Allowing Chickens Outside the Coop - Debate

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by CSDeVault, Mar 14, 2018.

  1. Cheers2Ya

    Cheers2Ya Songster

    Apr 9, 2016
    North Dakota
    My coop has an automatic pop door that opens and closes based on solar. There is a run attached to their coop, but I leave the run door open 24/7, except for the rare need to lock them in. Otherwise, they free range as they please, and are always back to the secure coop and roosted at dusk when I do a head count. I have never lost a chicken doing this, but I have three dogs that run with them. I say, free range if at all possible! They are very curious critters and they love to explore.

    *I'm editing to add that my roosters are right outside my bedroom windows several mornings, but I don't mind at all. And I can hear my girls clucking away as soon as I wake up. They don't waste time to get out and explore and they like to huddle around the dogs water bucket and cluck at great length, which is immediately outside my bedroom window! hahaha Love it, tho!*
    Chickassan and Lifewithchicks like this.
  2. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    OP: Your chickens would benefit from a larger run, 4 sq ft is for the coop, the run should offer 10 sq ft of space or more.

    I let mine free range in the morning when I can watch them. But they're comfortable enough with their run that they take themselves back after only an hour or so. Some days they don't get any time out but I feel their run has enough for them to do that I don't feel bad about it.
    aart likes this.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Ditto Dat^^^
    4/10 is minimal and should be doubled, IMO.

    The size of coop and run,
    and how they are laid out and 'accessorized',
    has a huge impact on confinement stress.

    Anthropomorphization can have a huge impact on accurately assessing an animals needs, reactions, and behaviors.
  4. chickendreams24

    chickendreams24 Crowing

    Jul 30, 2015
    Wisconsin, USA
    We let our flock out every day as well. The only times we don't is in the winter if there's a blizzard or ice storm or its like -30 or lower. Sometimes of the wind is extreme in winter we keep them in too.

    There are fields all around our house so we can not just go throwing up fences anywhere we please as the femce driveways have to be open. Add to that the number of birds we keep would make it almost impossible to make a run large enough. We've always free ranged and I always will.

    It makes for healthier happier birds and more flavorful and healthful eggs.

    We used to have a mild-moderate tick problem. Now in the last three years I've only seen two ticks. One the first year we got chickens and one last year in the garden when there were crops in it so the flock was locked out.

    I'm not going to lie depending on where you live(even in spite of where you live) losses are almost assured. Birds of prey are everywhere and so are rats which can become predatory even in a coop or run. Foxes, coyotes, mink, raccoon, possum. They can and will all take chickens given the chance.

    Some people string wire above the ground to deter are predators. We go another route. We keep roosters to protect and warn the girls. We also keep a few guineas as they make great watchdogs. Lastly we plant things strategically in places for them to hide if they need it. It has saved many of them during attacks.

    We also have a different approach to when we let them out. Dh2D works around the corner at his family farm and comes home for lunch most every day except when they're picking or planting. We have opted to let them out at lunch time(sometimes a bit before or a bit after). If you have the ability to do it it's great, many birds have layed by then and many predators are not hunting or hunting as much after the morning dew is gone. Fox is an exception they can and will hit at any time of day also bords of prey. The other thing we do to keep them safe is make sure we lock them up as soon as they're all in shortly before or after dark.

    Some people have more problems from aerial predators. We've never had a confirmed kill by a bird of prey. I've seen them and they've spooked the flock but I've also been able to run our and the flock has hidden.

    Some people choose to only let their flock out when they're there and that's fine. I personally can not imagine not letting my flock out into at least some kind of run. They can be surprisingly intelligent and trainable. They see through the fence or the window they know there's good things out there.

    I have personally seen my flock attack, play chase games with, and eat field mice, toads, frogs, crickets, grasshoppers, worms, cicadas, slugs and many other things. It's natural for them.

    Even for birds we have lost yes it's been extremely hard some of them were my pets and we've lost more than I ever thought possible(rats-which attacked and killed in the coop- and a fox have been the biggest culprits) still I know that our birds are happy and well adjusted there isn't any bad bullying, they don't pluck and eat feathers, the bearded birds all have their beards. They're happy and engaged. They run to greet us when we walk outside or get home. I have actually had to save several visitors and delivery people who were scared of the birds when they arrived and refused to leave their vehicles.

    They follow us around the property and scratch and forage as they should both saving feed and being beneficial to the land. We may not have to till our garden this year thanks to them.

    It's a double edged sword but they're living breathing creatures and they deserve to enjoy their lives too.
    deepbluesea and Trellinius like this.
  5. Foster's Freehold

    Foster's Freehold Songster

    Jun 7, 2013
    South Central KY
    I've had two flocks wiped out by predators. So my coop is going to be a FtKnox (16x24) and that is where they will sleep and eat. I'm going to add a hoop coop composter (6x12), with a pop door into it. Their paddock will be about 800 sq ft, with a 6ft chain link fence with hotwire. I'm only going to keep about 50 birds max, so I'm going with they will have plenty of room and things to do without the worry of the predators.

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