At Lost Corner, one of our favorite things to do is watch the chickens running TRULY FREE RANGE through our yard, our fields, our compost, the goat and hog pens... EVERYWHERE! One of the great benefits to this is that they produce far healthier eggs than what you can find in the grocery store (and even at many farms). We have found our eggs to have richer, orange yolks, thicker shells, and they come out clean. See more about our eggs here.
Another benefit is happy chickens. As opposed to USDA free-range (just having outside access), from peep-hood our chickens are pasture raised- they learn how to scratch for and eat insects and greenery, enjoy the sunshine, and avoid the dangers of being enclosed with their waste.
It is amazing to watch the accuracy with which even the young peeps can snag a bug in mid-flight. One of their favorite treats is grasshoppers; Tyson and Steven take time out of their busy farming days to gather grasshoppers and watch the chickens come running!
The only time our chickens are enclosed is in the evening for their protection. Some of our more flighty hens sleep in the trees, but most are happy in their various family roosts we have placed for them. The rest of the day they are protected by Ume, our farm Akita turned guardian, and a pair of noisy Chinese Brown geese (great aerial predator protection).
For 2014 we are fine tuning our 2013 egg-mobile or "pastured poultry wagon" to increase collected egg yield. The wagon is moved throughout pastured areas on a regular basis and provides evening shelter, nesting boxes, and shade for the laying hens. Though it does get fenced in, the hens still benefit from the frequently rotated pasture range and the pasture benefits from their fertilization!