Free Range Laying Hens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jenkassai, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. jenkassai

    jenkassai Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 28, 2011
    My hens technically aren't free range - yet, I guess they are "pastured" since they are inside a fenced area. My question is, once they start laying (I just got my first egg yesterday), if they are loose from their yard, will they return to the coop to lay in the nest boxes, or do I need to scour the fenced area looking for eggs?
  2. littleluciex

    littleluciex Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 25, 2011
    I think it depends on your chickens, I let mine out after 2 pm everyday by then they are usually done laying. I have let them out earlier and some returned to the nesting boxes but I did have one that layed outside of the coop. So now I just keep them in until after 2.[​IMG]
  3. BasicallyHeather

    BasicallyHeather Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 4, 2011
    Lowellville, Ohio
    I have five hens that are of laying age right now (older than 23 weeks), but only one that is actually laying. Anyway, they free range over four acres, unfenced. I was convinced that I was going to be hunting for eggs all over creation because they *never* even glanced at the coop during the day. But lo and behold, my hen laid in the nest box (it has a golf ball in it) right from the get go. Now two of my other pullets go in and watch her, so I am guessing that they will know where to lay when the time is right.

    Many people do have to hunt for eggs, however; I think that I just got lucky! [​IMG]
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    I have one hen laying right now (and 12 freeloaders). If I don't let them out of the run, she'll sometimes lay in the coop, sometimes on the ground next to the run door. If she hasn't laid by the time I let them out she'll sprint to the barn and lay her egg in the old rabbit hutch. When the slackers were laying, they would lay in the coop for the most part. There were a couple who would wander.
  5. ThinkingChickens

    ThinkingChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 18, 2011
    My girls return to the coop for laying but their yard isn't as big as four acres. They have a coop and attached run and then a larger yard with lots of places they could hide eggs, but they don't.
  6. Johnboy78

    Johnboy78 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 16, 2011
    My yard's about 1/3 acre. 8 chickens 6 months old
    First one up lets them out, between 6:30 and 8 most days.

    I was concerned because they packed into the nesting area to sleep
    after I unblocked it at 16 weeks. I removed the comfy straw and shavings
    and replaced it with a sheet of newspaper to make it less comfy and easier
    to clean. They still pack in there to sleep.

    I'm figuring to reblock it for the winter since the daylight hours are short
    and I won't see eggs till spring, right? Don't want to encourage them in
    developing a bad habit and not "getting" the purpose of the nesting area.

    So Saturday I look in in the morning and there is an egg.
    Sitting right there on the poopy newsprint.
    A few hours later there is another one.
    Two days later another, apparently a different girl.

    At least three are laying, I think they do it after they
    stretch their legs a bit. I've only caught one in the act, about 10am.
    They figured it out. Little brains not so dumb.
  7. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 4, 2010
    Glasgow, Scotland
    I free range my hens too. Some will return to the coop during the day to lay in the nesting boxes, and some will practically keep their legs crossed and hold on to their eggs till I let them out of the coop in the morning, then sprint away and hide them somewhere around the farm. We're always finding little collections of eggs behind straw bales, under piles of wood, in wheel barrows etc...
  8. BasicallyHeather

    BasicallyHeather Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 4, 2011
    Lowellville, Ohio
  9. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Two flocks, both free ranged. I have yet to find an egg anywhere but in the coops.
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Some hens will just be more predisposed to laying wild while some enjoy the nests....but I've seen a whole flock led astray by a wild layer before. I used to destroy or block all outside nesting areas and lock them into the coop for a week to retrain to the nest boxes.

    Now I choose the outside nest that my egg sucking dog cannot reach, gauge just how many are currently using that nest, and, if there are more than just a few laying in it, I'll just leave it be and collect my eggs from there. They seem to do better if they have a choice of laying outside or inside.

    Yes, you will need to do an approx. egg count each day and see if you are missing some and then do a search of the perimeter and hidey-holes. It is one of the more annoying yet charming aspects of free ranging laying hens. I'm always intrigued by the places they will actually leg their eggs and it makes the humdrum days a little more exciting to actually find a nest chock full of secret eggs.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by