Chickens have always been kept by free range system in most African communities. Nobody ever imagined that it cost any money to keep chickens. The birds knew a small room where to go at sunset for the night.
The children of the household were tasked to periodically clean that room. The cock was relied upon to arouse everybody in the morning when it crowed.
During the day the chickens moved about freely in the compound and in the household’s crop garden.
They would feed on food remains thrown away as useless for human consumption. They scratched the ground for worms and insects.
They also fed on some weeds and vegetables growing in the garden. Their droppings enriched the soil by providing nitrogen and phosphorus thus making crop production easier.
They were a free source of protein foods, such as eggs and meat. They fought snakes and drove them away. It is still possible to keep poultry by free range in modern times especially for people with little capital and have issues setting up the required infrastructure like strong buildings and the related internal fittings.
However it requires a large space where the chickens will wander freely. Some 500 birds may be kept in an acre which must be fenced off.
The farmer will be free to grow crops like bananas or coffee among others within that space bearing in mind that some of the vegetables will be eaten by the chickens.
There should also be a shelter built for roosting at night, laying eggs, and protection from rain. The farmer will be relieved from the cost of feeds because the chickens will be feeding on the weeds and vegetables growing in the garden and the insects and worms that they will keep hunting.
Their droppings will provide manure to the entire grazing area and facilitate crop production. The chickens will have free vitamin D from the sun and they will have plenty of exercise.
The farmer will need to be more on the lookout for eggs dropped in the open as they might be damaged or hidden.