If we go back in time just after the first chicken egg was laid, wait was it the chicken or the egg? Either way, the chicken, before becoming the domesticated bird we know today, was a wild jungle bird more akin to the ptarmigan or grouse. I know it’s hard to believe but these birds would live or die on their own awareness and elusiveness.
So back to today, I let my birds free range within an electric net fence. As Joel Salatin says about the pigness of the pig, well I want my chickens to have that same chickenness (if that makes sense). When preparing the area that my flock will be rotated to I look for a couple things. Tree cover is paramount, this helps them avoid the birds of prey we have in the area while also providing them with shade. If shade is satisfied I then look for edibles the birds can forage on. These edibles will help supplement any feed that you provide your birds with, these are generally more nutritious than most bagged feed and way cheaper too!
Next is that wild jungle bird idea. Once the flock is rotated off a pasture I will broadcast seed over these areas kind of like a cover crop/pasture improvement seeding. If my timing is right I will bring my flock back to these spots and they will be full of tall grasses, legumes, clovers, and sunflowers. To the untrained eye you could walk by and look into the chicken paddock and not see a single bird.
Of course my problem now is that they are starting to lay there eggs in this jungle paradise their ancestors used to call home. Reframed like that I guess it’s a good problem to have. At least I know that come Easter my kids are going to be finely tuned egg spotting machines!