Left to their own devices, chickens will act like wild birds, build nests in fields, lay eggs and, when they hatch teach the young ones to forage and, I suppose, cultivate their chicken identity. We don't have a lot of chickens on the farm (maybe a dozen) and all of them live out in the open like these. The picture is not great but if you squint you can see 4-5 chicks scratching around at the base of the tree.
Now, because the chickens live outside almost full time, they get taken down by predators pretty regularly. You'd suppose that given the dangers of living in the open air, they would choose to spend more time in the barn. But they don't. There's feed at the barn too, but they don't spend much time on it in the summer when the fields are full of juicy bugs. And it's a good thing for us that they do, because those bugs get translated by chicken guts into really great tasting eggs -when you can find them. See, true free range chickens like these hide their eggs all over the place and it sometimes takes a hour just to pick up a half dozen.
Too bad we can't train them to roll them by their beaks down to the barn.