Confine or continue free range?


In the Brooder
Jul 10, 2018
I have 6 hens that are right at the age to begin laying. I let them out of their 10x10 run at about 10am and they run for the woods at the back of my property, which is about a 150' distance. Once there I won't see them again until about 5pm and they are in the coop by 6:30. I am debating building a large pen and keeping them confined. I just don't see them trekking all the way back to the coop to lay. Am I wrong? I could also move them into one of my pastures so they have higher grass to range in, but still build a pen. Any opinions would be appreciated.


Visiting The Summer Fair
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Jul 16, 2015
My young ones will often spend all day out somewhere besides the shed. They almost always lay in the shed. Keeping fake eggs in the nestboxes will show them a safe place to lay.

My chickens spend their day in my yard or the pastures, but come back in the shed throughout the day for feed and water.

I think letting chickens spend the day in the woods will eventually end badly. It's just a matter of time before something find them. So for that reason I probably would try to keep them closer to home.


Mar 22, 2016
Mid Michigan
Where are you located? If your woods are like ours there are lots of predators lurking and I would fear for the chickens let alone trying to find eggs.
I personally would confine but I totally understand the free range method, as I have done this in the past also.... until the hawks came way to close for comfort.
Whatever you decide make it the right decision for you. Only you can decide what risks or measures you're willing to take for your flock.
Good luck! :frow


Apr 15, 2018
Central PA
I live out in the booneys and I free ranged my chickens for a good while. It seemed fine for about a year, until we had a fox show up. After losing some hens, I confined them in a large outdoor enclosure that covers a little over an acre in a wooded area close to my house, surrounded by our fields. I made sure to put in lots of things for them to perch on, and some hiding places for them. They seem to be perfectly content!

I would absolutely recommend keeping them in some sort of an enclosure for their own safety. It's only a matter of time before a predator comes along.


Oct 16, 2018
Jackson, Tennessee
Predators seems to come out more when its fall, lost 2 roosters past few weeks. The rest are penned up for now. Also Ive had some chickens who'd come back to lay, some who'd lay in the woods or bushes. If you want the eggs I'd keep them caged. If you want them to be free ranged let em be but they might get eaten! I always had a handful of roosters with my hens in the yard so atleast theyd kill a rooster protecting the hens before loosing the hens. Best of luck.


Premium Feather Member
Jan 6, 2018
Centre, AL
I free range my pullets as well, however, when they got to POL I kept them completely locked in the coop/run for about a week. Most of them were laying but not all and I didn’t want to keep them locked up until they all began laying. Much to my dismay though, I found a rogue nest outside their coop. After that, I keep them confined until about 2:30 or 3:00 every day. Most of the eggs are laid by that time, but there are several pullets that do lay in the coop after they’ve been let out.

As many of the others have posted, I too would not want my birds 150’ from my house much less in the woods. If you are a staunch proponent of free ranging, as am I, you would benefit from installing a fence to make a chicken yard. Premier 1 Supply has several electric, portable fencing options that would be perfect.

I am certain if your pullets do not identify the coop with being their “home” and where they must lay, there are rogue nests out and about in the woods. These nests will also draw predators that like eggs. Ranging that far, you will most certainly lose your eggs to predators, and likely your birds too.

Good luck to you and your birds.


Crossing the Road
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
Holts Summit, Missouri
Consider planting some patches of brambles and other dense stemmed plantings near the pen. Add a feeding station to one and a chicken accessible compost heap in another location near cover where you scatter some scratch grains. You may be able to distract birds from going to woods.


7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
Oakhurst Oklahoma
Will they come back to the coop to lay, maybe, maybe not,,
I too have to many predators to let my girls get that far from the house. My fenced run is 225' x 150' setting on about 30 acres,,,

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