Our laying hens essentially started our livestock operation in 2015. We purchased a coop and hens from Circle B Family Farms and the operation has went chicken crazy from there!
Yes our hens live inside a building, though not in individual cages. They are not technically "free-range" because we don't let them roam the farm freely. The birds do have free choice to leave the coop and enjoy and open air, yet protected area. For us, it is not a viable option to have free range hens - we live too close to wooded areas full of hawks, owls and coyotes and oh yeah, interstate 469! There are generally 100-150 hens in egg production at our farm during any given time and to manage them free range would be difficult. This option is definitely viable for backyard chickens if you just have a few birds. There are large operations that market themselves as free-range because the hens have the option to be outside, but are still fenced in a protective area.
Wayne Trace hens have plenty of space to move about and roost, along with laying nests that they can come and go from only when they are ready to lay an egg. They are fed a diet of a complete, balanced feed either from ADM animal nutrition or the custom created feed produced by Milan Center Feed and Grain. We also supplement with grass clippings, garden vegetables, pumpkins, apples, etc. The feed is free of medication and steroids. I really needn't even say that because layer feed is not medicated, there wouldn't be any reason to put steroids in it and any hormones that are in chicken are naturally occurring hormones! This goes for laying hens and meat chickens alike! If we ever do have an ill bird, it is separated, treated as needed and the eggs are disposed of.
You can find Wayne Trace Farms eggs at Ken's Meat Market in New Haven, Indiana
Penny and the boys helping with hay bales!
Hauling our fist chicken coop home
Speaking of pets, we do have one hen that has made herself the family pet and farm mascot. Her name is Penny; she is a white crested black Polish bantam. Traci's mom purchased some of these "fancy" birds for Wyatt to show at the county fair. Penny had an injured neck as a peep and we weren't sure she would survive. We managed to get her to eat and drink and nursed her back to health. Her neck still isn't "normal" but she is healthy and active! The reason that we call her our farm mascot is because whenever we travel to daycare or other school groups, Penny is the star of the show! She is funny looking so definitely can draw a crowd plus she has a great temperament and prefers to be around her people! Traci is in the process of writing a series of children's books about Penny's experiences to teach kids about farm life.