A little free-ranging?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by EasterEggDrew, Nov 12, 2016.

  1. EasterEggDrew

    EasterEggDrew Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have four young chickens in a coop with attached run. Coop is 16 sq.ft., run is 48 sq.ft., and filled with deep leaves and yard debris. The chickens seem happy, but I wonder if it would be better or healthier to let them free range in the yard on weekends (only time I'm home during the day).

    Aside from the obvious dangers (we have plenty of red tail hawk, ground hogs, raccoons, my own two dogs, etc.), I'm wondering how I'll ever get them back into the run before dark, if I let them out! Advice?

    On the dogs, they're held close to the house by invisible fence, and the coop is about 200 feet away. I doubt the chickens and dogs will ever cross paths, unless the chickens wander that far from the coop.
     
  2. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Hi. [​IMG]

    The chickens will wonder that far from the coop, but not at first.

    The best way to get them back in the run is have a treat they like in the same container each day and give it a shake while you call them. Then toss some in the run a close it up behind them.

    Yes, I think free ranging is hugely beneficial. Any is better than none. I don't know if your flock will start protesting because they want out more often. But if it's only weekends they may not associate the expectation. Yep, birds can train us... by raising cane until we open the door or show up with treats. [​IMG]

    If they already put themselves up to roost even from the run, they may automatically head back in as dark approaches, assuming you don't add extra lighting.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I saw your coop and run in another thread. Nice job.

    Of course your chickens would enjoy free ranging, chasing creepy crawlies, scratching in new places, and plucking green growing stuff. A lot of us really like them to be able to forage for that kind of stuff. With your set-up I don’t see any health issues. They can maintain excellent health in there especially if you don’t get more chickens to crowd them. If you want to vary their diet a bit, start throwing in some kitchen scraps with those leaves and yard debris. They’ll really enjoy scratching for that.

    I see in your other post where you mention groundhogs. Don’t be concerned about them, they are not a danger to chickens. The others and many things you don’t mention can be a danger however. Just because you are out there doesn’t mean they are totally safe. There are posts on here where hawks, bobcats, and foxes have grabbed chickens just a few feet away from people. It happens so fast you can’t prevent it. Your being out there does greatly improve their security but it does not assure it.

    They will go back into the coop to roost after dark but they don’t herd worth a darn. It can be challenging to get them back in the run. One trick many people use is to train them to come when called. Put a treat in a special container, bowl or bucket, and feed them a treat whenever you have that bucket. Rattle the bucket and give a call like “here chicky chick” every time you feed them. They should soon learn to come whenever you rattle that bucket and give that call.

    I also have dogs on an underground electric fence. Occasionally the batteries die and they can leave that area. That’s how I know their battery is dead.

    I used Io let my chickens free range, but I had two massacres from people dropping dogs off in the country. Now I keep them inside electric netting. When they were free ranging they often went much further than 200 feet. Some flocks or sub-flocks roam much further than others. I once saw them at a neighbor’s storm shelter, about 600 to 700 feet away from the coop. Luckily the neighbor really enjoyed hearing the rooster crow and the flock eating bugs.

    They were not afraid of my dogs either. They would roam right into the dogs’ territory to forage, that was over 200 feet. It took some work, especially when the chickens started to run, but I managed to train the dogs not to chase them.

    I don’t know what the actual risk is for you. I don’t know how devastated you would be if you lost one chicken. I can’t tell you what is better for you, you may see the benefits worth the risk. I will say you have a great set-up.
     
  4. RPClark

    RPClark Out Of The Brooder

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    We started our flock in July, and have 15 birds. Brooded them in a box in the shop for four weeks and then moved them out to their coop and run at the age of four weeks. The run is totally enclosed with roof over one section and and wire fence over the other. We let them out into the caged run on day one.

    At the end of day one at dusk, we herded them inside the coop and closed the hatch. It was a bit of a "chick rodeo", but with patient, calm movement and some gentle talking, they all went in and we closed the hatch. We let them out again early in the morning.

    The end of day two was easier/faster when it was time to put them up.

    Day three and beyond it was very easy.

    We started free ranging one week later, but only on days we're home. Like the initial transfer to the coop, the first day gathering them back into the run was a little bit of a circus. However, once again, patient calm walking around the flock got them guided into the run where they could be put up for the night. It as a little easier on day two and three.

    Now it's never an issue. After sunset, the naturally move closer to the run and at dusk they put themselves away. We just go out and close the coop hatch to lock them up for the night.

    We never put stuff they love on the ground outside the coop; that goes for scratch, veggies, and such. Any treats we give are only put down inside the run, and so when we go out there, they naturally follow along.

    If we need to leave to go to town on a day when they're out ranging, it's usually not too hard to get them back into the run. I either wait for them to all go back in, but yesterday, I had to round them up. It only took about three minutes or so and they were inside the run and locked up.

    We have several acres, and they have gradually expanded their territory. They have their favorite places to go during the day, and our property does not have heavy cover on it, so it's easy to keep an eye on them when they're ranging.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. GC-Raptor

    GC-Raptor Chillin' With My Peeps

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    @EasterEggDrewMy coop is 10 yards from my house, surrounded by a 5 foot welded wire fence 500 square feet. My girls were attacked by a Coopers hawk a few days ago. I rushed out there when I heard the commotion. Luckily all survived, one girl a little tattered. I have neighbors cats and dogs come onto my property, so my girls don't free range. So with your coop so far from your house, you'll need to supervise them constantly if you free range. A lot of critters like chicken, as do I. Treats are the way to get them back to the coop. GC
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2016
  6. GC-Raptor

    GC-Raptor Chillin' With My Peeps

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    @EasterEggDrewBuild or buy a chicken tractor with a tarp over the top for shade, for your girls to graze a couple of hours a day and move to a new spot daily or as needed. That way they'll get greens and bugs, and you won't have to pull up a chair and watch over them. Don't forget to put water inside. GC
     
  7. EasterEggDrew

    EasterEggDrew Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate all the great advice. The idea of a chicken tractor is especially attractive.

    How do you get them to and from the tractor, just carry them one by one?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  8. GC-Raptor

    GC-Raptor Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You could use a dog carrier, a picnic basket, a box, or a robot. The best would be a transporter to beam them back and forth from the comfort of your home. GC
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2016
  9. EasterEggDrew

    EasterEggDrew Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sarcasm noted.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  10. GC-Raptor

    GC-Raptor Chillin' With My Peeps

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    None intended, just trying to be helpful, and comedic. I'm a trekker. I love sci-fi. Sorry. GC
     

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