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Free Range Problems

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jamescathers, Jul 7, 2011.

  1. jamescathers

    jamescathers Chirping

    Jun 30, 2011
    We are new chicken owners (Yea!!). We have four hens in a new A-frame ark/tractor I recently built.

    In our pre-chicken research, we had gotten the impression that free range hens wouldn't "range" too far from the coop.
    Ours are in the middle of about an acre yard, bordered with a hedge row.
    We have been letting them out in the morning, 7'ish. Every night that would come back into the coop on thier own at sundown.
    We'd just been checking on them and then locking up the coop for the night.

    Well, this has been the case for about 2 months and now we find out that not only have the girls been going through the hedge row, and through the neighbors yard, but then across a road and tearing up another neighbors garden.

    So, clearly they have too much freedom, but what's a new chicken owner to do?

    We are considering building a run onto the coop and making them not-free-range chickens, but we hate the idea.

  2. AKsmama

    AKsmama Songster

    Jun 20, 2010
    South Carolina
    You can fence your property. Most standard and large fowl don't fly too well over a tall fence, although they can if they try hard enough. One of my EE roos can fly to the top of the 6 foot run with no problem. Or, you can do as you said- build a run for them. Just make sure they have plenty of room and they will be fine. You can also use portable electric poultry netting and move it around your property as you like, or use a portable tractor.
  3. flowergirl60

    flowergirl60 Songster

    Feb 13, 2011
    Austin Tx
    I know what you mean. Ours hate being in their run and I let them out every day at 8 am to roam our backyard but it is fenced in by a 6ft privacy fence. You could either build a fence (if that is possible) or the only other choice is build some kind of run if that is possible too. They can't be allowed to tear up the neighbors garden and if they are crossing the road God forbid they might get run over. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
  4. Mattemma

    Mattemma Crowing

    Aug 12, 2009
    All you need is some cheap plastic fencing,bamboo stakes,and zip ties.You can get 4'x 100' orange safety fence at home depot.You can find 6' bamboo sticks 6 for $1 at some discount store.And cheap zip ties anywhere. I have found this to work well. I have black fencing,but it is no longer cheap,so I will get the orange if needed.

    I have not had issue with them going over the fence just under it.And for under you can just use garden stakes to secure the fence.

    I just put up a fence after pulling half down in my far back yard.Due to the flies I am tearing down the new fenced area AGAIN and doing a complete fence in the back.Going to place the chickens in the far far back yard all day,and they can come to the coop only at night.The poop and flies is just insane by the house.

    Good thing about the plastic fence is you can put it up and down quickly and it is cheap!Move it all over the yard when one area is getting worn out.
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Consider this as I manage my free range flock almost like wildlife. If your A-frame roost were in the middle of a very large open feild with no other cover close by, they would stay very close to the roost. As soon as cover (hedge rows) becomes an option with a modest amount of walking the birds will quickly expand their range. With either situation when forage quality is poor (like with well manicured lawns) the birds will then range further trying to find good quantities of quality eats. They will be very effective at finding and returning to quality foraging areas (neighbors garden). They will sometimes range several hundred feet or more to get what they want. My birds when hungry will range in respect to roost 900 feet in direction (north) and 200 feet in other directions. As soon as I deploy feeding stations with things they want (i.e. black oil sunflower seeds. scratch), their range contracts and becomes centered around feeding stations. I like to make so each feeding station has a different desired resource so they are inclined to move between them. It makes easy to keep range contracted.
  6. Kulyks

    Kulyks In the Brooder

    Feb 28, 2010
    Or, this is what I do - I keep them in the run for most of the day, then at about 5 or 6 o'clock every night I let them out to range. That way, they can't go too far, and if they do, they can't stay there too long before it's getting dark, and they'll return to the coop. It's a compromise. Besides, a run isn't some horrible torture to them. They'll get used to it.
    Besides that, I would definitely, if its possible, get some good fencing around your area.
  7. jamescathers

    jamescathers Chirping

    Jun 30, 2011
    Thanks for all the replies!! Being a new chicken owner (or new to being owned BY chickens) its a bit disconcerting.

    The place we're at is in a nice rural setting and the yard has lots of features that we thought chickens would like to stick around for ... unfortunately, we're renting and putting up a large solild fence is not an available option.

    When this problem started to come to a head, we began leaving them up in the coop during the day (there is a "downstairs" portion thats open to the air and ground) and only let out in the evening, like Kulyks suggested. Unfortunately, our girls were already well trained, and would immediately go out to the neighborhood.

    The whole time the coop was open and food (two sources) was available. It didnt seem to matter. Even when I blocked access through the hedge row, they just went around it (all the way to beside a fairly busy road).

    My wife suggested a 3' tall fenced run with an open top and clipping thier wings (she comfortable doing it with her vet tech background). But I'm afraid they can still hop up and over even with the clipped wings. Then its just us tramatizing them for not purpose.

    The saddest part, just a last week end one of our hens started laying. We got four eggs in four days!! Then they got coop'd and she has stopped. [​IMG]

    Again, thanks for the replies. It sounds like the general consensus leads to building a run and limiting thier range to no so "free".

  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Consider the flexible electric fence. It is not permanent. Neighbor uses it as it allows rotation of grass being picked over. Also consider something like BOSS at a feeding station in direction away from that you do not want them to go.
  9. greyhorsewoman

    greyhorsewoman Songster

    Mar 3, 2008
    Endless Mts, NE PA
    You are right, even with clipped wings, your chickens will probably be able to 'make' a 3ft fence, especially since they KNOW what is on the other side. You could stretch some deer netting across the top to deter that.
  10. bullyforme

    bullyforme Chirping

    May 24, 2011
    Trololo farm
    For those new to chickens, BOSS is...? [​IMG]

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