I love my girls. They are now about 9 weeks old. I have an enclosed yard for them 20 x 30 with a 7x7 coop in it. I have 18 chickens and 3 ducks. As they have been small, it seemed like plenty of room. Well as time goes by they keep getting bigger and bigger. I look at their area and am getting concerned about health, in the long term. I have visions of them walking and scratching on mounds of poop. We live in the country (1 1/2 acre) fenced. It should be a no brainer about free ranging them, however I am worried about my beagle eating them and my DH having to contend with chicken poop on every outdoor surface. (It took me 4 years to convince him that we really needed chickens.) I'm really getting attached to the girls (and their 2 rooster buddies - they of course were all supposed to be girls) but I've taken this on, willingly, and I've got to do the best by them. Would love to have some suggestions from all you wise chicken people.
Yet another Free Range Question
My hens used to free range, and I loved it! They would always come running up to the car when we pulled into the driveway. Yet, they do make messes on the porch and have a knack of eating your garden. So, my mother made me make a fenced in coop for them . We do have roosters that free range, though. That's only because my mom and dad built a fence around their garden and the roos don't go far from the hens. Maybe you could try free ranging them and see how they do. Maybe they won't want to go far from the coop.
Invest in some fencing.
We're on 1.25 acres and maybe 2/3 of that is fenced off for livestock and crops. The hens get to forage on pasture that we seed with omega 3 seed mix, and we rotate areas so they get fresh grazing while the old paddock regrows.
When we first bought this place there was no fencing at all. We didn't know what critters we would have, so we invested in cattle panel pencing for the perimeter, with other kinds as cross fencing. Once the pullets are too big to pop through the spaces in the panels they get to roam. Before they get to that size we have smaller pullet runs with 2x4 wire that they can't get through.
So they are fenced into runs, but still out grazing and scratching, safe from predators (thanks to our 2 dogs).
It's been interesting to watch my DH come around to this whole chicken thing. He'd never admit that he likes having them around, but in spite of himself he has been coming up with some great ideas for their care. And your suggestion is exactly what we're going to do. Sometimes the best idea is to plant the seed and wait for it to grow into his own idea. Then it becomes a great plan. We're going to fence in an additional 2600 sq ft of grassy area with trees on it they can get under and up on. The other thing we're going to do is reduce the size of the flock. My neighbor who has been helping me with the chickens has decided that they really can fix up a place for chickens and I'm going to give him 6 hens and 1 Rooster. And now not only will we have an adequate space for them to be in that will be beneficial for their health, which has been a major concern of mine, but we will have have 11 hens, 1 rooster and 3 ducks. I think that is a manageable number - there's only my husband and me - how many eggs can we eat. This has been quite a learning experience and an evolution of what works and what doesn't. I'm loving every moment of it