Afraid to let my chickens free range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by shabbyshic, Aug 20, 2011.

  1. shabbyshic

    shabbyshic Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi there - I have six laying hens (5 mthsold) that have been in a beautiful coop and run happily till now. But I have really been wanting to try letting them free range. I am nervous about the chances of our neighbours dog getting loose... or predators in the wild.. or of them wandering too far. From your experience... is it safer to just maybe make a mobile unit to let them graze (worried about burning the grass) ... or will they generally stay close to the us and the coop. I have 3 young kids so if the hens are out.. i can't always watch them as i am in and out and all about - I am worried about that.

    Any thoughts from others with more experience?

    Thanks so much!
     
  2. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

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    I can't live with chickens not free ranging/pasturing. Mine are in a very large, well fenced, wild-looking pasture surrounded by wilderness, so I say, as long as you have a good fence or something to keep stray dogs out, you should be fine. Keep in mind what predators are commonly known in your area and prepare for them. I have lots of birds of prey, so I string up CD's across the girl's area. Keeps 'em away. As for wandering off, if they're in a situation in which they can indeed do that, they might after a while from curiousity, but there's ways to keep them from doing it. (limited time out, a fence, etc)
     
  3. maizy'smom

    maizy'smom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have four pullets and I work full time. So, the only time I have to let them free range is on the weekends. But, weather permitting, I let them out about an hour before sunset when I get home from work, that way they are ready to put themselves to bed within 30-45minutes. Sometimes, if I wait too late, I even have to coax them out for a quick stretch of the legs.

    mm
     
  4. shabbyshic

    shabbyshic Out Of The Brooder

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    I have wondered if maybe letting them out for an hour before sundown might be a safer experiment. They won't go as far... and they will go in by themselves ( i think?) Do you agree?
     
  5. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

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    I find letting chickens out to free range in the afternoons when people get home from work is a common thing out here - Don't do it!! The predators are out exactly around that time, dusk, and if the chickens are always out just at that time it may train the predators to know - Hey, there's always food over there just when you need it! [​IMG]


    I'd say find a weekend when you're home, let them out, see how it goes, and that should give you an idea on how much you can trust keeping them out when you're not home.
     
  6. NottinghamChicks

    NottinghamChicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:To let them free range is the most healthy and economical way to raise chickens, however, there are many things to consider. Chickens typically wander no more than 375' from their coop. If you are in close proximity to neighbors you will need a fence, either permanent or temporary. They do not burn the grass and it is a wonderful fertilizer for your lawn.

    If your neighbors dogs have been loose in the past you are taking a chance. Hawks will swoop down and foxes will run right in even if there is a human present. You may be able to scare them off with a chase but sometimes they are very focused and will get one despite your actions.

    What I do is let mine out when I m in the yard after work from 5p to dusk during Spring, Summer and Fall. Weekends while I am home and in the yard also. I can coax them back into their coops with some scratch grain if I need to leave. I just lost a Cochin pullet two days ago to a fox in broad daylight with four people sitting on the deck no more than 50' from the chickens. I am now researching electrified chicken fencing. I don't know what your best option is. I know if you have neighbors, and animals, whether domestic or wild you are taking a chance no matter what. A mobile unit may be a better option than fencing and something I had not even considered [​IMG]
     
  7. shabbyshic

    shabbyshic Out Of The Brooder

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    Hmm.. we do have 4 acres of bush behind us.. and plenty of predators.. so.. unless i am right there with them - i think i will try to get my husband to build a mobile unit. Then i can give them grass.. and new scenery when its the easiest.. and maybe try free ranging on weekends. I can't fence our area.. it is just too big.. i would love to - but not in the budget! Since we only have 6 and my girls have raised them from day olds, they are just like pets. I want to be as cautious as possible with them because losing one from carelessness would break my girls hearts! Hard thing balancing little girls and little hens [​IMG]
     
  8. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

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    Well if it helps - Before we put up a fence we free ranged our girls without it for about a year, never lost anyone. And we live about 3 miles from National Park (forest) plus we owned a pretty wild forest ourselves. [​IMG]


    We didn't "watch over them" very much and they were pretty good. We didn't start fencing them in until they wandered out too close to the road.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  9. hickchick55

    hickchick55 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I have been free ranging mine on a limited basis and have had no problems except for them trashing my hostas and tomatoes. I finally had to start turning the hose on them when they go where I don't want them- mostly my front porch and decks. I know now what I have to do next summer to protect my landscaping and gardens. A little chicken wire goes a long way to keep them out of plantings. We have plenty of places to go where they aren't going to hurt anything. That said though, there is every chance that something will get them. I had a friend come over the other day who didn't know I had gotten chickens, and almost let his dog out of the car automatically (my pet peeve anyway). I try to keep an eye on them, but you can't watch every minute. I think the risk is worth it for now, but I could change my mind if disaster occurs.
     
  10. peteyfoozer

    peteyfoozer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We could never let ours out before we got our Maremmas. The boss lost 30 chickens in a day and a half to owls, even with a ton of brush cover. The LGD's don't let ANYTHING bother our chickens, goats, sheep or whatever else we show them is ours. If not for them I would definitely go with the portable coop. Better to be safe than sorry!!


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