OMG, that is just so wrong. Cooped birds - especially battery chickens - are much less healthy than free range birds.
Free range doesn’t mean wandering around loose, either. Pastured chickens are usually done with moveable coops. I did mine with a series of gates and fencing around my (large) garden when I was living rurally.
You’re right about the abuse of the term by so-called “organic” corporate growers. But keeping them 3 to a cage with their beaks cut off where they can’t even move isn’t better.
I didn’t spend any significant amount of money on shelter for my birds, either. I built my own chicken coop out of scrap lumber and PT posts. Didn’t cost that much. 20 years later - it still wouldn’t cost anywhere near $1000 to properly house a few chickens. The coop I built back then was for 2 dozen birds - fewer chickens would do fine in a smaller coop (hence cheaper to build) with some fencing for the yard.
With so few birds, I would most likely go with a moveable coop and moveable fencing so I could move them around the yard more easily. Not having 28 acres anymore, I wouldn’t want to set that much space aside permanently for chickens.
As for what to do with “spent” hens - if you don’t feel like putting up lights and keeping the egg production going over winter, or even if you do, along about the 2nd year they’re pretty much done anyway - find an Amish in the area to slaughter and clean them for you. Some will do it fairly inexpensively, or even on a barter basis - they keep half and you keep half, especially when you’re talking about only 6 birds to start with, which is the max most backyard chicken laws will allow you usually (often fewer).
If nothing else, GIVE them to someone who will process them for themselves. Not to a pet shelter!