Flight of hens question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jaseyboy1986, Aug 17, 2014.

  1. jaseyboy1986

    jaseyboy1986 Out Of The Brooder

    60
    5
    48
    Aug 7, 2014
    Norfolk, UK
    My hens live in a coop inside a large run in the garden which has plenty of space for them to run around, flap and scratch etc. but I've recently been toying with the idea of letting them out of the run to have run of the garden. My only worry is they may escape. My garden is secure and has 6' fences all around, are they likely to reach the fences if I clip their wings?

    I live in Norfolk, UK and don't appear to have many predators that would get into our garden, maybe foxes however, I haven't ever seen any in our neighbourhood (and I'm out at literally all hours). Having said this, there are a lot of domestic cats around are these likely to harm my hens?
     
  2. chickenhound

    chickenhound Chillin' With My Peeps

    172
    22
    68
    Jul 2, 2014
    Hello Jaseyboy 1986. First of all, I doubt that most hens could reach the top of a 6 foot fence if their wings were clipped. There is a down side to wing clipping as this will hinder their ability to escape if confronted with a predator. There are also some chickens that could scale a 6 foot fence even if the wings are clipped.

    I really don't think that cats would bother an adult hen unless you have some big old feral cats over there, I wouldn't worry about them bothering your birds, chicks yes but not adult birds.

    I would say to certainly keep an eye on the birds if you attempt this. Good luck!
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    32,744
    5,505
    556
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    By 'garden' I assume you mean what we call the 'yard' and not a vegetable garden where you grow your food.

    6' fence easily surmounted by both chickens and fox, if they are hungry enough.

    Clipping wings might work if necessary, if there's enough to keep them busy inside the fence they may not even try to go over it.

    Is the fence wire mesh or solid wood or....??

    I've read the putting something floppy on the top of the fence works well, like a one foot high piece of chicken wire. or even stringing a couple wires about 6" apart along the top of the fence, if they can't land on something stable they'll stay off of it.
     
  4. jaseyboy1986

    jaseyboy1986 Out Of The Brooder

    60
    5
    48
    Aug 7, 2014
    Norfolk, UK

    Over here a yard would be a small concreted area at the rear of a house enclosed by brick walls and a gate, but yeah I'm sure it's what you'd call a yard. My garden is at least 100' long and 20' wide laid to lawn with wooden fence panels to enclose the 'garden/yard' I do also have a vegetable patch within it where I grow a bit of food. (I produce too many courgettes so the chickens benefit from that).

    That's a good idea having some wire on top of the fence to discourage them to balance on it. I think I'll give that a go.

    Is be devastated if they were eaten by a predator but would like to let them roam as much as they would like.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    19,950
    3,111
    476
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    What size are your hens? That applies to both questions. Cats are predators, but they are pretty much cowards. They tend to tackle only prey smaller than themselves, often quite a bit smaller. Songbirds are certainly at risk. Baby chicks are at risk. But unless you have some pretty small chicken breeds or have some really large cats, adult chickens are not likely to be at much if any risk. You are dealing with living animals and each one is different so I can’t give guarantees, but domestic cats are not high at all on my predator worry list.

    Can your chickens get out of a 6’ high fence? I don’t know your breeds. Some fly better than others. Silkies can’t fly at all. Some other decorative birds may have trouble flying. But bantams fly better than Games. Games fly better than the full-sized breeds and games can usually fly up to a fifteen foot high tree branch to roost if they want to. Practically any chicken can get over a 6’ high fence if they want to. That’s with their wings not clipped. When you clip one wing you limit that mobility a lot, but they can still jump/fly better than some people expect.

    A lot of that is motivation. Chickens don’t always escape fences by just flying over them. They can reach pretty great heights by using their feet as they flap their wings if properly motivated, pretty much climbing the fence instead of flying up and over. Where I’ve seen this is when a hen is trying to get away from an amorous rooster or a chicken is trying to get away after a pecking order or flock dominance fight. These fights sometimes end with running away and chasing. I’ve seen chickens reach amazing heights when they are trying to run away but get trapped against a fence. I don’t clip my chickens’ wings but from what I’ve seen I would not expect that to slow down a properly motivated chicken that much if they really wanted out. They just flap and walk up a fence.

    With all that said, I keep my chickens inside a 4’ high electric netting and they hardly ever escape. When they do it’s generally juveniles with their dominance/pecking order fights at blame. They have a large area to roam so they don’t have much motivation to get out. I saw a full sized hen fly over that netting and clear it effortlessly by a foot when I carelessly left a door open and she got out. I trapped her against the netting to try to catch her so she just launched and easily few over. But the adults never just fly out. So there is a good chance yours won’t even want to get out even if they could.

    Clipping one wing will stop them from casually flying though. It throws their body off-balance so it’s more uncomfortable to fly. It also reduces lift. It does not prevent them from flying or in many cases jump/fly to reach heights. It restricts how high they can go and makes it uncomfortable for them to even try. It can be very effective.

    Something Aart referred to. Chickens like to perch. They will jump/fly up to a perch just to look around and enjoy the world. They seem to get a lot of pleasure out of that. If your fence has a solid top that looks like a good place to land, they may want to get up there just to perch. Once they are up there they may hop down on either side. Once they are out they generally don’t know to get back in the same way they got out. That’s where a wire or some type of top that is not a good place to land is a strong deterrent to them flying up there.

    Will your hens reach the fence if you let them out? A lot of that comes down to motivation, whether the wings are clipped or not. From what you describe I’d be quite willing to try it with or without wing clipping, but a fence with a solid top would concern me some.

    Good luck!
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    32,744
    5,505
    556
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
     
  7. jaseyboy1986

    jaseyboy1986 Out Of The Brooder

    60
    5
    48
    Aug 7, 2014
    Norfolk, UK

    Yep, that's the one! Good point, I don't want them destroying my crops. :D
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,613
    1,160
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Generally speaking, if you let them out occasionally, they stay pretty close to home. If you let them out everyday, then they get braver and will travel farther.

    If you let them out occasionally with supervision, you can keep plant destruction to a minimum. If you let them out everyday, then you yard/garden will look bare and dug up.

    I would not clip until they were going over the fence. Stay out with them the first few times you let them out, and then make decisions on what you need to do.

    Mrs K
     
    2 people like this.
  9. jaseyboy1986

    jaseyboy1986 Out Of The Brooder

    60
    5
    48
    Aug 7, 2014
    Norfolk, UK

    Thanks, this is great advice. I have 2 Silkies, 1Silkie mix (but not sure what with) and 1 Cream Legbar.
    The pecking order has already been established and the coop is always calm, they always have plenty of food, water and healthy treats so I don't think there would be any motivation to escape (unless of course there are predators about). The cats near me are not particularly large and I don't think they'll be a problem. It would be just my luck to let them out and they escape :( My fences are like perches on the top too so they may just use them to perch.

    I'm just going to have to have my fishing net at the ready!!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by