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When can I turn them loose???

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I have 14 BO's that are 11 weeks old. There are two others in with them that are 14 weeks -one is my roo. My question is can I let them out of their pen to free range yet? Will they stay together? The roo still isn't being the 'leader' yet -he and his sister stick together but he hasn't started 'taking care' of them all yet. Will they know enough to come home at dark yet? The pasture is fenced with woven wire but I'm sure some are still little enough in size to get through... Just haven't done this before ☺️ Thanks!!
post #2 of 9

Have you had them from the beginning (since chicks)?  If so, they should come back to the coop before dark.  Do you have a light on in their coop?  I've never had a problem with mine not coming back to the coop.  The rooster will probably become more of a leader once they start to free range.  How big is your coop?

Mom to 2 beautiful daughters, 4 awesome grandchildren, and 1 Toy Fox Terrier.  I love to garden and fish with my husband of 46 years.
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Mom to 2 beautiful daughters, 4 awesome grandchildren, and 1 Toy Fox Terrier.  I love to garden and fish with my husband of 46 years.
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post #3 of 9

If you have had them since chicks you can open the door and they will come back for sleep and laying.  

 

I give my chicks access to the outside at 5 weeks and free access at 10.

Crazy about Orpingtons and about creating the best hybrid  hens for our egg farm!

 

 

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Crazy about Orpingtons and about creating the best hybrid  hens for our egg farm!

 

 

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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
My coop is in the barn and their pen is 12x12 And yes - I have had them since chicks. smile.png and the light is on. They just last week started to roost instead of sleeping on the ground Well I will try letting them out 😳 Thanks so much!!
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Ok! Thank you!!
post #6 of 9

Sometimes it's good to start free ranging late in the day, just before dusk...they can't go far or get lost in an hour or so,

then once you are convinced they know to come back to roost you can start letting them out earlier.

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

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Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

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post #7 of 9
Since they have just started to roost you are way ahead of the game. They are living animals so you can never be absolutely sure what they will do, but there is a 99.999% change they will want to go back to the coop when it gets dark. That’s about as sure a thing as you will get with chickens. Don’t even worry about them wanting to go back to the coop. There are a couple of things that might happen though.

Chickens have no concept of gate. Their bird brains just can’t grasp that concept. I’ve had mine desperately trying to get through a fence to get back to the coop at night but totally ignore the open gate they have been using all day to go back and forth. Most of them do make it back but I’ve had to guide a few to the gate one or sometimes two nights before they catch on. I wish I had a video of that, it’s hilarious to see. So depending on what your set-up looks like, you want to be out there at bedtime to watch them go to bed. Most of the time they do fine, but occasionally you have one of those that needs help.

Since yours are going from the pen into the coop at night already to roost, this one is probably not going to happen. Sometimes instead of going back into the coop they huddle together just outside the coop. You need to put them inside physically after it is dark enough they are easy to catch. If this does happen, it will be right at the coop. For some reason known only to their bird brains they don’t always actually go inside, but they will be at the coop. So again, check on them at bedtime.

A handy trick is to teach the chickens to come to you. You need to be consistent but choose a container, (bucket, bowl, something) and use it to feed them treats, calling “here chickie, chickie” or something appropriate as you rattle the treat in that container and feed it to them. As long as you are consistent to do that whenever you feed them treats it usually doesn’t take long for them to come running whenever they see the container, hear it, or hear you call them. That can be really handy if you want to get them back in the pen during the day.

You don’t have a rooster, you have a preteen cockerel, just a little boy. In the next few weeks you should see some major changes in his behavior as he goes through adolescence and becomes a true rooster. Your little girls will grow up too. Fasten your seat belt, that can get exciting while they go through that transition.

Will they stay together? Probably for the most part. When you first let them out, just open the gate and leave them alone. Don’t try to force them out or anything like that. Chickens often don’t like change. It’s possible they will rush outside and immediately start eating grass and chasing bugs, but it’s more likely they will be afraid of the great outside. They might just stand at the gate and look out there, curious but scared. In their own time they will venture out and learn to enjoy the great outdoors but don’t rush them. They can manage that on their own. There is nothing wrong with them if they are cautious.

When they first go out they will probably stick very close to the pen, the area they are familiar with. As time goes by they will become more comfortable out there and start roaming. They may stick to their general area or they may go several hundred feet. With a flock your size don’t be greatly surprised to see some of the pullets form their own sub-flock and go off on their own at times. That’s perfectly normal as adults. During the adolescent phase you are likely to see pullets avoiding that cockerel in various ways. Each flock has their own dynamics and ways of dealing with things. Normally they work through that phase and everything is calm and peaceful but adolescence can sometimes be turbulent.

Good luck! Sounds like you are doing great.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Ahhh thanks Ridgerunner - and everyone! I've had chickens for several years but not here at the farm and not these sweet little Buff's! I feel like a new mama again and just needed that reassurance- which you all provided in spades!! Thanks again and blessings on you all.
post #9 of 9

Ridgerunner originall said,

"Chickens have no concept of gate. Their bird brains just can’t grasp that concept. I’ve had mine desperately trying to get through a fence to get back to the coop at night but totally ignore the open gate they have been using all day to go back and forth. Most of them do make it back but I’ve had to guide a few to the gate one or sometimes two nights before they catch on. I wish I had a video of that, it’s hilarious to see. So depending on what your set-up looks like, you want to be out there at bedtime to watch them go to bed. Most of the time they do fine, but occasionally you have one of those that needs help."

 

LOL!!!!! I can't tell you how many times I have left the door open accidentally and wanted them back in.  With the help of my border collie (he's moderately good at helping) we herd them towards the gate.  Without warning I have had them jump into the fence next to the door, into the coop next to the open  door or into the open door itself!  It can be quite frustrating and hard to watch. 

 

Thankfully they go back at night on their own faithfully--sometimes heading an acre away.  They do have a rooster and I feel more confident with him in charge.
 

Crazy about Orpingtons and about creating the best hybrid  hens for our egg farm!

 

 

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Crazy about Orpingtons and about creating the best hybrid  hens for our egg farm!

 

 

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