Depends on what you determine as "Free Range". Any bird that is allowed time on the ground is determined to be free ranged. Ours are in a very large fenced area and there is a hen house at one end where they go to lay their eggs. If you allow yours to run freely in the yard or pasture then just plan on a daily Easter Egg Hunt. It is great if you have small children, it will keep them occupied for hours.
We let ours free range about 3 hours a day outside their lot - which means they are free to go anywhere on our 10 acres but everyone of the girls will come back to the coop to lay their eggs in the boxes; we've never had them lay anywhere else - that we know of anyway
Well, we have this very loveable Lab that learned pretty quick that eggs taste good. Unfortunately. He will go right into the coop and lap them up. So...wouldn't be able to let them come and go out of the coop.
Keep them in the coop with the nest boxes until they learn where to lay, then let them free range. Give them access to the nest boxes during the day while they are free ranging. Most will lay in the nest boxes, but don't be surprised if one starts a nest elsewhere. They are living animals. You can train them but not control them.
Quote:That's what I did. My chickens are out free-ranging from the time I get up in the morning until dusk, when they put themselves to bed. I've watched my hens walk back from a good distance away back to their coop to lay. I've yet to have a reduction of eggs caused by them laying elsewhere. *knock on wood*
Once my girls learned to lay in the nest boxes, I've rarely had to go on an egg hunt. I open their coops before dawn and they're out till they go to bed -- as with gritsar's girls, mine know the way to the nest boxes and head in when they need to (sometimes running). Last summer there were a few periods when egg production seemed to take a nose dive, at which point I started following one of the hens when I she headed off away from the flock with a very determined look on her face.