Anyone *not* free range?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by deuxcoop, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. deuxcoop

    deuxcoop In the Brooder

    Sep 22, 2013
    I only have two (new to me) hens and we have some bold predators hanging around the wooded area where I live. The girls have more than the recommended amount of space in their coop and run area and it is extremely secure.

    However, I feel bad when I see photos of other people's free-ranging flocks. I give my hens treats, scratch, and visit them during the day. This afternoon I let them out in a fenced area around their run while I was putting hay in the next box. Not even ten minutes later the resident hawk started screeching and circling overhead. (I found him perched on the fence recently.) The girls freaked but didn't know to go back to the coop, so I had to hustle them back into their area. They are used to living in a bigger flock with a rooster which isn't an option here, so it occurs to me that even supervised free ranging isn't going to work.

    Anyone else have this problem? How do you know that your chickens are "happy"? My girls haven't laid any eggs yet so I'm a bit worried.
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    They'll be fine.

    I free ranged my birds for years until I got tired of chicken poop on the porch. They had an entire acre to roam, but no, they went from the coop to the porch, basically. So, honey built a nice large run and in they went. That was a few years ago and they've been fine. I had no change in production--actually, I saw more eggs because I didn't have to hunt all over kingdom come for eggs every day! I feed all my kitchen scraps and grow things like Swiss chard to feed them greens during the winter.

    Your hens are having a lot of change, just give them time to start laying. It's quite an adjustment!

  3. Tiller

    Tiller Songster

    Jun 2, 2013
    Free ranging really wasn't an option for me either. I'd talked to a few people that live within a few miles of me, and they had tried free ranging but red tailed hawks really put a hurting on their flocks.
    I tried something similar to what you did, let some of my roos out into a small pasture that I have and withing 30 minutes had a red tailed hawk circling so back in they went.
    Instead I built a fairly large wire roof run for my girls and they are happy, especially with the treats they often get.
  4. ronott1

    ronott1 A chicken will always remember the egg

    Mar 31, 2011
    Woodland, CA
    My Coop
    They will be fine with the space you are giving them. It is better to protect them from the hawks.

    Give them something green every day like Kale, Spinach or Chard. If you do not use poison on your lawn, give them grass clippings when you mow. It is fall, so you can cut a hole in the side of a pumpkin and let them eat it. They also love to work, so put some leaves into their run and watch them work on it.

    Welcome to BYC!
  5. autumn123

    autumn123 In the Brooder

    Jul 14, 2013
    I can't free range due to numerous predators. The run and coop must be secure from: racoons, fox, hawks, dogs, coyotes, snakes. My hens have adequate room, and when I am working outside I put them in a temporary (top enclosed) moveable pen so they can scratch around in the field. I also have 2 dogs, so predators aren't much of a problem during the daytime. One hen is laying but the other two have a couple of weeks to go. They appear happy and healthy.
  6. Ciqala

    Ciqala Songster

    Apr 14, 2013
    New Hampshire
    I wish I could free range, but I can't really where we are. Not only do we have lots of predators, I live in a split house and the people who live on the other side have 3 large dogs that are always getting loose. They do do their best to keep them contained, but I fear the dogs are smarter than them lol [​IMG] Although our driveway is long, the road is very busy and at a quicker speed. So the run off the coop is a decent size, they also have a pretty darn big "backyard" fenced in off of that run that I let them out more so when I'm home. I have more fence I'm going to put up after winter to make them yet another yard off of that one. Having the different runs and not constant access to them all spices things up for them a bit.
  7. DLV58

    DLV58 Chirping

    May 19, 2013
    We have a large fenced in yard but I haven't let the girls out of their run yet
    my neighborhood has a problem with feral cats
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    You have to do what works for you, and don't feel guilty. As long as the girls have enough room in their coop and run, they'll be fine. I would urge you, if at all possible to have 2 or more runs that you can alternate between, or have a tractor so they can access fresh ground. And if they do turn their run into a wasteland free of vegetation... which they will eventually do, I'd encourage you to put a deep mulch or deep litter in their run. That'll basically turn it into a compost pile with lots of good stuff growing to keep the girls busy. It won't stink like a bare ground run would, and you can use the finished compost in your gardens. Also, by mulching their bare ground run, you're preventing a lot of nutrient run off which can be harmful to the surrounding areas.
  9. creepygothnursi

    creepygothnursi In the Brooder

    Jun 27, 2013
    We don't. We live right next to a county highway, plus we have near neighbors who I like and do not want to burden with having to chase chickens out of their yard. Also, one of ours is particularly stupid even for a chicken (to the point where that's her name, "Stupid"!) and there's no way on this earth she would figure out that she was supposed to come back. Even if she did, I'm not willing nor able to run all over the yard trying to find eggs! They have a nice large run that I do deep litter in, and they're happy and fine.
  10. harvestmoonGal

    harvestmoonGal Chirping

    May 10, 2013
    I wish I could free range but I live so close to the woods, I've already had foxes kill 4 of my hens. :*( but I've talked about it to my family a lot. I wish I could but I don't think I could ever make it happen and not lose all my chickens.

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