free range dilemma

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chick'n'weave, Nov 6, 2014.

  1. chick'n'weave

    chick'n'weave Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 25, 2010
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    I need help understanding how to manage free-range chickens....................I know they need to be locked up at night and let out in the morning.
    1) Q: If you use feed to get them back in the run, does that mean they forage all day on their own, receiving food at lockup time only?
    2) Q: If I use a tractor coop, do you need to have a fenced run around that?
    3) Q: If you put feeders / feed on the ground, what keeps ants and bugs from getting into the feed; so, should the feeders be hung in some way instead?
    4) Q: If I only have the tractor coop with no fenced run, and am trying to round them up at night, do you put food in the coop? And if so, isn't that an invitation for poop to fall from the roosts into the feed resulting in sick birds?

    My apologies for the weird questions. Still trying to "know what I'm doing" before I get into full-time chicken work!!
     
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Here's how my setup usually works. The chickens are let out in the morning, they free range and put themselves back in the coop at night. I do have feed available free choice for them during the day. I have two coops with attached runs. My chickens eat whatever ants or bugs are foolish enough to get into their feed. I put the feed in the coop during the winter. If they poop in it, it gets scooped out.

    The reason I started out with, "Here's how my setup *usually* works..." is because right now everyone's on lockdown. I've lost a few birds recently to what I believe is coyotes. I lost 5 of them during the day. Theyll stay locked up until I feel the problems have been eliminated or moved on. There is always a risk with free ranging.
     
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  3. chick'n'weave

    chick'n'weave Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 25, 2010
    Texas
    Bobbi-j - thanks for the suggestions. So, do you put the free choice food in the chicken run? And I guess then that the chicken run is locked at night and they return to the coop when it gets dark?? How does that work? Or when you say "they put themselves back in the coop at night", does that mean you have an automatic door on the coop that shuts in the evening?? So sorry to hear about your loss. We have coyotes around our place too, so that's going to be a huge concern for us.
     
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    I keep the feed in the run during the spring, summer and fall. Winter, too, until it snows or gets too cold. My run is attached to the coop. When they get to free range, I just open the gate to the run, they do their thing and when it's time, they go back into the run, and from there to the coop. DH or I will shut and secure the gate.
     
  5. Primo

    Primo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 1, 2013
    Texas
    They will go back to the coop on their own in the evening. (Dusk) no need to throw feed out etc.
     
  6. LanceTN

    LanceTN Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 31, 2014
    I have a big coop, 120 square feet, with roost bars on one side and big open space for the birds to hang out in.

    I keep my food and water in the coop, sometimes they stay in the coop for a day or some of the morning depending on what is going on, so it has to be in there.

    I have no run.

    The chickens get let out to do whatever they want and have acres of pasture available. The door on the coop stays open and they spend most of their time sunbathing and scratching with occasional trips back inside to gorge on feed.

    They are always back inside playing with random things they got into the coop before sundown.
     
  7. chick'n'weave

    chick'n'weave Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 25, 2010
    Texas
    Good information. Do you happen to have a picture of your coop?
     
  8. coconutprincess

    coconutprincess Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 9, 2014
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    My girls free range all day, I let them out in the morning, I go to work and then shut the coop when I get home. They put themselves to bed at dusk. now this is a worry with it getting dark so early its dark for a good hour and a half by the time I get home. the other night I went to shut the coop and one of my girls" Princess" was gone. It was gut wrenching. no signs of struggle or destruction around. I could do nothing except write her off to coyotes or fox or whatever. I let the girls out as usual the next morning, and next evening when I got home from work lo and behold, Princess was back! Completely unscathed!!! I have no idea where she went or what happened to her on her overnight adventure. Has this ever happened to anyone?!
    And are there any devices that will shut the door automatically for me before I get home?!
     
  9. emmajane07

    emmajane07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 13, 2014
    Missouri
    Hi everyone! I thought I would chime in on this one.

    I have a coop that is big enough for 5 ducks and 6 chickens to stay in all day if needed, or if I need to go out of town for a few days.

    I let mine out at day light.....go to work...and they put themselves to bed at dusk or at dark, at that point I will walk down and close their coop door. I have lost 1 chicken. I got home at 10pm and there was no sight of her :(. I feel bad for keeping them cooped up all day or in a small run, so I choose to let mine free range all day and take a chance of what could happen.

    I do have food available 24/7 for all of mine. I know many people do not suggest putting food in the coop at night because this draw more predators, which makes sense. But, I don't follow that rule. Sometimes, I don't feed them at night because they still have some left from that morning. Just depends. My pekin is a little piglet....she will make it obvious when she is hungry. I don't want to over feed mine--especially since they are out eating who knows what all day, if they aren't acting hungry at bed time--they don't get fed.

    As far as feeders being on the ground--I do not have issues with bugs or anything like that, just my messy ducks getting a big mouth full of food and then dumping it in the water or a big gulp of water that goes into the food. I have found that elevating the food and then having the waterer lower works best. Just depends on your ducks habits.

    Chickens are very good about putting themselves to bed---I'm sure there are a few stubborn ones out there, but I wouldn't think this would be a concern.

    Hope this helps a little :)
     
  10. LanceTN

    LanceTN Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes I do, what do you want to see exactly?

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