Free-ranging question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by boogiedog, Jun 29, 2010.

  1. boogiedog

    boogiedog Songster

    Apr 19, 2010
    Oakland hills, CA
    I have a large, fenced (6' fence) yard that has lots of trees. Currently my flock of 29 (mixed breeds) is in a coop/run set up. They are all pretty young; will start laying eggs very soon, but haven't yet. I would like to free range them in the late afternoon when I am home to supervise. Questions: Should I wait until they are all laying to free range? What is the likelihood of any heading over the fences (un-clipped wings) and/or head into trees to roost? I was hoping by waiting until they had spent some months in the coop/run, and especially after they started laying, that they would have better instincts to head back to the coop to roost. I would prefer not to clip wings if I don't have to - but will if that is required to keep them safe (I don't want them ending up in neighbors yards - dogs) What experiences have you all had? THANKS!
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    You really don't want them to free range during laying hours until they have learned really well to lay where you want them to. They can get into some bad habits otherwise. Letting them free range an hour or so in the evening just before dark should not be a problem though. That should work out well for you.

    If they have been in the coop long enough to consider it home they should return right before dark to the coop. If they have been in the coop a month or more, you should have no worries at all about that. One week is usually plenty. One problem that I have had with mine when I first let them out is that they trap themselves and cannot figure how to get out of the trap. They come back to the run but don't remember where the gate is. They get right up to the fence and obviously want to get in the run and coop, but can't. I have to kind of herd them around the run until they come to the gate. After one or two nights they figure it out.

    Chickens, especially young ones like yours, can easily clear a 6 foot fence. Most will not bother unless they are motivated. Maybe a dog is chasing them or a pullet is trying to get away from a rooster with amorous intentions. However there are a few that just seem to like to roam. I can't tell you that they will stay home in your yard, but I think the odds are pretty good that they will unless something happens to really motivate them to leave.
  3. chicks4kids

    chicks4kids Songster

    Apr 22, 2009
    Northern Indiana
    Excellent thinking on getting them trained inside the run. You could let them out to free range before they start laying...sounds like they've become quite familiar with their area right now. They'll know to go to the house in the evening, and I doubt you'll have any that'll start laying eggs the end of the day, once they start laying, they'll have already laid their eggs by the time you let them out. And it's highly unlikely they'll have a desire to roost in the trees.

    I have 25+ chickens that have a huge chicken yard.......big enough of an area to call it free-ranging although technically they are still fenced in. All that I use is 3 ft & 4 ft. high welded wire fencing to keep them in their area. I found that if they have nothing to "land" on at the top of the fence that they won't try to fly over it. I have never clipped any of my chickens wings. I also have 5 turkeys in this same area and even they don't try to fly out.

    I think it'll be just fine for you!
  4. oldchickenlady

    oldchickenlady Songster

    May 9, 2010
    Cabot, AR
    You don't have to wait for them to start laying to free range them. I have 12 10 week old chickens (6 RIR & 6 Buff O's) and they have been free ranging (no fence or anything) since they were about 5 weeks or so (can't remember exactly) I have a completely enclosed run they stayed in for a few days, then I let them out just on my days off for about a week. Now they go out every day, all day. I put them back in the run at night. They already know that the coop is 'home' and that is where they will go roost. I moved my run the other day and I just knew I was going to have to catch 12 chickens to put them up for the night, but after milling around the old run site, they followed me to the new site and went in (except for one stubborn one...but she went in when she realized she was alone!). I can't advise you abut the flying part, except to say mine dont attempt to fly much at all. Sometimes one will try to fly up to my porch rails but not very often. It seems to be a little difficult to get up that high (about 3.5 feet) so I guess their wings aren't that strong yet. Anyway, they will be fine if you are there with them. I fully expected to lose some chickens to predators by now, as I live in the country and I know there are coyote, fox, bobcat, possums, and coons, and hawks here, but I haven't lost any yet [​IMG] I have started letting them out later in the morning and putting them up earlier in the evenings on my days off because I don't think they are eating enough of their chick feed, they are kinda skinny. So by keeping them in later in the morning they have to eat their feed instead of grass, clover, bugs, etc. Same in the evening. They are very active and healthy, however, and are doing great. I have had no issues of any kind with them. I think once they slow down growing they will put on more weight.
  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    So have they been in this coop and run since they were small chicks?? If so, then I feel they will have no problems going back to the coop to lay (be sure to put a wooden egg or golf ball in the nests now, so that they see them and begin to get the idea. I did let mine out of the run before they began laying, and had no problems with them returning to the run/coop for laying and for night time... I hope it works as well for you!
  6. boogiedog

    boogiedog Songster

    Apr 19, 2010
    Oakland hills, CA
    Thank you everyone for the feedback - very helpful!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: