Keeping Chickens Without Free Ranging

This article will discuss how you can keep a happy and healthy flock, without free ranging.
By MyISAbrownhens · Feb 7, 2018 · ·
  1. MyISAbrownhens
    Many people out there long to have our feathered clucking friends, but may not be able to free range the flock as most people are able to do. Because of this many people end up not getting chickens because they think the flock will be unhappy if they don't have access to a large yard... Well that couldn't be any more untrue! I know from experience your chickens can still have the time of their lives even without access to a big yard. This article will discuss what you can do to keep a happy and healthy flock without free ranging.


    Let's Talk About the Coop

    First off, let's talk about the coop. This is the most essential part when not free ranging your flock since they will be spending all their time in there. The first thing to think about is how much space you will need in your coop. The rule of thumb for this should be at least 10 square feet per chicken in the run and 6 square feet per bantam in the run. If you are able to add more room than this though, go for it! The more room you have the happier your chickens will be! Another important part of your coop will be the roof to your coop/run. The roof should be able to protect your chickens from all the weather elements (rain, snow, hail, etc.) so they can enjoy time in the run even when the weather is not the best. Lastly, you need to be sure you have good flooring in your coop and run. What I found most works effectively is river sand. It provides your flock with a dust bath, added grit from the natural pebbles, and the sand soaks up any moisture from the chickens droppings making it very easy to clean and very sanitary for the flock. In addition, you chickens should have access to both sun and shade in your run, so they can choose if they want to bask in the sun or take a nap in the shade.


    Decorate That Run

    Next, when your planning to get chickens who don't free range, you have to think about what you will add to the run to keep your flock occupied.

    -A Ladder
    Putting a ladder in your run will provide enjoyment for both you and your chickens as you watch them happily jump and play on each rung.

    -A Mirror
    Keeping a mirror in your run will give your flock lots of entertainment as they encounter their mimicking twin in the reflective surface.

    -Tree Stumps
    Tree stumps in your chicken run are a great idea when keeping your chickens occupied. Not only do the chickens like jumping and playing on the stumps but they provide hours of enjoyment for you flock as they peck through the wood to get the tasty bugs who burry in there.

    -Hay Pile
    It may sound simple, but by just throwing a big pile of hay in your run, your chickens will spend a long time picking through the hay and scattering it around the run.

    -Dust Bath
    Many people have a dust bath for their flock regardless of if they free range or not. By just having a box with some dirt/sand, your chickens will have lots of fun rolling around in the dust, not only is this enjoyable for your flock but also helps them rid any parasites that may be on them.

    -A Chair/Bench
    By putting a chair or bench in your run, your chickens can be able to jump and play on them and provides you with a place to sit when visiting your flock.

    -A Swing
    It may sound silly, but it's possible your chickens could enjoy a little chicken swing! These can be purchased, but I recommend making your own with a large stick and some rope/chain to make sure your chickens would like a swing before paying money to buy another one.

    Add roosts to your chicken run to provide places for your chickens to perch.


    Chicken Toys

    After you have decorated your run with some enjoyable items, it's time to provide your flock with some toys. A lot of these are food based though, so be sure to give them to your chickens in moderation.

    -Flock Block
    Flock blocks can be made at home or purchased at your local feed store. These blocks usually last a while while your chickens spend time picking at the scratch.

    -Chicken Teather Ball
    These can provide lots of entertainment for your chickens when the hit and try to eat the yummy treat that's hanging from the roof of their run. These can usually be made by putting a food, such as a head of lettuce, corn, or an apple with the core removed, on a rope or chain and hanging it from the top of your run so your chickens can play.

    -Scratch Dispenser
    Like the flock blocks, these can be purchased or made on your own. The idea of this is to dispense scratch or treats as your chickens kick it around. You can make your own by using an empty water bottle and adding a few small holes to it, big enough that your treat can fit through, and then filling it with your choice of treat.

    You heard me right. Spaghetti. Boil some Spaghetti noodles, and even add some food dye to them to make it even more fun. Then after that, hang or place then around your run for your chickens to play and peck at.

    An easy simple way to keep your chickens entertained is by throwing a handful of scratch into the run for your chickens to find.

    -Cricket Tubes
    To send your chickens on a game of chase, take a paper towel tube with some crickets in it that your caught or got from a pet store, and set it in your run. When the crickets hop out, your chickens will chase them until they are able to snatch one of the little buggers up for themselves.

    -Frozen fruit
    This is especially nice on hot summer days. This can be acomplished by freezing fresh fruit into water for your chickens to pick through so that they can receive a piece of sweet fruit.

    -Cocconut Oil Treats
    These are a favorite of mine since Cocconut oil is very good for your chickens. You can make these by filling individual cupcake tins with melted Cocconut oil, and putting some tasty treats into the tins. (Scratch, dried meal worms, grass blades, etc.) Then these can be frozen and given to your hens.


    The Final Touches

    Lastly, we will discuss the little things you can do to ensure your chickens enjoy their time in their coop. The first thing you probably are already doing if you have chickens is to have food always available for your flock. Some chicken owners feed their chickens a certain amount of food at certain times to see how much for they are getting, but by keeping feed always out and available for your chickens, it will occupy more of their time since they spend a lot of time eating.

    Last but not least, we will talk about something you should do regardless of if you free range or not. Spend time with your flock! Make time to hang with your chickens, playing with them, holding them or just watching them. Time with your flock will stimulate your flocks mind and you will be able to establish a closer bond with your chickens.


    In conclusion, yes it is very possible to keep happy and healthy chickens without free ranging. It may require a little extra work and effort, but it will all be worth it for our feathered clucking friends! Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and please leave a comment if you have any questions. Thank you!


    (Photos from Tilly's Nest and Fresh Eggs Daily)

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    About Author

    Hello! :frow I’m Jessica. I love my husband, my 3 children and my pets. I have been owning chickens since I was young, but currently own 5 ISA Brown hens. I hope you enjoy my article!

Recent User Reviews

  1. doublecrossranch
    "Great information"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 15, 2019 at 7:59 AM
  2. BDutch
    "Read with pleasure. Good tips."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 13, 2019 at 3:38 AM
    Tips for another addition:
    - a chicken garden / square meter container with grass and herbs. Made with beams and mesh on top. This way, they can peck a little green every day through the mesh.
    - Berry bushes. For shelter and treats in summer.

    I also have an old garden bench in the run. But I'd rather not sit on it because of the poo. A real chicken swing was too difficult. Now the swing has a 3th rope to keep it a more steady.

    I have 8 small bantams, in a coop (3m2) and run with lots of shelter (15m2). They are allowed to free range a few hours a day when someone is at home.
  3. Dharmachick
    "Good Ideas"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 12, 2019 at 9:05 AM
    I worry about my chicks when I sell them to people, but I always give them this website. This is an excellent article on keeping chickens in a smaller area, with great ideas of how to keep them occupied.


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  1. featherhead007
    All those ideas are great entertainment, for our feathered friends! Thanks Jessica.
  2. doublecrossranch
    What is the right height for the swing? I have a swing put when they jump on it it swings too hard
      featherhead007 likes this.
    1. featherhead007
      I had my swing low to the ground, but took it out because they would not even try it. my hens are 3 years old and prefer climbing toys, and hanging cabbage
      doublecrossranch likes this.
  3. featherhead007
    only problem, my hens complain when i dont let them out to play everyday. And oh man do they complain!!!!
  4. mschele
    Lots of good tips! Thanks!
  5. Ladies-Eight
    I would like to say ThankYou for this article. This great information for all of us who are just starting out. I have 19 ISAs. I have already incorporated some of the ideas you had in your article. Very informative and not that complicated to incorporate. I have a branch out of a tree that is in one corner and looks like a tree without leaves. Very good!

    I could not figure out how to rate the article. I give you five stars.
    1. MyISAbrownhens
      Thank you so much! I’m glad it helped you out!
  6. DiYMama540
    Very good ideas! Especially helpful in battling the winter blues!!
      MyISAbrownhens likes this.
  7. Cin
    Good ideas! I’m trying some today. I let my chickens free range in winter when my flowers/garden are dormant, but in spring/summer they are “cooped up”
      MyISAbrownhens likes this.
  8. ECSandCCFS
    Great article! While I do free range my flock occasionally, this has given me several ideas I can do for them when they are not free ranging.
      MyISAbrownhens likes this.
  9. Tami Lyons
    Thank you for sharing Jessica, that was a very interesting read.
      MyISAbrownhens likes this.
    1. MyISAbrownhens
      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
  10. 34Fam
    Thank you for the wonderful ideas! A well written article!
    1. MyISAbrownhens
      Thank you so much!
  11. N F C
    You give some great ideas for boredom-busters!
      MyISAbrownhens likes this.
  12. ChickNanny13
    Living in residential area, my yard is fenced & I have allowed my chickens "free ranging" & they go in to their coop at night. However, they LOVE hanging out in the patio so every afternoon it's "poo patrol". Feeding FF they don't poo so much & it's firm that I use a long tong to pick up.

    I had 2 RIR & 2 EE couple of chickens ago who dug such deep hole in the yard I had to buy soil to fill. They went to a friend who had acreage, Hubby built me my RC (Run/Coop, 8x12x7). I now keep my 4BOs in the RC & all is good. On nice days I'm tempted to let them out but I know they'll then expect to roam every day plus the neighbor has 7 dogs on the other side of the fence. I do hang veggies, toss in some scratch & grass when I mow, they seem content.
    1. MyISAbrownhens
      Glad to hear all your chickens are doing well!
      Mischief and ChickNanny13 like this.

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