Free ranging unprotected all day - do you do it?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by imthedude, Aug 3, 2010.

  1. imthedude

    imthedude Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 9, 2010
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    I've been keeping our birds locked up until about 4 each day so that they become trained to lay in their nest boxes (all pullets from 21-23 weeks of age). Four or five are laying, and when the rest "come online," I'd like to leave them out all day. The dog is at home all day and hopefully would be somewhat of a deterrent to foxes, etc., but not hawks.

    How many of you do this without regard to predation?
     
  2. vnploveschickens

    vnploveschickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Are you there at home, or gone all day? I would not leave them free range with no one home all day. I don't know about the dog either.
    I do leave them for a hour or so. But if we are gone all day, they stay in their pen.
    Your chickens will be ok getting out with just a few hours. Alot of owners just let them out for 1-2 hours or just on weekends.
     
  3. atimme

    atimme Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 3, 2010
    Chicago
    It's always a risk, but the chickens enjoy being outside all day. We had a chicken dog that chased even the hawks off when they came in for a landing. Squaking=trouble so she was on guard. You will loose the occasional hen here and there, so if that doesn't sound good then it's probably not for you. Keep in mind that predators will be around even when you are home. Plus how much do you trust your dog?
     
  4. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How comfortable are you with the idea that you will at some point over time experience losses? If you're not comfortable with that reality, better rethink free ranging.

    I'm not comfortable with it, so I use a daytime tractor.
     
  5. SallyF

    SallyF Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 5, 2009
    Middle Tennessee
    We live in the country in Tennessee. House is set way back off the road and the coop is behind that. Forest on two sides, open field on other 2. I let 'em range. The only ones I've lost so far were during the night, to presumed raccoon attack through a chain link fence. Now have chicken wire wrapped around the chain link and haven't lost any more at night. Mine free-range for at least half of every day, and bring themselves back to the coop each evening about sunset. One day one hen (out of 5) was late showing up and I thought the rooster was going to have a stroke. He paced the outside of the run and crowed continually to persuade her to come back, which she did. She was just basking in the shade of the okra plants in the garden.
     
  6. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    I am finally letting my flock free range when I am at work/not at home. I open the run gate (and the Alternate Chicken Access Port, which is right next to the main coop) each morning, and then open up the coops that don't have an automatic door.

    At night, I close up the coops without an automatic door (do head counts in each coop as I'm doing this, so I do check the main coop with the auto door), then close the run gate and the ACAP.

    I have two dogs at home, one of which is a good watch dog and he avoids the chickens and ducks like the plague. He does, however, patrol the property and bark at stray cats, people going by on horseback, on foot, on motorcycles or farm equipment. Both dogs are dachshunds. The other one is 12, almost 13 years old, and he guards the inside of the house when he's awake. Both use the dog door as necessary.

    All the chickens come to greet me so it's easy to take a head count when I get home from work. So far, I've been lucky.
     
  7. Lynn in Texas

    Lynn in Texas Out Of The Brooder

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    I had the same problem as your's - I just couldn't stand the thought of losing any one of mine, even though I ordered 80 of different breeds, assuming that some would be lost. When they were 8 weeks old I had such a run of grasshoppers in the pasture and everywhere that I figured it would be stupid not to let them out and enjoy the "hunt" and solve my problem. I was in the fully covered run sitting on a stool and I noticed that when an innocent bird (like herons or cattle egrets) would fly overhead they would notice but not be alarmed. One of the resident hawks came overhead and I've never seen so many chickens get so silent and disappear so quickly in my life.

    I figured they had seen the hawks up close and personal as a couple of hawk feathers were in the run one morning - figured they had been on top of the poultry wire making a "shopping list" of my babies. To make a long story short I let them out - late in the evening the first time, but shortly after dawn since then, and go down to close the outside door of the run at 9 each evening - they are all on their roosts and still "kerfuffling" at that time. Our coop and run are built and protected like Fort Knox as we have a lot of racoons - the double wrap of hot wire is the best thing I think we've got.

    The chickens have had an amazing awareness of their surroundings - seem to keep always within a close range of the cattle sheds, fig trees, farm implements, anything to take cover. They took care of the kitties the second morning - I heard a lot of comotion and went running down and before I could get there I heard a cat howling.........since then, they all get along just fine.

    I guess what I'd recommend is to let them out all day as long as they have some trees or shrubs or something to run to in case the hawks come around - I've just been astounded at how smart they are about these things. Good luck - Oh! The chickies are exceedingly happy and they whole flock is really getting along - roos and girls. And the grasshopper population has really taken a hit!
     
  8. mmaddie's mom

    mmaddie's mom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Free range all day, every day... if I have to work late they put themselves in for the night and I close the door when I get home. Having a good Roo helps and plenty of cover. Yes I have had some loss but not that bad. I have a very happy, healthy free-range flock and would never keep them closed in all day.
     
  9. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mine free range even when i'm not home, most of the time. However, if i didn't have a great rooster and three good dogs who know better than to eat my chickens, i would not feel so free about it. Like someone else said, you have to resolve yourself to the idea of some losses. But over the past 10 months or so, i have only lost 2 to hawks and none to other predators. That's pretty good. My dogs are no good for warding off hawks, as far as i can tell, but my rooster is GREAT at warning the girls when there's danger.

    I decided, at some point, that i would rather let them live happily and carefree like a chicken should - and have to deal with some losses, than to keep them cooped up their whole lives. I just wouldn't enjoy them as much that way, and i don't think they would be as healthy.
     
  10. mmaddie's mom

    mmaddie's mom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Amen, brother! [​IMG]
     

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