Alternative Poultry Production Systems and Outdoor Access

Free range poultry

By Anne Fanatico, NCAT Agriculture Specialist


Alternative poultry production is growing due to consumer demand for specialty products from cage-free and free-range birds. This publication discusses the differences between alternative and conventional production systems. Alternative production systems vary according to size but, in some countries, are standardized by specific definitions to assist in marketing. The various aspects of free-range systems in the U.S. and abroad are presented. Common poultry housing approaches are also discussed. Integration of poultry production with crop production on a diversified farm is an important part of sustainable agriculture, and birds can be integrated with vegetable production (“chicken tractor”) and with grazing livestock, such as sheep. Organic poultry production is a type of alternative poultry production that is currently enjoying a growing market. Considerations surrounding organic production are presented. Production topics such as outdoor access and pasture management, pasture rotation, and predator control are also discussed.

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