Age/time line to allow ranging

Rtdowdy

In the Brooder
Dec 14, 2020
38
23
41
Wilmington NC
Hi again! Our littles are doing well in their coop and run- integrating well together and even roosting at night together. We have a smaller yard fenced in and would like to know everyone’s opinion on when/age it’s comfortable to allow them to free range around where they won’t get lost or not make it back to the coop. They’re 14-9 weeks old currently.
 

humblehillsfarm

Crazy chicken lady
Mar 27, 2020
3,664
7,205
461
Southwestern Pennsylvania
My Coop
My Coop
Hi again! Our littles are doing well in their coop and run- integrating well together and even roosting at night together. We have a smaller yard fenced in and would like to know everyone’s opinion on when/age it’s comfortable to allow them to free range around where they won’t get lost or not make it back to the coop. They’re 14-9 weeks old currently.
I've integrated them with the flock as early as six weeks. Do you have any other chickens? I've raised a total of four batches of chicks, two with a hen and two by myself. All of them have needed help getting back into the coop at night for several weeks. To aid in this, I threw up a temp fence using chicken wire to keep them enclosed to make catching them at night easier. I usually free range. if you have a run you won't need to do that. If you have a fenced in yard and you're confident they will stay in that yard, they should be fine but just know, you WILL have to catch them.

Are they already staying in the coop? If not, lock them in there for a few days if it's large enough to help them learn where home is.
 

Rtdowdy

In the Brooder
Dec 14, 2020
38
23
41
Wilmington NC
I've integrated them with the flock as early as six weeks. Do you have any other chickens? I've raised a total of four batches of chicks, two with a hen and two by myself. All of them have needed help getting back into the coop at night for several weeks. To aid in this, I threw up a temp fence using chicken wire to keep them enclosed to make catching them at night easier. I usually free range. if you have a run you won't need to do that. If you have a fenced in yard and you're confident they will stay in that yard, they should be fine but just know, you WILL have to catch them.

Are they already staying in the coop? If not, lock them in there for a few days if it's large enough to help them learn where home is.
I do not have an existing flock so these are all new to our coop. They’ve been in the coop for a week now and all going in to Roost at night without help.
 

humblehillsfarm

Crazy chicken lady
Mar 27, 2020
3,664
7,205
461
Southwestern Pennsylvania
My Coop
My Coop
I do not have an existing flock so these are all new to our coop. They’ve been in the coop for a week now and all going in to Roost at night without help.
I think you’d be safe to start letting them out. On day one id let them out a few hours before time for bed just so you can keep an eye on them. If they do well then you can let them out in the morning the next day.
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,666
13,610
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Personally, I start introducing my birds to the adult flock at 8 weeks (in separated runs), and integrate at 12 weeks. That has worked for me on every occasion but one, when a particularly small drake did not integrate successfully with my adult pekins (which had too many drakes already) - his female siblings were welcomed, he was not. Ended up moving him back into the grow out box with other chicks for another 4 weeks, till he got a little more size on him. Still ended up being low duck on the totem pole (and, eventually, good eats), but the amount of jostling, pecking upon, and other flock order dynamics were no longer life threatening to him.

I've had 100% success with my chickens thus far, following those rules of thumb - BUT I've only done it twice, having bought birds in three batches this year. So the sample size is very small. Will be doing it monthly this year, incubating a batch every four weeks thru fall, at least.
 

Rtdowdy

In the Brooder
Dec 14, 2020
38
23
41
Wilmington NC
So everyone feels that they can start to range with a few hours a day? They’re all doing well out together so far. I’m just worried about them getting lost in the yard but I guess they’ll mostly stick together?
 

halefamily_flock

Songster
Sep 16, 2020
329
827
176
Southeast Misssouri
I train my littles to come for treats, starting in the brooder & coop. I have bright orange tape that I put around the treat container (meal worms), so they can see it from a distance.
IMG_7576.JPG
I start treating them around 3 weeks old. I always take a minute to hold the treat container up where they can see it, and shake it a little. Then, give them each a few. It usually starts by dropping them in, so the chicks can explore & taste on their own. Then, holding one worm at a time for them to peck at. After a few days, they'll come running out from under heat plate, from the other side of the brooder as soon as they hear the shake and/or see the bright orange container. I let them grab treats out of my hands and directly out of the container. Same process works inside the coop, to get them to run over to you for treats.

Once they are ranging outside the coop, you can treat them outside a few times where they can see you. Eventually, you will be able to shake the container from inside the coop to get them to come inside for treats at any time (especially if you add your choice of chicken call, at the same time you're shaking the treat container). Depending on how many you have, it could still take a little wrangling to get them all in at the same time. You might need to close most of them in, and catch any stragglers (using treats) on the outside & carry them inside.

In my experience, chicks stay very close to the coop, even without a fence, for several weeks before they start ranging further. I usually let them start ranging on their own by 6-8 weeks (after they've gotten to know the rest of the flock through a fence), and they stay close to the coop for at least 3-4 weeks, even with no fencing. It helps with the integration that the chicks stay close while the adults range further away, so the chicks get the place to themselves for most of the day.
 

Rtdowdy

In the Brooder
Dec 14, 2020
38
23
41
Wilmington NC
I train my littles to come for treats, starting in the brooder & coop. I have bright orange tape that I put around the treat container (meal worms), so they can see it from a distance.
View attachment 2466301
I start treating them around 3 weeks old. I always take a minute to hold the treat container up where they can see it, and shake it a little. Then, give them each a few. It usually starts by dropping them in, so the chicks can explore & taste on their own. Then, holding one worm at a time for them to peck at. After a few days, they'll come running out from under heat plate, from the other side of the brooder as soon as they hear the shake and/or see the bright orange container. I let them grab treats out of my hands and directly out of the container. Same process works inside the coop, to get them to run over to you for treats.

Once they are ranging outside the coop, you can treat them outside a few times where they can see you. Eventually, you will be able to shake the container from inside the coop to get them to come inside for treats at any time (especially if you add your choice of chicken call, at the same time you're shaking the treat container). Depending on how many you have, it could still take a little wrangling to get them all in at the same time. You might need to close most of them in, and catch any stragglers (using treats) on the outside & carry them inside.

In my experience, chicks stay very close to the coop, even without a fence, for several weeks before they start ranging further. I usually let them start ranging on their own by 6-8 weeks (after they've gotten to know the rest of the flock through a fence), and they stay close to the coop for at least 3-4 weeks, even with no fencing. It helps with the integration that the chicks stay close while the adults range further away, so the chicks get the place to themselves for most of the day.
Excellent thank you. We have been doing treats for this purpose and to help them grow attachments to us. I think this will help me gauge their confidence as we go ahead.
 

jreardon1918

Crowing
5 Years
Jul 13, 2016
879
1,600
286
Southeast, MA
My Coop
My Coop
So everyone feels that they can start to range with a few hours a day? They’re all doing well out together so far. I’m just worried about them getting lost in the yard but I guess they’ll mostly stick together?
We allowed our first flock to start roaming the yard at 12ish weeks. But only when we were there to supervise. They generally stayed near the coop. But, they liked our gardens, so we decided to contain them in a secure run and an unsecured fenced area. Fast forward a few years. We have had several losses. Including to a hawk last week. Our risk tolerance is not very high. So they now reside in the secured run.
 

SueT

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
May 27, 2015
10,055
32,689
1,027
SW MO
I have found that chickens even younger than yours, will carefully orient themselves so they can find their way back home. Mine have practiced going in and out, further and further. They'll definitely come home, they won't just run off into the distance.....
 

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