Free Ranging Chickens In the Woods?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Min Lille Norge, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. Min Lille Norge

    Min Lille Norge In the Brooder

    Jun 12, 2010
    Hello all! I'm new to this site, and new to having chickens! I've gained so much information reading a lot of the entries. My little flock of 26 Buff Orp's are 2 weeks old and I'm crazy about them. My question is: I live out in the country in a dense woodland of SE Minnesota and I have longed to have my own free-range chickens. A farmer has suggested to me that these gals may just prefer to roost in the oak trees instead of going in at night to the 'Hilton' that my DH built for them! If so, I won't have many birds for very long with all the predators that are around. I hadn't given it any thought that they might roost in the trees. I really rather not fence them in (I plan on trimming their flight feathers), but I'm also not willing to feed the great horned owls, coyotes and stray wolves. My 'girls' are pretty tame, as I spend quite a bit of time during the day with them in their new coop! Thanks for any thoughts on what might be a problem!
  2. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    Well, when mine went to roosting in trees I clipped their flight feathers and they all sleep in the coop now.
  3. ChooksChick

    ChooksChick BeakHouse's Mad Chicken Scientist

    Aug 17, 2008
    Larry, KS
    My Coop
    Here's my take:

    Trimming wings will make them more vulnerable if you don't have them in a covered run, as they will be less able to evade.

    If you show them where home is by keeping them in the coop for several days prior to any free-ranging, they'll come home at night, especially if you have a night light in there. They feel secure in a familiar environment and will do as you teach them, for the most part.

    I would be concerned about ranging them in the woods more because of the daytime predators. Around here, the rural homeowners lose birds to coyotes and foxes, even raccoons, during the day, too. Even in town, they come for lunch! Right smack in the middle of a crowded college town on a house between two VERY busy one-way streets, a fox hopped over a 6' privacy fence into a friend's yard.

    It's important to try to make the whole environment as safe as possible , and then know you are always going to have risks unless they have a very large covered pen with hardware cloth and solid construction.

    Good luck!
    jreardon1918 likes this.
  4. stirkle

    stirkle Songster

    Mar 13, 2010
    Well we don't have the owl problem in the UK... however I believe crows are a big problem for chicks and ducklings however mine have been fine so far...

    I keep my chickens fenced in whenever nobody is around the house or when its getting dark at night... they have a 50m electric fence around their coop but otherwise are allowed to free range during the day...

    So I would not risk letting your birds roost in trees and not let yourself be persuaded into doing something you feel isn't safe to your birds... after all they deserve a good life as well...
  5. chicknduck

    chicknduck Songster

    May 21, 2010
    Mine are in our woods all day free range but still go in every night. We are in Pennsylvania, but we have pretty dense woods. I didnt want to clip their wings so if they had to they could get away. We have 2 cats and 2 dogs that keep them on their toes and some small predators away. When any of our furry friends get to close they just band together very tight or when they get spooked the head straight or their house. Good luck with what you decide.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2010
  6. Jody

    Jody Songster

    Nov 8, 2009
    Epping, NH
    I never clip my chickens wings cause they don't fly. Mine too spend the day foraging in the woods and they come home at night.. So far we've been lucky as far as predators go. I'm more worried about the feral cats around here than a coon or hawk getting them. But my woods aren't deep woods.. they're small 1/2 acre sections in between neighbors.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  7. Min Lille Norge

    Min Lille Norge In the Brooder

    Jun 12, 2010
    Thanks everyone for your advice! My chicks have been in their coop for about a week now, and will be there until they get big enough to let out. I would hope that by then, they will know that this is their home. I'm thinking maybe let out just a few at first and see if they come back to the coop. Being that they flock together, wouldn't the other's follow these 'leaders' back in at night?

    And yes JODY, feral cats are decimating to wildlife, be it wild or domestic.
  8. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    I would let them go out together. You can let them out late in the day at first, so they don't go as far, before it's time to go back in for the night. They'll get used to the new routine. I also have mine trained to come to me for treats, when they see the treat container. It's very easy to put them away when I need to confine them in the run for some reason.
  9. ChooksChick

    ChooksChick BeakHouse's Mad Chicken Scientist

    Aug 17, 2008
    Larry, KS
    My Coop
    If you open the door, it's more than likely they'll stick close to home or even stay in the first day. They'll venture out a bit and then farther as time goes on.
  10. dparadise

    dparadise In the Brooder

    Apr 16, 2010
    southwest Florida
    Mine go back into the coop now by themselves. They're really home based chickens. If we're out in the yard working or just sitting and watching them, they're out free ranging, the minute we go back in the house, for even a minute, they head back to the coop and stay inside. When we come back outside, they come back out of the coop. And I just changed their night time roost to inside the coop instead of inside the run. They still head for the coop.

    I started by letting them out for an hour or two just before dark. Did this for a few days and then went to a four hour free run. Now they line up in the morning and the rooster starts yelling at me, let me out! You can see them lining up, just waiting for the door to open, like a bunch of bargain shoppers on black friday. (about as impatient too) [​IMG]

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