Free range or no?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by stylzz, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. stylzz

    stylzz Out Of The Brooder

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    I've been contemplating letting my chickens wander. We have a nice coop and a decent size run but it is picked over. Pretty much all dirt/ mud ( when it rains) I read it may help save on feed and also make for a happier flock. We live in a wooded area not dense but it's our backyard . My current flock is 1 year old. Thoughts? Yes we have roosters. Fore you ask lol ty in advance.
     
  2. 0wen

    0wen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have an enclosed coop/run that gives my birds about 15sqft/each currently (soon going to around 24sqft/each as I thin my flock). I also compost and feed scraps/snacks regularly and had kept my birds in the run for their first year. I'd planned to keep them as such really, but on a whim let them range (within poultry netting boundary) and they've never been happier. Netting is electric, but I don't charge it as I've only let them range while I'm present (which is a lot with gardening and such - several hours/day), I'll charge it if I decide to allow them out when I'm gone. Long story short, I'd let them out. Predation is always a risk, but like everything - you have to balance what you're willing to accept..
     
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Put in old hay bedding in the run.

    It won't save much on the feed bill. Mine have acres, and I have only noticed a slight decrease in June and July, when bug population is high, by August, bugs are at mature size, and not as good a protein source and it is over. They will make your yard look like their run.

    You can loose birds. Sometimes a lot of birds. It is a risk.

    Mrs K
     
  4. stylzz

    stylzz Out Of The Brooder

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    I will take a pic in the am but our chickens are technically in the woods that we are slowly clearing. [​IMG]not the best pic but this is during coop construction. That where coop and run are located. Run is fenced completely even in top and is approx 40x40
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Interesting, my feed bill gets cut in half during the warmer months. It does boil down to risk, whether you are okay with any loses and are prepared to eliminate predators.

    My free range is mostly open fields with some trees for cover. A wooded area may attract more predators and make it harder for chickens to see them coming.
     
  6. PraiseGod

    PraiseGod Out Of The Brooder

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    8 months of the year I barely have to feed mine because of being able to free range all day. Also mostly open fields
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    As others have said, it's a risk. Mine free range around our barn and grain bins and in the horse pasture, mostly. We also have some apple trees and a big grove they like to hang out in, especially when it's been damp out and there are lots of fresh bugs to dig out of the decomposing leaves and sticks. But - you have to be prepared to lose a bird now and then. It's going to happen. Not a matter of "if", but "when". I went for 3 years without a loss, then lost half my flock in one afternoon to a coyote and a mama hen to a raccoon all in one summer. You are the only one who can decide if it's worth the risk or not. Are your chickens pets? Will you be devastated if you do lose one or more? You need to take that into consideration.
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I really think it depends on your climate and humidity and the breed of your hens. I have never got any where close to 1/2, but have seen a reduction in the feed used. Mine are on the prairie, and in bushes and grass.

    Various times, I have been hit hard with predators. I like to let mine out, I think they get better exercise and it is healthier than the limited space. However, not a significant feed source. The current rooster is a Bielefelder rooster, and he does not like to get to far from the coop. I like his coloring, size and shape, but I would like a bit more rummaging. His days are numbered. However in his defense, I have had roosters whose flocks covered a much wider area, and not a significant feed reduction.

    It does depend on the production of the land. Most backyards, I don't think would supply much with limited bugs and plant seed. Even if the original poster does not spray and treat the lawn, most of the neighbors probably do.

    Mrs K
     
  9. AkChris

    AkChris Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I also let mine free range on my 3/4 acre lot. I see a significant decrease in feed when they free range. I've just been letting mine range again over the last few weeks. I'm in Alaska so it wasn't until this month that the snow all melted. Spring shoots are just now coming up and bug activity is minimal. Even so I'm already going from refilling the feed bucket ever 3 days to every 4th. Last summer during the height of the summer I didn't feed them at all for 3 months or so. Well they did get a daily smattering of scratch just to encourage them to come home in the evenings.

    My property has a huge overgrown salmonberry patch, a good number of wild blueberry plants and lots of weedy overgrown areas. The birds eat a lot of berries in the summer. It's also really wet with lots of slugs, worms, and bugs. There are also some old brush piles and lots of old rotting logs. So the chickens have quite a bit of food to forage. I'm also actively planting and planing chicken forage areas as slowly clear out some garden space, pathways, and landscaping out of the overgrown thicket. How much feed your chickens can get from free ranging is going to vary quite a bit depending upon what kind of habitat you have around you. Mine do like to spend time in the wooded area around our property and love scratching through the leaves.
     
  10. Ljc01

    Ljc01 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I let my free range all day on our 3/4 acre. The only problem I have had is Goldie sometimes forgets to lay in the nesting box. My feed costs are a lot less then my neighbor that does not free range.
     
    1 person likes this.

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