Allowing chickens to truly free range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jroyalimage, Apr 25, 2016.

  1. jroyalimage

    jroyalimage Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 29, 2015
    So I recently purchased some chickens although I have not brought them home yet. After doing countless hours of research and talking to other chicken owners, I have decided to let my chickens truly free range.
    My main reason for keeping chickens is for insect control and to spread the horse manure. As I posted a while ago, I am not a big chicken or egg eater so I really just wanted them because I always thought chickens were cool lol. I have also decided to not have a coop. I just think (and this is just my honest opinion) that if chickens are in a coop and something were to get in, the chickens have no way of escaping. There are a lot of trees so the chickens will have plenty of places to roost at night.
    But my question is how do I get started in true free ranging? When I get them do I just let them go all together? Or do I keep them in a small fenced off area for a while?
  2. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 28, 2008
    If you want them to survive the nights they need a secure coop. It doesn't matter if they are in a coop or in the trees, they won't survive an attack because they cannot see in the dark. Letting them roost in the trees will just attract predators more quickly for the easy pickings.
  3. mimsy

    mimsy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2012
    I'd agree, chickens have terrible sight at night and they sleep like the dead. Anything can just pick them up then.

    I've only ever lost one chicken to a predator and it was the one that kept roosting in a tree at night, which I normally went and picked up and put in the coop. The one time I didn't grab it an owl did. During the daytime I fully free range, though I do have two dogs that stay out days with them as well.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I’m glad you’ve done your research so you understand the risks but also have read that some people are quite successful with total free ranging and them sleeping in trees.

    That’s an interesting question. When a neighboring farmer traded an electric grinding wheel to Dad for a bunch of our chickens so he could have a flock, he just turned them loose when he got them home. That neighbor was about ¾ mile away. The chickens stayed on his place, pretty much took over his barn. They were all one flock to start with. I don’t know if yours are one flock or coming from different places.

    If you confine them for a day or two you teach them that is their home base, they are unlikely to just wander off when you let them loose. If they are already laying, they’d likely make their nests in there too. I know you said you are not big on eggs, but maybe knowing where they lay could have some benefits.

    I think I’d be tempted to do that, confine them a day or two. But more importantly, feed them scratch, corn, something, for a week or so to keep them from wandering too far until they get their habits set up.

    Good luck.
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.

    I had a flock that fully free ranged for a short period of time. Then the pair of Great Horned Owls that live in our grove found them. Every morning I'd find headless chicken bodies on the ground until finally my flock was gone. (It only took a couple of days, as they killed 1-2 per night) Your other threat would be climbing predators - mainly raccoons and oppossums. The choice is yours, of course. After my owl incident, I have locked mine up at night and haven't lost any to night predators since. It all depends on why you have chickens, I guess. You can put them in at night and still let them out daily for insect control. (They won't be hunting bugs at night, anyway.) Good luck with your flock.

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