Free Range Behavior and Egg Laying

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Durandal, Sep 27, 2007.

  1. Durandal

    Durandal New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2007
    North Bend, OH
    Ok, so this is my first post and its probably a question that has been asked time and time again.

    I am currently expanding my farm. We board horses and row crop and have been for years now. For about 3 decades the farm was being maintained at minimal level and over the past 6 years I and my retied father have been farming full-time and rebuilding the place.

    We are getting to the point where we are ready to expand. We have folks to manage the horses, so other than maintenance, we will be running a bit slower in 2008.

    So, we are planning new things.

    Dad's not much for the internet so I am doing a lot of research on my own and reading.

    I have been designing a commercial, organic, produce garden and vineyard/apiary and was wondering about how we would go about introducing chickens to the mix. We are looking specifically for egg producers.

    The big question I have is...

    Will free ranging (1/2 acre here, maybe a bit larger) chickens lay freely or in boxes if you provide the space? Ideally I'd like to give them as much free space as they can handle, but if they are not going to lay in boxes, then I'll need to figure something else out.

    I hope that question makes sense. I am knew to chickens, though I spent a great deal of my younger days around them, I never learned anything about their care and behaviors.

    I am changing that though, and while I know I will find this answer out, probably as a consume more material I need to know this one thing before I can continue on other non-chicken/hen related things.

    Any insight would be VERY much appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2007
  2. Hotwings

    Hotwings Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 27, 2007
    southwestern Michigan
    Chickens that free range will generally go to their coop when it gets dark outside. If you provide a nesting box they should go there to lay their eggs, but sometimes chickens can be very persisitent and lay their eggs in other places, you will want to discourage this behavior. Chickens like plymouth barred rocks, buff orpingtons and australorps are good birds for beginners. They are good layers, foragers, and quiet. The buff orpingtons are good brooders and will easily hatch their own. The barred rocks don't tend to be broody, if you want to just have layers and don't want to mess with trying to break a broody I would go with the barred rocks.
     
  3. okiechick57

    okiechick57 Chillin' With My Peeps

    My chickens all freerange until dusk.......... mine refuse to lay in the boxes.....but have picked 2 different places to lay on the acreage......luckily I know where those are... most will go back to same place once laying there.....I hope you can train yours to use boxes, mine ended up laying in some Monkey grass right outside my front door......easy to retrieve.... they also usually lay about the same time everyday,usually mine do in late afternoon.So watch and make sure they are in the henhouse near boxes when they are ready,usually they will start making alot of noise before and after laying an egg.........hope this helps.....keep us posted ...
    OH and welcome to a wonderful site [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2007
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Mine freerange on acreage and they ALL lay in the nestboxes. I never find stashes anywhere. The reason is probably that when they were right at laying age, I kept them penned till most of them began laying and didn't let them out all day long. The most critical time to keep them corralled is in the mornings till at least most of them have laid their eggs. I also put fake eggs in all the nests early on and every time I get pullets close to lay age, I put the fake eggs back in the nests. I've never had a problem with them laying anywhere outside the coop. In fact, I'll look outside to see one running like her tail is on fire back to the coop to jump in a nest to lay her egg.
     
  5. demarti6

    demarti6 New Egg

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    May 28, 2007
    I have free ranging chickens and they return to the coop to lay their eggs. I divided the range area in half and it is connected to the chicken coop. In the winter they forage around my garden area and I leave the gate open. Most of them lay in the nesting box. A few find private spaces .
    My nesting box is divided by black weed barrier cloth to allow for privacy. I stapled it to the sides of the box.
    I found that this prevents them from fighting and breaking the eggs. I even put some of this fabric as a flap to partially cover the opening to the egg box. The broken eggs lead to egg eating and since I have done this , that behavior has stopped:)demarti 6
    I am trying to intergrate a younger flock with the older one. The younger stay outside the coop at night , but use the nesting boxes during the day to lay their egg. Any Suggestions?
     
  6. 6chix

    6chix Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Western Ma
    My girls freerange all day and lay in their nesting boxes or coop. At first i had a problem with them hiding eggs but a couple of days in solitary confinment cured them real fast:)
     
  7. FrankBlissett

    FrankBlissett Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have sorta-free-range (built a fence, they hopped over, I didn't care enough to build a higher fence!). Ours lay mostly in their coop, but not exclusively.

    What we did to minimize losses was to install a light on a timer, set for a few hours before dawn. I then go to let them out an hour or two after dawn and most have laid already. There are still two places (that I've found) where the hens lay outside the coop, but I know about them and check daily.

    -Frank
     
  8. jessied1227

    jessied1227 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    East Brady, PA
    All my chickens free range our 13 acres. We had some serious stashes of eggs discovered a month or so ago, and watched the spots to see who the culprits were. I started keeping those girls in, left them in the coop for a week, now the eggs in the coop boxes daily finally equal what I should be getting from my hens.

    Good luck!
    Jess
     
  9. bigzio

    bigzio Overrun With Chickens

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    Wisconsin
    Yep, the key here is to properly train your hens to lay in the nest boxes. It's ok to let them free range till they are about to lay ( around 20 weeks old ), then keep them in the coop till they all learn to lay in the nests. I also keep the hens in till noon each day then let them free range till dusk. Mine always come back to the coop to lay, and then go back to freedom and green grass.

    Welcome to BYC! Always someone here to help.... Good Luck.

    bigzio
     
  10. Durandal

    Durandal New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2007
    North Bend, OH
    Thank you all for your replies.

    I find this all so very fascinating.
     

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