Can I pick up hens and move from back to front yard for free-ranging?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Heathercp, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. Heathercp

    Heathercp Songster

    Jul 23, 2008
    Durham, NC
    I'm a chicken noob, but have been lurking here for months. Boy, am I grateful for this site!

    Before I get to my question, let me tell you the big chicken plan.... Build coop. Drive from NC to Maryland to pick up eight 8-month-old Black Australorps from a friend who's downsizing her flock of 20. Drive confused chickens back to NC in cardboard boxes (we're used to doing this with racing pigeons, but have never done it with chickens, so hopefully they'll channel their inner-pigeon and do just fine). Introduce chickens to new digs and leave them in the new coop/run for a week to let them adjust to the change (and to give us time to explain to the cats that the new pack members are not there for food or sport). So far, so good??

    Here's one of my questions: After I let these girls hang out in the back yard for a few months, can I pick up a couple of hens and walk them out to the front yard to let them free range on the lawn for a few hours a day? The coop is under construction in the back yard. Here are two pics to give you an idea of what we're working with.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The coop dimensions are 7'x8' and the attached run will be about 145sq.ft. We're going to let the hens free range in the back yard when we're home (after we clip their wings to make it a bit tougher for them to fly over the existing 4' chain link fence that surrounds the back yard). As you can see we've got lots of trees and leaves in the back, but no grass. And not much in the way of weeds either, since we haul all the leaves from the front yard and pile them out back.

    The front yard is turf, however, and I'd love to let them eat grass and whatever else they'd find there. I was thinking I could confine them with either temporary fencing or a lightweight mini-run that I could haul around the lawn. But, my big question is what are these gals going to think about me grabbing them and carrying them out front and then later hauling them back to the back yard. Will they be totally confused and not know where they live? And is it worth the extra hassle to give them the chance to eat grass? Or should I just bag the clippings and throw them in the back yard for some extra green stuff.

    This is only the first of what I'm sure will be many posts with questions. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me. [​IMG]
  2. HEChicken

    HEChicken Crowing

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    Whether you can pick them up and carry them to the frontyard will depend a lot on how easily handled they are. My chooks are extremely friendly and come running whenever I go out in the backyard, will eat out of my hand, chitter chatter to me all the time etc. But pick them up? No, they don't like that one little bit. (Keep in mind, even their mother never picks them up like a dog or cat mama does - she herds them around with her but never tries to pick them up in her beak, so I suppose its natural they don't like being picked up). Probably the easiest way to free range them in the front yard would be to leave the gate open when they are free ranging and let them wander out there by themselves. If you do that, they will learn the way and should wander back when it gets dark so they can go back "home" to bed.

    You can bag the grass clippings and throw them out in the back yard but ONLY if you have not used any kind of fertilizer or weed control. Actually, same goes for letting them free range on the grass.

    ETA: [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2010
  3. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    I herd mine regularly around our back yard, moving them between their various accomodations. I walk in back of them, quietly slapping my sides, and they've learned this is their signal to move. They've caught on quite quickly, and now it's very easy to get them to go where I want. To begin with, you might train them by using a pan of scratch, shaking it and calling to them, to get them to go where you want. If you make a routine of it, your chickens will figure it out.

    My chickens have also gotten used to being picked up. I kept them in crates in the garage during the cold spell we just went through, so I picked up each one every day, twice (once putting it in the garage, once taking it out). Now they're very used to the whole thing and don't mind being picked up at all anymore.

    If you work with your chickens daily, you could get them used to just about anything, I guess.
  4. post #8 I posted directions to how I make fence panels out of electrical conduit.

    I've used these things zip tied together in a zig-zag pattern which means it will free stand. If you are clipping wings these as I make them are four feet high.
    Keep the zip ties holding the short sides together pretty loose and you can fold it up accordian style and put it away. Works well when made into a closed circle too. A square or rectangular one works less well without posts.

    Since it free stands, and is held together by plastic ties the planning and zoning folks generally ignore it as it is a temporary enclosure not unlike a portable dog run and not attached to the ground. Worked for me in Fort Myers where I swear I had two guys whose sole purpose in life was harassing me into getting a building permit.

    My chickens free range all over my small piece of property but they learned very quickly to come running all the way from one side to the other when I start to rake. They look at it as catching bugs without doing any scratching. It's funny...when the roosters (now in jails) saw the rake they ran away, but the hens run towards me. I am apparently the head scratcher.

    Terry in TN
  5. spammy

    spammy In the Brooder

    Aug 17, 2009
    The chickens will seek out the best food plot. If they eat all their favorites in one area they will migrate to the next better spot. My rooster will
    explore, when he finds the good stuff he calls to the others. Chickens are smart, don't try to micro manage them. Have fun.

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