Fence Height for "Free Ranging"

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by DrRocco, Dec 9, 2014.

  1. DrRocco

    DrRocco Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 17, 2014
    Springfield, IL
    I live in town and my birds are truly "backyard" chickens. Right now, my yard is fenced but only with 3 foot high chain link. Come spring, I'd love to be able to let the girls out of the run to pick through the grass and the garden whenever I'm outside. I'm certain that I wouldn't feel comfortable doing so with my current set-up. My neighbors on either side both have a couple large, rowdy doggies.

    If I kept their wings clipped and fenced the yard with 6 foot privacy fencing, do you think they'd stay put? I'm not sure if yard size or layout matters, so here's a pic of my backyard. For scale, the 6 garden beds are all 4' x 16', as is the Coop/Run which is represented by the yellow rectangle.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. CityCAChicken

    CityCAChicken Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 5, 2014
    Hi there -

    I live in a major city/urban neighborhood. Standard 6 foot fence in the backyard.

    I clip the wings two times a year and never have a problem. The chickens can not fly/jump more then a few inches off the ground. The wings grow out so when I notice they can start to fly...I clip them again. The chickens don't seem to even notice the clipped wings
     
  3. DrRocco

    DrRocco Out Of The Brooder

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    Just a few inches? How does that work when they try to roost? I didn't figure a clipped wing would hobble them that much. My birds have to make it about 2' up to the roosting bar.
     
  4. CityCAChicken

    CityCAChicken Out Of The Brooder

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    I have a dowel at chicken waist height in the coop. They can get on that and into a nesting box but not much else. Perhaps a few inches is a stretch but definitely no where near my fence height
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2014
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Just an FYI - they can destroy a garden in less time than a phone call......
     
  6. jtn42248

    jtn42248 Overrun With Chickens

    It really is going to depend on the breeds of chickens you have. Barred Rocks, Wyandottes, etc. get sort of fat and can only manage to fly a few feet off the ground so a 6 foot fence should be enough. Andalusians and many of the lighter large fowl can manage to fly that high so clipping a wing might be safer for them. However, some breeds like the Golden Campine can easily manage to get over a 6 foot fence even with a clipped wing. Stick to more "common" large fowl and you should be o.k.

    As for the fence. Since you have dogs on both sides, make sure the fence is installed with the horizontal 2x4's on your side of the fence. That way a large dog can not jump against the fence knocking a fence panel loose and, in an emergency, you can easily kick through the fence if you need to get out and can't get to the gate.
     
  7. DrRocco

    DrRocco Out Of The Brooder

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    I have Australorps and Buff Orpingtons. They certainly don't look like efficient flying machines. Where do they fall on the flyability scale?
     
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    What Mrs K said! Nice yard lay out BTW. You should be fine with them behind a 6' privacy fence, but beware, your neighbor's rowdy dogs or any other predator may try to dig under it. you might want to put a wire skirt around the perimeter of that fence. Clipped wings won't bother your girls much, just unbalance them enough that they won't try any long or high flight patterns. My girls can still fly up 3.5' to get on a perch with one wing clipped... which is the recommendation... clip just one wing. BA and BO are heavy birds, so should not be great fliers. But some girls don't read the book about what they should and should not do. As far as your garden beds, you can buy a roll of deer fencing which is black 1" mesh 7' x 100' long you can cut that in half to give you 3.5' x 200 l.f. of fencing. It's great for putting up around garden beds. The chooks will bump into it a few times, and totally give up on trying to get into your garden. Thin fiberglass posts every 10' or so, and clothes pins to hold it up on the posts, an occasional tent peg at the bottom if it gaps, and you're good to go with a practically invisible fence that you can easily step over. The only down side: if you let the grass grow up through it, it makes a horrid mess to remove in the fall.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    A whole lot of what chickens can do as far as getting over a fence depends on motivation. If they really want to get over a fence, they’ll surprise you with what they can do. Some people keep chickens confined with a 3’ high fence. Some people have problems with 5 feet high fences. Clipping a wing can help but it doesn’t always stop them. There are plenty of threads on this forum from people that have discovered that.

    I don’t clip wings but I have had hatchery quality chickens of your breeds. I have similar sized chickens now. They have absolutely no problem getting up on a five feet high roost and could easily go much higher if they wanted to. I had an Australorp and some Delaware that would daily get out of a run with five feet high walls. They learned they could get out so they went out each day. I had plenty others that never got out. Right now I keep them in with a 4 foot high electric netting. They could easily fly out if they wanted to but they generally don’t.

    What would motivate a chicken to go over a fence? Food for one thing. Food is a great motivator. But chickens often have trouble with the concept of getting over a barrier. A lot of times if they can’t walk to it they assume it is out of reach. They don’t think to fly over something to get here. They often have trouble with the concept of gate too but that is a different story.

    Also, they are not going to launch themselves into the sky and commit themselves if they don’t know there is a safe landing area. So a fence they cannot see through is a great start. But that brings up another problem. Chickens like to perch. They really enjoy just flying/jumping up on things to survey the world. Once they get up on top of a fence, they just might hop down on the wrong side. They generally don’t know to get back home the same way so they can be pretty desperate at bedtime to get back to the coop yet can’t figure out how to get there. A fence with a top that looks like a good perching spot can be a problem. If you have wire going up a few inches above the top of the solid top of your fence, they won’t fly up there.

    A general note. When I say “can” I don’t mean it will happen each and every 100% of the time without fail for every chicken on the face of the earth. I mean it is possible and sometimes happens. It’s something to be aware of.

    Even with wings clipped chickens can reach amazing heights on a fence by flapping wings and pretty much walking up the fence. This can happen when a hen is trying to get away from an amorous rooster or if a chicken is losing a pecking order fight and is trapped in a corner or against a fence. A predator or perceived danger can cause this behavior too. If I walk toward them with a feed bucket they come running but if I’m carrying something strange and really dangerous like a small camera they can panic and go to great lengths to get away. I don’t see this as much of a problem for you. You have all hens, no roosters. I assume they are the same age and have worked out the pecking order. They should not have any reason to try to get away from each other. If you integrate in the future you could possibly have this problem, but in your case I doubt it. Something else you have going for you is that you have big area. It is highly unlikely they will ever be trapped against the fence and need to go vertical to get away from something. You don’t have any really sharp corners but they are pretty open so they should be able to run away instead of go vertical even if trapped in there.

    Bottom line, I think you will be OK with a 6’ high privacy fence even without clipping a wing. They have no reason to want to get to the other side and have plenty of room on their side. I think you would be OK with a 6’ high wire fence too. The only concern I’d have is if they want to perch on top of the fence and come down on the other side, but that’s probably not going to happen. If it does the fix is to have some wire sticking up a few inches above the top of the fence so they don’t have a safe landing area up there to perch on. They will do great damage to your garden though unless you fence them out of those. A less expensive five feet high wire fence with no top rail should work great for that.

    If you do clip wings, the only time you need to do that is after a molt. As long as you don’t remove the shaft the feather should not grow back until after a molt. If you pluck out the entire shaft the feather will grow back.

    Good luck!
     
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  10. jtn42248

    jtn42248 Overrun With Chickens

    Those are both pretty heavy breeds so I doubt you would have anything to worry about. I don't know if you remember the old screen saver with flying toasters but they would probably look a lot like that. Mine (Barred Rocks, Partridge Rocks, Silver Laced and Columbian Wyandottes) all look like feathered blimps when they try to fly. They can make it about 2 or 3 feet off the ground for 8-10 feet then they sort of fall to earth.
     

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