Beginning free ranging

NHMountainMan

Free Ranging
Feb 25, 2019
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I'm planning on starting "controlled" free ranging with my flock of 13 pullets (approx 16 weeks old). Wanted to check in with the experts here to see if I've learned correctly about free ranging. Until now, they've never left the run.

To start- open the run door about 6 pm - 2 hours before sunset.
Initially, hoping they'll stay within the electric netting- approx 200'x200'.
Around 8 pm - I plan to go into the run and try to call them back with some dried mealworms.
Hopefully they all return and I can lock the run up for the night and tuck themselves into the coop.

I'm planning on sitting on the porch with my dog (lost my best dog ever on Saturday) within earshot but not directly in line of sight.

Anything I've missed or anything I should do differently?
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
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I'm planning on starting "controlled" free ranging with my flock of 13 pullets (approx 16 weeks old). Wanted to check in with the experts here to see if I've learned correctly about free ranging. Until now, they've never left the run.

To start- open the run door about 6 pm - 2 hours before sunset.
Initially, hoping they'll stay within the electric netting- approx 200'x200'.
Around 8 pm - I plan to go into the run and try to call them back with some dried mealworms.
Hopefully they all return and I can lock the run up for the night and tuck themselves into the coop.

I'm planning on sitting on the porch with my dog (lost my best dog ever on Saturday) within earshot but not directly in line of sight.

Anything I've missed or anything I should do differently?
Are they free ranging or just coming out into your 200'x200' electronetted pen?
If they are contained within the pen, you can let them out earlier as they will be protected from ground predators by the fence.
 

NHMountainMan

Free Ranging
Feb 25, 2019
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New Hampshire
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Are they free ranging or just coming out into your 200'x200' electronetted pen?
If they are contained within the pen, you can let them out earlier as they will be protected from ground predators by the fence.

I'm not sure if I'll completely free range them. I can expand and move the electric netting to cover about an acre. But we have a ton of wild lupine plants which are poisonous (according to the UNH coop ext) so I may need to restrict some of the area. I thought I'd start slow with a small area, and then play it by ear. Does that make sense?
 

NHMountainMan

Free Ranging
Feb 25, 2019
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Sounds like a plan. Sorry about the loss of your dog - we just lost our 12 year old golden retriever about a month ago.
Sorry for your loss as well. My other dog is just moping around depressed. Barely eating, not interested in toys. He perks up when we head out to the chickens. Hoping he'll snap out of it soon.
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
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Jul 23, 2018
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I'm not sure if I'll completely free range them. I can expand and move the electric netting to cover about an acre. But we have a ton of wild lupine plants which are poisonous (according to the UNH coop ext) so I may need to restrict some of the area. I thought I'd start slow with a small area, and then play it by ear. Does that make sense?

Makes sense. The chickens won't care. They will go as far as you let them until they hit their comfort zone which will likely be a lot farther than yours is.
If you are going to do a larger, permanent electric fence, I'd go with posts and run hot wires instead. Just use the same spacing as your netting and make sure you have a good charger to power it. I use 10,000 volts with 1.2 joule output (1.6 joule stored). That keeps my local black bear and everything below her at bay.
Hawks are a different matter. Your flock will still need protection in the form of shrubbery and their covered run. There will always be the risk of aerial attacks.
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
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Sorry for your loss as well. My other dog is just moping around depressed. Barely eating, not interested in toys. He perks up when we head out to the chickens. Hoping he'll snap out of it soon.
It's often tough on the dog that is left behind. Sorry for both of you. :hugs Hopefully in time he starts to come around.
 

SueT

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
May 27, 2015
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I think your plan is good. Newly free ranged chickens will orient themselves so they can get back in before venturing too far. They may need a little help finding the door the first few times, (but they may not.) They will come in on their own when it gets late enough. If you feel like they stay up too late for safety, then make sure they are trained to come w treats.
I am letting my 8 week olds free range but there are older birds for them to follow. I don't worry about poison plants. I haven't ever had a chicken die of eating poison plants, they seem to have a built in wisdom about what not to eat. Here are my youngsters meeting a wild rabbit yesterday:
8-14 Spitzes w rabbit.jpg
 

slordaz

hatchaholic
5 Years
Apr 15, 2015
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if you are planning on completely free ranging you will want a rooster with the flock, have you checked what predators you have in the area?
We had 2 roosters and a big breed drake with our free ranging flock, the main, aka mean rooster, and the drake would defend even against hawks and the pair made even the eagles think twice while the other rooster would get the hens to safety and keep them calm.
one thing to think about whether free ranging in a large enclose area or true free ranging is there enough cover in different areas for them to take cover from especially aerial predators, a ground predator depending on whats in your area, they will either be flying up to get away from or running back to wards coop.
I would also read up on the Predator Thread if you plan on free ranging but with good planning you will keep your losses to a minimum. one predator most don't think about is feral cats, if they are hunting in a pack they will take down a full grown hen.
 

SueT

Enabler
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7 Years
May 27, 2015
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ferral cats, if they are hunting in a pack they will take down a full grown hen.
really? Have you witnessed this? Cats are not generally considered pack animals. I have seen feral cats occasionally, they are smaller than my hens who attacked them and chased them away.
 

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