Free range advice

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Redrhodies, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. Redrhodies

    Redrhodies New Egg

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    Nov 15, 2010
    I have 10 RIR's that I let free range on my property. I've had them since the beginning of September and they are approx 22 weeks old. Five have just begun laying within the last 10 days. I live on 4.25 acres and most of the other neighbors also have good sized plots. Recently, the girls have been wandering off it seems. I go outside to look for them and I can't find them. Last night when I went to close them up for the evening, I counted only 9. I searched around and even left the coop open when into darkness, but she never came. No luck this morning either. There was no sign of blood or feathers, although I can't be sure something didn't get her. How can I get them to stick around closer to the house? I spread corn out for them when I let them out every morning and they're feed is in the coop. Should I leave them in there run for a week to let them get used to sticking around again?
     
  2. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The bugs are about gone the grass is going dormant the chicks are gonna roam further. I supervise my chicks while free ranging . There's to many predators on my land. Now that winter is almost upon us I probably won't let them out as much. I do have a winter garden so they will still eat good. I will let them out to run around just not as often.
     
  3. james w

    james w Out Of The Brooder

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    I experimented with true free ranging in the sense that my chickens were free to roam during the day without any form of fencing. This worked fine for a while but although chickens are quite conservative in their ranging they can still get a few hundred meters away without being too worried. I don't have problems with predators during the day but in the end I had to put up fencing to limit their ranging as they always seemed to get up to no good. Whether it was getting at the veg, crapping where it wasn't appreciated or generally aggravating neighbours - even if ours are at least 500 meters away. I lost several chickens that strayed too far and couldn't get back in before dark.

    If you have time to keep an eye on them, fine. I don't. But I do want them to free range as much as possible. I have a tractor with a 1.5 mt high plastic fence in about a soccer pitch sized area. When they consume the grass, I drop the net, move the tractor and erect the net once again. I can drop and erect the net in about 2 hours so it is no big deal for me.

    I don't think keeping them in the coop will make any difference. They clearly know where the coop is as they come home at night.

    My advice? If you have problems with predators, neighbours, etc and you are not prepared to lose the occasional chicken, get a fence.
     
  4. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I free range with no losses for over a year. I have dogs who are trained not to bother the chickens, but they bark at and chase any foreign "critters." Some people use livestock guard dogs.

    They won't really wander that far, I forget what it is, maybe 500 yards. They will come back at night unless something gets them, once they are accustome4d to sleeping in a coop. Once in a while a chicken may get physically stuck somewhere, or get frightened and hide somewhere for a day or two. They will also lay a clutch of eggs then brood them and return with chicks; when that happens, they disappear for a month or so.

    Free ranging means losses to predators, I'm afraid, without a way to prevent it. I'm sure my dogs discourage foxes and such, but one of these days this may not be sufficient, and I must either accept that or confine them.
     
  5. sheetmetalpete

    sheetmetalpete Out Of The Brooder

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    Since they've got a taste for running a distance, I'm not sure you can stop it without a fence. After a couple weeks of free ranging, mine started travelling all over my 6 acres and well into the woods. They always come home but I can't control where or how far they roam. Even after mine were restricted to their coop & run for a while, the moment I open the gate, they run as fast as they can for the woods. I can throw scratch out next to the coop but as soon as it's gone, so are they.
     
  6. imthedude

    imthedude Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Unfortunately if you leave them out for any extended period of time frequently, you'll lose bird(s). I free-range mine because I can't stand the thought of them being cooped up all day (pun intended:D). I've worried about losses, but they'd never happened until two weeks ago. We lost our first then. I think she may have gotten caught by dark and not made it into the coop. I also found a clutch of eggs last weekend that she may have been sitting on and something might have found her on that nest. Regardless, like others said if they're outside routinely, something will eat them eventually. You have to weigh the risks and rewards of leaving them out and make that decision yourself, as you probably can't re-train them to stick closer to the coop.
     
  7. Redrhodies

    Redrhodies New Egg

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    Nov 15, 2010
    Thank you all for the advice. She did come back home tonight. It was already dark and when I went to close the coop up, I counted all 10. From now on I will let them out in their enclosure which is plenty big for them. Once spring arrives and the food becomes plentiful, they can have their roam around the property.
     
  8. midd2005

    midd2005 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    i don't really free range (i have a small backyard that they get to roam in for some parts of the day) so perhaps my thoughts are not so valid. however, you could experiment with only letting them out a couple hours before dark. since dark always drives them to their beds in the coop and their roaming hours would be severely limited, perhaps they wouldn't go as far? of course, dusk is a happening time for predators too. just a thought though.
     
  9. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    Keeping them locked up before you absolutely have to could have negative impacts on their psyche as well as their immune systems.
    Fill their run with dried leaves and save as many bags as you can for use later in the winter. Creating behavioral enrichment spots within the run will also be helpful. I find that folsk that free range without a sufficient number of roosters tend to lose more hens than those that do. A rooster's primary duty is to look after the hens and keep them from straying.
     
  10. HorizonSon

    HorizonSon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Agreed whole hardily! A good roo with feed and protect his flock quite successfully. As a matter of fact; it was JUST yesterday I saw him attack a swooping hawk! It's amazing to watch AND scary as help! Always makes my heart pounding! ;-/ No chickens got hurt and haven't seen the hawk since. It's truly amazing to watch: him leaping several feet into the air, swing his feet up to "horn" the hawk = speechless!
     

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