We have had free-range chickens for about 10 years. Our flock varies from 6-15 birds and our property is 7 acres, with about 2 developed, and the rest deep woods backed up to hundreds of wooded acres.
We have always given them free run of the yard as we have natural borders with neighbors that they stay within. But I have always had trouble keeping them out of our tended decorative areas around the house, and now with a bunch of new landscaping their tendency to dig my mulch up and spread it everywhere has become intolerable. What I don't get is why they spend so much time cruising the flower beds and decorative tree plantings when they have acres of woods and open field to cruise. As it is, their coop faces directly into the woods outback, and the house and the landscaped areas are in the opposite direction.
I find it hard to believe that they find anymore bugs to eat in my mulch than they would in the woods, where they do spend some of their time (not nearly enough) each day. I think part of it is that they just like being around us, so we've tried to be a bit less friendly. I've tried chasing them away from the manicured areas, I've made it a game for the kids to chase them away, and I even trained the Bouvier to chase them when they come near the house, but they still come with infuriating frequency. I can lock them up in their pen all day, but we loose the free-ranging benefits in their eggs, and our yard is way too big to try to fence off areas where we don't want them. I've even thought about getting a second timed door to let them out of their fenced yard with only a few hours of daylight, giving them little time to work up to the house, but this would still limit their nutritional intake.
Any suggestions for repellent methods?