Free Range

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by bigredfeather, Oct 9, 2008.

  1. bubbazmommy

    bubbazmommy Songster

    Oct 8, 2008
    Albany, ME
    You guys rock!! I read your posts earlier to day and when I let my chickens out I just left them be and after dinner I looked out and they were all back inside their run. Wow!!! and to think I had been running around trying to catch them. [​IMG] Thanks a bunch.
  2. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Songster

    Oct 1, 2008
    Yorkshire, Ohio
    When I got home last night, I discussed this with my wife. We decided to give a try, despite us both being a little reluctant. I opened there coop door about 5:30pm. It took them a little while, but all but 2 hens and the rooster made it outside. We calmly coaxed the reluctant ones out. They pretty much stuck to the perimeter of there barn. They were scratching and eating all kinds of bugs and grass. My 3 year old daughter had a blast walking around with them. She was able to pet one of them, which until yesterday, none of us were able to do. There were two of the hens that strayed away from the flock, but they didn't get very far. It gets dark about 8:00pm here, about 7:15pm all but two of them headed back to the coop to roost. The roo was the first one back. The two that didn't were the same two that wondered away earlier. I ended up having to carry them into the barn at dark.

    We will continue to let them out as long as the weather is good. I hoping I will go through less food doing this. In less than 3 weeks, they have consumed almost 50 pounds of food.

    Will they go back to the coop for water if they are out all day, or do I need to put there water outside to drink when they will be outside for an extended amount of time?
  3. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    I put a pan of water out for them. They've also learned to drink water wherever they find it available. They drink from the goat's bucket and the dog's.
  4. chickenfever

    chickenfever Songster

    Jul 22, 2008
    Yeah, I put water out for mine too. I don't know if I have to, but they drink it, and it keeps them out of their yard during the day. Which I think is great, not as much chicken poop in their yard and coop.
  5. ridgefire

    ridgefire Songster

    Jan 8, 2008
    Northern Michigan
    I just open the gate and walk away anymore. They were out wandering around today from 9am till dusk. They were in the fields, in the garden, the deck....the neighbors, but to be fair they were feeding them again.

    I dont put water or anything else outside for them. They run back to the coop to lay and get water or they will drink from the little pond if they are being lazy and dont want to go back to the coop.
  6. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    Quote:Might want to get a LGD if you can(both of mine were free dogs). Free ranging is a risky business at best, but can be better with a guardian on watch when you are busy in the house.

    A chicken tractor is a cheap and effective alternative to free ranging without worrying about predators. One can construct a tractor out of recycled materials and a role of fencing, if you have a good imagination.
  7. dancingbear

    dancingbear Songster

    Aug 2, 2008
    South Central KY
    I've been free-ranging my birds for over 15 years, and now and then, there's a predator problem. But not usually. The worst have been dogs. A couple of times, my own, until I got them trained properly.

    I think folks over estimate just how much protection a roo is for a flock. Even the meanest roo is no match for a fast fox. Don't think your hens are safe because you have a rooster, they're not. Roos mostly protect hens from other roos, the family dog, house cats, (who seldom bother chickens anyway) and small children.

    If you have white birds, they're more likely to be spotted by a predator. Other colors do a lot better. Bright gold birds, like buff Orpingtons, also stand out a lot. Not quite as bad as white. We started with an equal number of BO's and black Australorps, and s few various other colors and breeds, but after 2 "year of the fox" seasons, all but 1 BO was gone, but I still had a lot of black Australorps and assorted partridge and shades of buff/black/brown. No white, every single one I've tried to keep got grabbed by something.

    Birds with their own natural camo are the best for free-ranging. Partridge and birchen, that sort of coloring. They blend.

    The best protection for your birds is a good dog, but you have to work with them and make sure they will guard the birds and not kill them.
  8. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Songster

    Oct 1, 2008
    Yorkshire, Ohio
    I have a dauschhould, but I hardly think she would be a good candidate for guard dog. She runs back and fourth on her leash when they are out. The other night she had foam on her lips. lol I think I am going to allow them to free-range for a few hours a day for the rest of the fall. Next spring I will make a run for them. I have plenty of room outside the born. I want to divide the pen in half, and alternate the side they are on. I was considering planting wheat in it, so they will have a good source of cheap and nutritious food. I can easily enclose a total area of 30'x50'. I was thinking of putting a roof over part of it for shade and protection. That will hopefully keep them plenty happy.

    I started giving them tomatoes that are left in the garden the other day. They sure do like them. I put 4 or 5 in everyday and they are gone quickly. Glad to be able to using something up.

    Thanks for all the advice. It helped me to decide what will work best for me.
  9. I free range mine about half day, and my food pellets bill has probably been cut in half to. but I also have my GS Guiana's staying with them until almost dark.I always throw some scratch out for them and the guinea so they stay pretty close to home. My roo is a really Big guy and scares everyone by jumping on them except me. strange to see a 70 lb pitt run from a 7lb roo [​IMG] marrie
  10. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Of course a roo couldn't be expected to go up against a predator much larger than him and come out on the winning side. They are however excellent for warning the flock that the danger is nearby so everyone can take cover.

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