Free Ranging with Open Coop

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by arownious, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. arownious

    arownious New Egg

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    Jan 16, 2013
    Hello addicts,
    Newcommer here and soon to be chicken obsessed. I'm hoping I can get some good advise on the subject of free ranging and I'll let you in on the details of my situation to better assess why I'm asking these questions:

    I have a very small flock of 4 hens and 1 rooster. The flock originally consisted of 10 unknowns, which developed into 5 hens and 5 roosters. They resided in a coop built off of part of my barn. After losing 2-3 to predators or possibly too many roosters on a hen, I removed all roosters but my one keeper, and was down to 4 hens. I started making changes for longevity by building a chicken tractor out of chicken wire and pvc, with nest boxes and this has worked great, however, this morning 3 stray dogs tore open a corner and killed 2 of my hens. They hadn't even started laying yet.

    Now I'm down to 2 hens and 1 rooster, and am considering culling these for food (they are all free mixed breed birds) and restocking with 4-5 Australorps and 4-5 Partridge Rocks. But also building a nice wooden coop that's dog proof. With that said, the coop will not have a run, but these birds will be free ranging.

    Things to note: I'm on 5 acres, having an Australian Shepherd that does not obviously chase dogs off often enough, but doesn't respond at all to birds: no chasing, no herding, just flat out ignores them. My neighbor next door has over 20 birds of all types, most cooped, but they are visible from where my coop would be. We do not have coyotes or hawks (rarely), but have the occasional stray dog. This incident was the first I've had since I've owned my chickens (6 months). I do not have a front fence but will be building one this spring.

    Now to my question...assuming a cull my current leftovers, and raise chicks who will be well handled, is there a "proper" way or best practices and tricks to keep my chickens including roosters (no more than 2) coming back home, as opposed to going next door to socialize and live. The reason I ask is because these chickens I have, I attempted to free range and although they did not originate from next door, they seemed to migrate over the course of a week to her barn.

    Thanks guys for all the input!
     
  2. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    If you've already lost birds to a possible predator and you know you've lost birds to dogs that broke into your coop then my best suggestion to you would be to build a safe run for your new birds. Something dog proof, not chicken wire.

    Your birds are always going to be attracted to the neighbors birds so that's another reason for a run.

    A small, free ranging flock can so easily be wiped out in only minutes by roaming dog or dogs. Or other predators. People who free range larger flocks can handle the occasional loss and they understand it's going to happen. It's much harder when you only have a few birds since you can easily come home to find you now have no birds and you have to start all over, again.
     
  3. arownious

    arownious New Egg

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    The dog problem will be remedied with a front fence in the Spring. I'm wondering how all these other folks do it with free ranging. Is the common thread of their success hand raising the first group? Or do they all have no other neighbors close by with chickens to socialize with and loose their flocks to?
     
  4. arownious

    arownious New Egg

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    Found this post at Gardenweb forums:




    Hi. In the past, we've had about 100 free ranging hens with one skinny rooster...he was too busy to eat...lol
    At first, I lost quite a few of my hens to roaming until a centurian farmer filled me in on a couple of key points. I followed her "golden rules" of chicken farming and we rarely lost a chicken after that. Problem was, they never left home and I was tripping over the ****** things all the time
    So I'll pass on her sage advice to you with a pinch of humour to make the reading enjoyable:
    #1. Any lady will wander if she doesn't have a partner to "satisfy" her needs. (just watch divorce court on tv) Same goes for hens.
    #2. Guys tend to be homebodies once they've sown their "wild oats" and settled down. (remember that wild n crazy brother whose now married with 3 kids?) Same goes for roosters.
    #3. Guys tend to like being close to their lady and vice versa. (like most couples) Same goes for roosters and hens.
    #4. Roosters keep their hens "in line" with subtle gestures and vocals. (like most guys try to do) Now before you ladies get your feminist knickers in a knot, watch your barnyard rooster the next time he's around his hens. See how he prances so the hens stay close and watch him. (like most guys) Notice how the hens come running over when he pecks the ground and clucks "sweet talk". (like most ladies when a guy is "wooing" her) The hens always seem to be close by or ready to run when the rooster starts his show. (don't most girls?)
    #4. Always have enough roosters to satisfy the ladies. One rooster with too many ladies will be too busy to eat and simply die from exhaustion or starvation. (just look at the average single guy in a sports bar) Also, the hens will get impatient waiting their "turn" and simply wander off looking for greener pastures...so to speak. (just watch the average girl in a sports bar) The best ratio tends to be 1 rooster for every 10 hens. (I have an ex-husband like that)
    #5. In the morning, take a couple of scoops of hen scratch and scatter it all over the area you want the hens to stay. They will usually spend the day scratching contently in that area. (just like your teenagers & friends with a well stocked fridge) The rooster will also have lots of little "love tokens" to point out to his hens. (just like the guy who brings home chinese instead of taking you out for dinner)
    #6. At night, scatter some hen scratch in the hen house before it gets dark. They'll all show up for "dinner" and usually roost shortly afterwards. (just like your family) So make sure to lock up the coop every night after this little ritual. Chickens love a routine and tend to become habitual with their patterns. (just like people)
    The only exception to these rules tends to be bantams. They seem to have minds of their own. Running wild and having fun is what their all about! (just like the boyz and girlz of generation X)
    Kat


    Seems like a good plan, any one have experience with this?
     
  5. TW1Kell

    TW1Kell Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Plenty of experience with it. Sounds about as accurate as could be told. Roosters and us men, alike.
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I do love the above post, and lots of good advice.

    However, my flock free ranges often, and I have lost chickens, I do better with a roo, but sometimes that is not enough. Even though mine free range, and I prefer it, there are times that I lock them up.

    If you are going to be gone for a couple of days, it is much better to have a coop run, that you can lock up everything. Then the girls and roo can go into the house when it gets dark, but they are protected from predators. The run needs to be totally enclosed, as in over the top. The wire needs to be strong, chicken wire will work for over the top, but not for the sides. it needs to be buried or a flap run along the ground.

    EVERYTHING loves chickens, and they will find you, even if you have not seen the predators yet.

    MrsK
     
  7. TW1Kell

    TW1Kell Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'd say that MrsK has it all about figured out. Sound advice, there.
     

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