(The following is personal experience gained during 20 years of keeping Croad Langshans in Victoria, Australia. Other management systems are common and may work just as well or better.)
Croad Langshans are large birds, intelligent, inquisitive and very active. They should have plenty of space.
They are ideally suited to free-range conditions on a substantial block or a farm. Their size and intelligence makes them less vulnerable to predators than other chicken breeds. A large area with a lot of variety keeps them strong and agile and they can easily find shelter and shade or a sunny spot according to the weather.
Chickens allowed to wander the property during the day must still be locked away every night and must have a safe house and run.
Given their freedom they forage over an area of about 4 acres or more, however will be happy on half an acre or so. A smaller area will soon turn into a desert or become dirty.
Chickens are woodland birds and do well under trees and shrubs rather than on pasture alone. When resting they love to sit under low shrubs which give them cover from above.
They seem to be happiest in groups of 4 to 10 females and one male.
Several such groups, each with a rooster, can be kept in the same general area but are better separated by a barrier like wire mesh fence. They usually respect these boundaries and will happily mock-fight through the mesh, even if they could easily fly over it (exceptions occur). When approaching such a boundary the roosters will start an elaborate crowing concert to herald their advance so they can avoid a direct confrontation.
The rooster will keep the hens together as a flock and stand guard against predators. When there is no male in the group hens usually scatter and forage singly or in small groups.
Hens always go back to lay their egg in their nestbox, even if it is a long way. When they want to rejoin the flock they give a specific call which the rooster answers with a crow to help her find the others.
All chickens love to scratch, hunt and gather and Croad Langshans particularly so. They always do a round-trip. Going back to hunt and gather where they have just been an hour or two ago does not make sense to a chicken brain.
Males will learn about areas where they are not allowed and respect them.
Hens however will NOT recognise boundaries and will NOT learn to leave the vegetable garden alone. If the gate is left open they happily eat strawberries, silverbeet and seedlings, and scratch up seed beds, while the rooster (who knows that he is not allowed in there) stands guard outside to warn them about angry gardeners approaching.
There are some problems with the free-range management, however.
- It is difficult to keep predators like foxes, dogs, goannas and birds of prey reliably away and attacks can occur anytime during the day and even close to people.
- Water and feed quality are hard to control. Chickens and even small chicks seem to know about poisonous plants and animals, and have a certain ability to balance the nutrients they need. However, balanced feed and clean water must be available at all times and access to sources of dirty water removed.
- Accidents do happen easier than in a small run. Broken claws, scratched combs, broken foot-feathers and grass seeds in their eyes are rare, but do occur.
Specific to Croad Langshans:
- In wet weather their soft feathers take up moisture like a sponge. Usually they keep to a dry spot, but sometimes they delight in dancing in the rain. Fortunately they seem quite hardy.
- In rugged areas with rocks, fallen timber and dense scrub they can damage and break off foot feathers.