Define “Chicken”


ChickensWhat’s in a word?  "Free range" turned out to mean that the chickens were free to range if they could muster the courage, but in reality they spent most of their life in a shed and few ventured through the little doorway into the tiny lawn beyond.

"Cage free" turned out to mean that they were simply in a larger cage–a crowded barn or shed–but not actually free to ramble.

So what’s a girl got to do to get an egg that was laid by a hen who actually spends her day in the outdoors, eating grass and digging for worms?  If you’re not going to raise them yourself, the new word to look for on your egg cartons is "pastured," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Pastured" is just a word–an ordinary, unregulated, subject- to- misinterpretation- and- corporate- approrpriation word.  It might mean something different tomorrow, but for now it means that the girls actually spend their days in the outdoors, doing what hens do best.

Nice article, although here at the GardenRant chicken ranch, we burst out laughing when we got to this part:

The second surprise is that the eggs are very warm. Duh, but I’d never
thought about it. Quickly, we gather about 600 eggs in five large blue wire
baskets. Only a couple of hens, indignant over my intrusion, take a peck at my

But my bare toes, exposed in sandals, are attractive targets for the hens
pecking at the ground around my feet.

Here’s a fashion tip: Don’t wear sandals to a farm.  Duh.


  1. Remember the barnyard scene in The Wizard of Oz? That’s what you want, chickens running around eating bugs and weeds the way they used to on a real farm, not an industrial feedlot. Eggs from chickens who run around and eat all kinds of things–not the soy or corn feed that gets piped into the factory shed–will have golden yokes, full of flavor. Buy the eggs from a farmer through a CSA or at the farmer’s market. Then it won’t matter spit what the label says on the egg carton.

  2. I’ve got 7 ladies in a 30×30′ fence. They eat corn from a bag, and most of the day they eat bugs and grass and take dirt baths outside the coop in the fence. They are in a fence due to their feet, which will bareroot any given perennial in my shade garden instantly, and spread the compost and mulch in the garden far and away from the garden’s borders. They do pretty well for themselves though, yesterday they caught a mouse stealing food, and had it for dinner themselves. I dont know if this qualifies for “free range” but I’ll bet they are pretty happy behind their fence when the coons/fox/possum circle it occasionally

  3. Something to watch out for is that even if you raise your own chickens, when you go to the feed store and buy their food, it probably contains “rendered feed”, also referred to as “animal protein” or “animal fat”. This means that they take the parts of the chickens from processing plants that they can’t use for anything else, and they boil it in a big cauldron, and then skim the fat off the top and add it to the chicken feed. Yes, cannabalism. It’s a cheap and common practice, although not well known. I used to be married to a commercial “factory” chicken farmer. The baby chicks would go from birth to 6lbs in 38 days because of rendered feed and antibiotics. Gross, huh? If you are raising chickens, make sure you get good feed, and “ruminant free” labeling isn’t good enough either, because chickens aren’t ruminants so it may still have rendered chickens in the feed.

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