Free Range or Not? What Does Everyone Prefer?

Cryssie_Bou

In the Brooder
8 Years
May 25, 2011
36
1
26
I free range my flock and they all go back into the coop at night and i lock them up at around dark its for safety and the fact i live way out in the woods predators are rampant my newer chickens tend to roam the back yard but the older group know the best bug hideouts
 

DTRM30

Songster
10 Years
May 25, 2009
464
7
154
Well, in the beginning, I would only free range when I was home (by free range, I don't have a huge lot, just an average house with average yard). I have a run attached to the coop so that if I am away for a weekend or a week or whatever the case may be, I leave the door to the coop open to the run but leave the run door closed. That way they can go in and out as they need/want. But, this past year, I just let them out in the a.m. before I go to work and they go in on their own. I close the door around 9pm before I go to bed. They seem happier and my feed bill is almost nothing because they spend all their time eating bugs and plants in the yard. My kids are also older and are more forgiving with losses. When they were little, espcially my younger son, he was very attached to them as pets. Now that he's older, not so much. He understands that they are livestock. He likes them, but he is not as personally attached as he used to be and accepts that "things happen" in life. There are only two left from our original 8 a number of years ago. The rest are not as friendly and have learned to hide between the pool and the wall next to it, or in the bushes around the house, under the shed etc. Very rarely are the just out in the open grassy yard area. Generally in the cover of the prickers on the side of the yard, etc. (probaby better pickins for bugs in the soft moist dirt under the prickers in the woods !) During the winter they don't go out much. They prefer the shoveled run area as opposed to walking in snow - spoiled bums.
 

Chickiemom25

Songster
May 13, 2011
581
246
221
North Alabama
FREE RANGE, however I notice more fencing going up in the yard of late.. the garden hat to be fenced off to save the broccoli from the girls, and I m getting tired of poop all over the patio.. Its more fun to hang out outside the kitchen sliding glass door apparently.
 

bucky52

Songster
8 Years
Apr 26, 2011
1,142
39
201
i think free ranging is a lot healther and better for poultry.but you will lose them to predators.i can only free range mine in late afternoon.we have hawks and dogs roaming in our area.i'am sure there are predators watching them at all times.i have a large run and i still feel guilty for caging them.
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Apr 3, 2011
58,234
49,556
1,242
southern Ohio
My chickens free range on 2-3 acres of fenced land with several large pine trees for cover. I started of slowly doing this until I felt comfortable. Our only predator besides my dogs which I had to train and fence out are red tail hawks, and they are only around during certain seasons. My roosters watch out and give the alert call and they run under trees or back to the coop. Right now I have quite a few spring pullets and cockerals that are tempting, and have had some close calls lately, but I wouldn't keep them cooped up all the time. Full grown hens and roosters don't pose that much temptation for hawks since the hawks are pretty small. Mine go back into the locked up coop at dusk until morning, since we have racoons, possums, and foxes here.
 

Tmaxson01

Chirping
8 Years
Jan 9, 2012
72
17
51
Mine are part-time free rangers. They are in their pen areas when I'm not home and then I let them out to be free when I am home. We had several hawk attacks last year and lost 7 birds in just a couple months time and these were not small birds. The hawk didn't carry them off just swooped in and ate what they wanted and then took off when the the rooster would attack. I do love to see them free range and they are so happy when it's their time to come out as I have several sets with different roosters so I alternate the free time. Problem will arise when the days get shorter though and the amount of time in the afternoons after I get home from work will deminish so I guess we'll alternate days instead of time periods in the day. Anyway free range is awesome and it makes the birds happy.
 

EricaD

Songster
7 Years
Mar 28, 2012
120
105
131
I do a combo. I live on acreage, so I used electric poultry netting to fence off a huge area around the coop (200 liner feet of fence, so around 2500 sq ft of run for 18 hens and 1 roo) and that's their "free range" area most days. On weekends I let them out to roam the rest of the yard for an hour or two when I can supervise. To protect from hawks, we ran fishing line back and forth, criss-crossed, between the fence stakes. It's worked great so far!

The chickens seem really happy and healthy, and they are safe and have a free range experience.

Our project for this weekend is to till an adjacent area, seed it with "chicken pasture" mix, and then cover that with a chicken wire frame a couple inches off the ground so that they have an ongoing salad that they won't be able to destroy! We'll just rearrange the electric netting to include this new area.

I have another 100' of netting still rolled up and unused. I don't think they need any more space, so I'm hanging onto it for later, in case I want to raise meaties or something.

Anyway, my point is that there can be a middle ground - simulated free ranging (or shall we just say, ranging, since they're not completely free) where they get the benefits of free range without the predator risk (well, no guarantees, but it's greatly minimized by the use of the electric netting and fishing line!)
 

Leavingegypt

Songster
7 Years
Mar 21, 2012
256
7
101
I free-range my older flock all day and coop at night. My younger flock has just started free-ranging part-time. I am lucky that my property is 3/4 heavily wooded which gives the chickens places to hide We also have two porches, an out building and some rock outcropping- all good for getting away. My husband and I agreed that when we got chickens, they would free-range and we would accept the hazards- or let our chickens accept them. It makes for happier chickens I think.
That being said, I have severl chicken owner friends who free-range very little or not at all, mostly because they work and keeping their flock in large run/coop combos is a better choice for them.
It's not only a personal choice but one of logistics, convienence and capability.
We also have a rooster, BIG Al who watches over his family constantly. I have seen him call out and lead his ladies into the woods on many occasions- mostly when he has seen a cat or hawk.
 

speckledhen

Intentional Solitude
Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Feb 3, 2007
79,058
13,423
1,236
Blue Ridge Mtns. of North Georgia
I do a combo. I live on acreage, so I used electric poultry netting to fence off a huge area around the coop (200 liner feet of fence, so around 2500 sq ft of run for 18 hens and 1 roo) and that's their "free range" area most days. On weekends I let them out to roam the rest of the yard for an hour or two when I can supervise. To protect from hawks, we ran fishing line back and forth, criss-crossed, between the fence stakes. It's worked great so far!

......
That is almost exactly the size of my main flock pen for 23 hens and 2 roosters, Erica. It's dirt and nothing but dirt, of course. There are several big oaks around and inside that area, but they still want to roam further and act like I've let them out of jail when I open the gate, LOL. Plenty of cover from hawks, but slightly less on one side since we have thinned out the extra 3 acres on the other side of the back perimeter fence that encloses the 2 acres of "free range area".
 

EricaD

Songster
7 Years
Mar 28, 2012
120
105
131
Hahahaha, mine's getting to be just dirt! We have lots of blueberry bushes and a raised garden bed in there (those were there before we made the run area), but a circle of chicken wire around it does the job. But I need to get some greens in there, hence the plan for "chicken salad", lol.

I've been pondering whether I should add another rooster or not. I was waiting to see if any of my hens are also boys in disguise, but I'm pretty sure the rest are all female now. I have no clue how I'd even integrate another one into the flock! But gosh, I'd love to add a BC Marans roo in addition to my Salmon Fav roo!
 

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