Free range question

ChickenDude12345

Songster
Jun 16, 2021
351
392
131
Northern NH
So in a couple of weeks I’m going to start working full days on my parents tree farm so I was wondering if anyone could give me advice on free ranging my 12 chickens. When I start working I think they’ll be around 9 to 10 weeks old. I tried letting him out one hour before sunset one night this week. They didn’t go more than 25 feet from the coop. I have a dog who doesn’t seem to care much about them and a cat who does kill a lot of stuff but hasn’t really shown any interest in them. My coop is in a fairly open place so predators are not a huge concern to me but still there. What are all you guys opinions? Yes? No?
 

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Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
10,884
17,789
726
western South Dakota
Yes that is very typical behavior when you first let them out. They don't go far, and the more you let them out, the farther they go.

As for free range - I do have predators and they have given me stiff competition, but here is my advice, - take what you need:
  • Do not let them out on a set pattern, each day at the same time -predators can learn routines
  • Do not let them out on high wind days, or very cloudy days - gives advantage to the predators
  • There ARE predators out there, even if you don't see them.
  • Everything loves to eat chicken
  • When you loose some, go into a coop/run set up that will hold your flock 24/7, and keep them there for many days - predators do come back once they find you
  • A good rooster will help with day time predators - but
    • he needs to be very close to a year old
    • your pullets should be laying before you get him
    • it is helpful if he comes from a multi-generational free ranging flock
    • NOT ALL ROOSTERS are good roosters.
It is a risk, sometimes I gamble - sometimes I win, sometimes the predators do so.

Mrs K
 

ChickenDude12345

Songster
Jun 16, 2021
351
392
131
Northern NH
Yes that is very typical behavior when you first let them out. They don't go far, and the more you let them out, the farther they go.

As for free range - I do have predators and they have given me stiff competition, but here is my advice, - take what you need:
  • Do not let them out on a set pattern, each day at the same time -predators can learn routines
  • Do not let them out on high wind days, or very cloudy days - gives advantage to the predators
  • There ARE predators out there, even if you don't see them.
  • Everything loves to eat chicken
  • When you loose some, go into a coop/run set up that will hold your flock 24/7, and keep them there for many days - predators do come back once they find you
  • A good rooster will help with day time predators - but
    • he needs to be very close to a year old
    • your pullets should be laying before you get him
    • it is helpful if he comes from a multi-generational free ranging flock
    • NOT ALL ROOSTERS are good roosters.
It is a risk, sometimes I gamble - sometimes I win, sometimes the predators do so.

Mrs K
Awesome thanks for the advice. Do you think they can free range unsupervised in a couple of weeks
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
10,884
17,789
726
western South Dakota
You could do so now, or in a couple of weeks. That won't make much difference as far as predators go. Barn cats can pick off smaller chicks. But coons, coyotes, eagles, owls and hawks will not have trouble with full size birds.

You can range them unsupervised and get along just fine. I have friends that have chickens that don't have much more than a cobweb up for protection and never get hit. Myself, we just built alcatraz to try and outwit the coons.

If you free range you can loose one or two...or a bunch. But it is nice to free range them, they will love it. Again the most important advice I can give you, is don't do it the same way every day. Some days let them out all day, some days just part of a day and some days not at all.

DO have a set up you can go into lock down if you need to.

MRs K
 

ChickenDude12345

Songster
Jun 16, 2021
351
392
131
Northern NH
You could do so now, or in a couple of weeks. That won't make much difference as far as predators go. Barn cats can pick off smaller chicks. But coons, coyotes, eagles, owls and hawks will not have trouble with full size birds.

You can range them unsupervised and get along just fine. I have friends that have chickens that don't have much more than a cobweb up for protection and never get hit. Myself, we just built alcatraz to try and outwit the coons.

If you free range you can loose one or two...or a bunch. But it is nice to free range them, they will love it. Again the most important advice I can give you, is don't do it the same way every day. Some days let them out all day, some days just part of a day and some days not at all.

DO have a set up you can go into lock down if you need to.

MRs K
Ok, they are pretty good about following me so I’m not too worried. I might just have to keep my cat in on the days I range them and then when the chickens are full grown my cat shouldn’t bother them
 

U_Stormcrow

Crossing the Road
Jun 7, 2020
8,178
28,598
776
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Mine free range unsupervised at 6 weeks, and are outside unsupervised in an open top grow out run at 3 weeks, beginning their "see and be seen" process with the adult flock to intergrate successfully. The pasture sits inside about 4.5 acres protected by electric fencing.

I take a couple losses a year, to aerial predation. Hawks, generally.

It all comes down to your tolerance for risk. You can see my flock, below - mostly mutts I hatched myself and common hatchery birds. A single loss doesn't set me back much. I do walk the electric fence every other day, and it pushes over two joules, rated at 30 miles, actually charging just four wires, totalling maybe a mile and a quarter. Our ground based predators could easily do much more damage than taking a single bird (wild dog packs, likely coyote), so I'm more serious about ground defenses. Also, its impractical to roof 4.5 acres...
 

ChickenDude12345

Songster
Jun 16, 2021
351
392
131
Northern NH
Mine free range unsupervised at 6 weeks, and are outside unsupervised in an open top grow out run at 3 weeks, beginning their "see and be seen" process with the adult flock to intergrate successfully. The pasture sits inside about 4.5 acres protected by electric fencing.

I take a couple losses a year, to aerial predation. Hawks, generally.

It all comes down to your tolerance for risk. You can see my flock, below - mostly mutts I hatched myself and common hatchery birds. A single loss doesn't set me back much. I do walk the electric fence every other day, and it pushes over two joules, rated at 30 miles, actually charging just four wires, totalling maybe a mile and a quarter. Our ground based predators could easily do much more damage than taking a single bird (wild dog packs, likely coyote), so I'm more serious about ground defenses. Also, its impractical to roof 4.5 acres...
Mine free range unsupervised at 6 weeks, and are outside unsupervised in an open top grow out run at 3 weeks, beginning their "see and be seen" process with the adult flock to intergrate successfully. The pasture sits inside about 4.5 acres protected by electric fencing.

I take a couple losses a year, to aerial predation. Hawks, generally.

It all comes down to your tolerance for risk. You can see my flock, below - mostly mutts I hatched myself and common hatchery birds. A single loss doesn't set me back much. I do walk the electric fence every other day, and it pushes over two joules, rated at 30 miles, actually charging just four wires, totalling maybe a mile and a quarter. Our ground based predators could easily do much more damage than taking a single bird (wild dog packs, likely coyote), so I'm more serious about ground defenses. Also, its impractical to roof 4.5 acres...
Mine are in a 8 x around 18 ft run. They have been there since 5 weeks, they are now almost 8 weeks. I have no outdoor fence. They seem to stick close, I’ll let them out for a few hours tomorrow
 

U_Stormcrow

Crossing the Road
Jun 7, 2020
8,178
28,598
776
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Mine are in a 8 x around 18 ft run. They have been there since 5 weeks, they are now almost 8 weeks. I have no outdoor fence. They seem to stick close, I’ll let them out for a few hours tomorrow
the distance at which chickens will free range increases with their comfort. mine generally stick within 100 ft of the barn. but if i am out working in the woods? they are underfoot. same when i work on the house, 300 feet away. they stand around what will be the driveway, chomping fresh greens and bugs.
 

Chuckie chicken

Chicken Chucker
Feb 26, 2021
838
6,854
381
Back to tyranny 😒
My Coop
My Coop
the distance at which chickens will free range increases with their comfort.
I can vouch for that. I've had mine 3 months now, they free range 12 hours a day, every day. In the past week or so they have started walking the edges of the two wheat fields that border our property eating grain off the stalks. In just the past week, they have expanded their range quite a bit. We don't have any fencing, but overall, they currently cover about a 4 acre patch daily. No losses to predators yet, but it won't surprise me if it happens.
 

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