All our chickens are raised outside on pasture for their entire life, except for the first two weeks or so. Those first two weeks is when they need a lot of attention from their mama hen, so we have to provide that attention in the form of protection from the elements, warmth and easy access to food and water. After that though we open up the portable brooder shed and they spend the rest of their life on pasture. We do this because it is just the right thing to do for the chicken’s well being. The chickens have space to roam around and express their natural behaviors, eat bugs, lay out in the sun, etc. All things that chickens raised in a modern industrial farm never get to do.
Since one of our main tenants of farming is that we are regenerating the land, we also follow a practice called “rotational grazing”. We move the chicken’s shelters to a fresh spot of pasture every single day. Since we move them every day, no part of our pasture ever has so much impact that it doesn’t recover quickly, and the manure left behind by the chickens actually makes that ground more fertile than before they arrived. They show up, eat the grass, bugs, seeds, etc., and leave behind a spot of ground that is primed to see an explosion of new growth. We are actually planning our crop rotations based on where the chickens were the season prior.
The other huge benefit of rotational grazing is that our chickens are much healthier. They are not exposed to their own manure constantly like they would be in the modern industrial system. This means our chickens just don’t get sick. Because of this, we never give our chickens any kind of medication (antibiotic or otherwise). The sunshine and fresh air helps a lot too!
I think that you can really tell from the quality of the meat that these chickens had a great life. Just like how grass fed beef has more flavor and less fat than feedlot beef, pastured chicken is the same.