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Technically, the pastured poultry method doesn’t allow chickens to roam
freely, eating whatever they want. Instead, it’s a system of confining chickens
on a piece of grass or pasture that should be managed or cared for so that it
provides the maximum benefits for chickens. Most pastured poultry are also
fed some commercial feed or grains.
Chickens that are pastured can be kept in small, moveable housing units with
built-in shelters or confined in large, fenced areas that are moved, with a freestanding
shelter that is also moved with the chickens. Chickens can also be
rotated through a series of permanently fenced areas. Each area may have its
own shelter, or one shelter may move with the chickens among the areas.

Pastured poultry is often thought of as easy poultry-keeping, but it requires
some intensive management to be successful. While the costs for feed may be
greatly reduced and the birds get a natural, healthy diet, work is involved with
managing the pasture and moving the enclosures. Poultry manure is hard on
grasses, as is the scratching of chickens. Pastured poultry need to be rotated
to a clean pen before the vegetation in their enclosure is seriously damaged.

Tractor-type coops can be used to raise meat birds, although the hybrid
broilers may do better in more conventional housing. Tractor coops can also
be used with young pullets being raised to laying age or even with laying
hens. In the case of hens, nest boxes must be included in the coop and the
hens must have easy access to them. Tractor coops can also be used with
pet or show chickens.

The drawbacks to this type of housing include the following:
✓ It works best in mild weather. Really hot, cold, or wet weather causes
✓ There must be space to move the coops to a clean spot, and the housing
must be moved regularly.
✓ The chickens may be vulnerable to predators. The coops are often placed
far away from the human housing, so strong wire must be used on the
sides, or predators will break in. Predators may also dig under the frame.
✓ In most of these setups, it’s hard to catch chickens if the need arises.
You can’t easily get inside some of the smaller units, and when you lift a
side, you may have chickens everywhere.
✓ Feed and water containers may be hard to access.

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