplements. Read can you guess the free-range egg, this post I talked about just one way that shows how much nutrition is lacking in commercially produced foods. Nutritional shortage aside. I believe this current method of agriculture is giving rise to the homestead spirit. Where young adults are going to big lengths to change the way they and other people eat. If you look at the rise of CSA’s, farmers markets, homesteaders, urban homesteaders, urban farming, and backyard chickens, and that just some of it!
So start a homestead right?
That’s what we thought. First we started out on an urban homestead. We had our own backyard chickens and ducks, gardening, and greenhouse complete with aquaponics. However we dreamed of bigger days. Days where we could have 4 legged creatures, bigger gardens, more homegrown produce. So here we landed. With just the dream in mind and goals of being able to produce a lot more of our own needs.
Free-Range homestead, The up’s and the down’s
So say that homestead you want to free-range, like truly free-range. What are the up’s and down’s that come with that? Are there pro’s and con’s one should consider? Telling you from experience, well because that’s apparently the only at we learn, yes there are up’s and downs. We started out with the best of intentions and if you remember in the first 60 days we lost quite a bit of animals to nature, almost all of our birds except for 2. So shortly after that we set out for more secure measures to keep them protected.
Now fast forward let me give you the run down, we have free-ranged everything (and that’s not always a good thing). We started goats before having our pasture fenced, so our goats acted more like farm dogs. Yep goat dogs. Goats on my porch, goats eating my flowers, goats trying to poke their nose heads in the back door if they get there before it shuts. Now I have this one goat, Hulk, he is a 3-legged Pygmy goat and I don’t mind it from him, he is special. However the whole herd, havoc, I’m telling you. Then there is the chickens they want to scratch, scratch at the garden, or flower bed, throw mulch around take your pretty picturesque little homestead and make it look, unkept. Ducks chasing chickens, eggs being laid almost anywhere. So as you can see there is quite a bit more to managing a truly free-range homestead.
- free to roam and find nutrients, bugs etc that is needed
- animals (like people) are better behaved when they have a little freedom
- more natural
- animals will establish a better connection with people they are around more
- less sickness
- they will leave poop everywhere including your porch
- gardens & flower beds have to be fenced off
- Goats need a pasture. Period. (They will eat on everything)
- eggs may sometimes get laid outside the coop (not very often, usually with new egg layers)
- wildlife has more access to your animals too especially poultry. However read Why every flock needs a good rooster, this will solve like 90% or more of that problem.
So all in all we still free-range. We think it is important enough to live and let live, in the most natural state possible. The chickens may lay a few eggs out and about, that’s when I sent the kids for an egg hunt (and not the candy filled kind). We have learned completely free-ranging goats does not work out well. But a nice large pasture with some things for them to climb around on works well. They still get plenty of room to roam, and grass and weeds to forage for, but not my lilacs or my berry bushes! And of course everything needs shelter and protection at night, the goats want into their pens, the chickens all head into the coop, and the ducks Well they are the last ones to wander in usually. However, they to want protection from the predators.
Always farm fresh eggs, never store bought. -T.J. Miller
So all in all it may look like a crazy zoo around here sometimes, but that’s ok. It’s a country life. Chickens run wild, and are happy and free, ducks do what they please and search for water where ever they are. The goats are out with weeds up to their backs looking for just the right ones that they want. Everything enjoys the space, the sun the wind, it’s nice that way. With a little bit of fencing my gardens are protected, and that’s ok too. Every once in a while I may have to side step some chicken poo on the driveway, on the way out the door. But heck that’s not such a big price to pay. To me it’s worth it, knowing the conditions most animal life gets to live in, that my animals get to live the way that they were designed♡♡♡
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