Free Ranging?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Rin, Jan 17, 2010.

  1. Rin

    Rin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 22, 2009
    Moonglade (EU)
    Was /not/ sure what category to put this in, but does anyone have any tips for me? I have a decent sized property almost completely blanketed in trees and brush and grasses that come up to my shoulders(I have pictures, see below). I ordered seven straight run millie D'uccles from ideal and plan to later order seven more (females only) from MPC if all goes well with the seven and a coop designed to house 10 standard-sized chickens. I'm trying to give myself leeway for the roos and sick chicks that are likely to be culled/given away at some point.

    I chose millies because their colouring is almost like camouflage compared to the brush and grass they'll be foraging in. Even the white "flowers" match the sand out here. They can also fly fairly well(I read somewhere 7 ft?) and would prefer a bird that's able to get out of the way of something if they need to.

    There is a /lot/ of cover for them(I think). I have photos I took of my property today so you have a better idea of what I'm wanting to have them range in http://s588.photobucket.com/albums/ss326/Riyoku/Property/ The dog is mine(and she is not bird aggressive. She even tolerates the cat rubbing up on her because she knows I want her to X3) and ignore the marshy area. That is just past the tip of my property and merely the scenery.

    My plan is to lock them in the coop at night, of course, but let them forrage the property during the day and feed them their grain personally. The property has a bug issue as well due to all the brush which I'm sure the hens would appreciate, I don't spray any pesticides or toxins at all. A lot of wild birds rely on my property and that would more than likely cause more issues than help. Only thing I use is Diatomaceous Earth.

    Some specific things I'd like input on -
    What do you use to water your free ranging birds? I'm finding it hard to figure out what I'm meant to hang or attach most waterers offered to. Most branches are too high up to hang one from XDD

    Did you install anything special for "in case of attack" that your birds can get to but something like a dog cannot? I'm pretty sure my birds can get up a tree or vining brush if they had to but any ideas or mentions of things you tried "just in case" would be appreciated.

    How did you make sure your birds stayed tame and accepting of you? I plan to be out there every day with them, feeding them by hand if I can. They will be considered my pets. Just very beneficial pets with yummy eggs. ;D I know chickens like to roost the same place every night but I've heard of them taking to trees and becoming wild before(I don't intend to keep a roo out there, so if they did this they couldn't just breed out of control.)

    Link SHOULD work now, if not, next edit is me adding actual photos XD
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010
  2. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    How much property we talkin about? I know Gritstar's chickens range all over her 80 acres, soooooo dunno how much land you expect them to stay on. BTW your photobucket album is private, it asks for a password to view it.

    Mine are fenced in my yard. This keeps dogs out, and mostly keeps the chickens in (we have an escapee once in a while but...for the most part they stay in). If you leave them to their own devices you will lose some to predators for sure! BUT it sounds like you are taking a pretty hands-off approach, so maybe you expect that. I dunno. Just be sure that once a pred knows where "KFC" is they will keep coming back till you are out of birds!!

    To get them to come to the coop every night you will have to lock them in there 24/7 for about a week. The same when they are laying and you want them to use the nest box. For a while after training they will return to the coop to lay, but then they will get a wild hair and start laying in the bush. You probably don't want that to happen, so if you start missing eggs, lock them up for a bit for "retraining"
    Because they will have to stay in the coop for training periods, make it large enough to accommodate this! Or add an attached run for them to use during the training periods (probably cheaper that way)

    I water mine with plain ole buckets. I hook them on the fence to prevent tip-over, but honestly I think the 2 gal size is heavy enough that they can't flip it anyway. Just a precaution.
    [​IMG]

    Mine go through that independent "teenager" stage, but I go out and feed them a cup of BOSS or scratch type stuff every day. They are tame enough to run up to me every time I come out the back door, or drive in the driveway. Some I can pick up like pets, some are friendly enough AFTER you catch them! lol I do all of my checking for lice, or medicating, or leg-banding, type stuff at night on the roost when they are kinda dopey.
    Do you have electricity out there on your property? How cold we talkin about? I use a heated dog waterer in the coop when it's freezing, and not having to hold a flashlight while putting blue med on a pecked hen is really nice too.
     
  3. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Hi. Couldn't pull up your photo...
    Based on your description of your property (which sounds lovely), keep in mind that tall grasses and brush also gives predators lots of places to remain hidden during the day, not just your chickens. Many folks free range and love it. But just know that there's a good chance you'll lose birds to predators in doing so. I do "faux" free ranging w/my girls. When my DH or I are out working around the property, I'll let them out of the run, but our 3 acre property is fenced. Besides their food/water inside the henhouse, they have it available in the run, and only one bowl of each out on the property (although I remove that food pan when ranging is done for the day so as to not attract critters). I do have an old wine barrel (turned on side) that I've fixed up for them as a little shelter area for hawk sightings. So far mine have chosen to hang out close to their coop or come up to the house... [​IMG] They haven't ventured too far...
    Congrats on getting chickens! I hope you end up with lots of pullets!!
     
  4. pkeeler

    pkeeler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Shamong
    What do you use to water your free ranging birds? I'm finding it hard to figure out what I'm meant to hang or attach most waterers offered to. Most branches are too high up to hang one from XDD

    You can just put the waterers on the ground. You can put them on 2x4s, concrete blocks, etc. but no need. Try and move the waterers around though and keep them in or next to cover.

    Did you install anything special for "in case of attack" that your birds can get to but something like a dog cannot? I'm pretty sure my birds can get up a tree or vining brush if they had to but any ideas or mentions of things you tried "just in case" would be appreciated.

    Annoyingly, chickens will not fly into a tree to escape a dog. I don't know why. Maybe flighty breeds will. You could build them something, not sure they will use it. Neighborhood dogs are tough, maybe the toughest. Hopefully, your neighbors control their dogs or they are too old, too small, or too docile to make a meal. See below too.

    How did you make sure your birds stayed tame and accepting of you? I plan to be out there every day with them, feeding them by hand if I can. They will be considered my pets. Just very beneficial pets with yummy eggs. ;D I know chickens like to roost the same place every night but I've heard of them taking to trees and becoming wild before(I don't intend to keep a roo out there, so if they did this they couldn't just breed out of control.)

    Thousands of years of evolution have made chickens acceptable for free ranging in the yard. At least the hens. I would not name any cockerels. Most likely, you will have to cull or adopt out some. If they are raised in a brooder, and moved into a coop, and left in there for a few days, when you let them out they should go back to roost in the coop. Wild chickens most likely will become owl pellets or raccoon meals.

    I couldn't get your picture to load. But if you have many shrubs, your yard should be fine for free ranging. Chickens have dealt with hawks for millions of years. If they have somewhere to hide they will get good at it. However, the learning process can be hard, with some losses in young birds. Wild song birds are a plus here as are squirrels. The chickens will learn their hawk calls and seek shelter. The song birds will drive hawks away too. Roosters are also a plus, maybe the best thing for hawks. But, many people free range without roosters (I wouldn't do it for long if I had a choice though). Chickens will learn about dogs too, if they are predatory. My chickens ignore my dog, because he rarely bothers them and then it just a chase. But our neighbor lets their dog run wild and he killed 3-4 of my chickens. He is now too old to catch them (or simply tired of the game), but the chickens remember and stay far away from that dog while ignoring other dogs.

    I have no experience with them, but you might want to get some input on cats if you have bantams.

    Free ranging is a great life for chickens. Maybe the best and most natural. But natural for chickens is not without risks. If you are going to name them and treat them like pets, maybe you should go with teach and only let them out when you can stand watch.​
     
  5. Rin

    Rin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 22, 2009
    Moonglade (EU)
    Dang, photo has been acting weird tonight I specifically set that to public. It should be fine now, had a friend double check this time to ensure it saved my settings.


    I probably should have mentioned this was mostly something I was just considering. I thought two acres of pure brush would have been enough for a flock of about 10 and not too "obtrusive" or "obvious" and better diet and exercise for the birds. Not to mention my dog gets to roam the property like that often enough and aside from using the private road to the side of the property as a racing track she never leaves it nor attempts to.

    Is it worth trying anyway for a while and just going ahead and building my shoddily built run if issues arise? Again, not good at crafting. Saws scare me so I don't even have important tools like that. XD I had to buy my coop as a kit, even and it doesn't come with a run. The fact it was the best I could find at the cost though lacking said run is why I chose it and am now considering this.

    And yes the natural aspect makes me want to do it this way even more so and the fact I wouldn't complain if they tended my properties bug issues either. The property needs a lot of TLC and they'd have all of it to themselves and the wild birds and squirrels mostly.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010
  6. 2txmedics

    2txmedics Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 5, 2009
    Manvel Texas
    I have never free ranged mine, and I let them out the other day for about 2hrs while I cleaned out the coops....first time ever...my buffs did good staying near by, but my ee's that are about 1mo younger...5mos...than the buffs...they acted all crazy!!! Like wooo hooo, SPRING BREAK TIME AT THE BEACH...running and flying all over the place in different directions. I thought I was going to have a few go over the fence to my boxer and lab~~~what is the deal???? I was having a heart attack.

    I live out in the country, semi...have neigbors to my right and across the street, but have lik e100 acres to my right, and we live on 4 acres, the back is very wild...high grass, and wild trees...one Ee took off to the back of the property, dummy me went after it, wihle DH called in terror...found me and said DONT MOVE, WE HAVE AN OPEN WELL HOLE back there somewhere, and its covered up by weeds...careful coming back.

    SO HOW DO I KEEP THEM FROM TAKING OFF??? can I clip them, if so how??? As to the water, I noticed one picutre here using buckets, I thought this was a no no, as they can drown? I know the buckets would be easier though
     
  7. pkeeler

    pkeeler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Shamong
    I can see the photos now, and I can imagine you have ticks in there. You should look into geese [​IMG]

    The lack of large shrubs will be an issue. Maybe you can hang some nets or something or build something they can hide under.
     
  8. pine top

    pine top Out Of The Brooder

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    the frist thing i would do is have someone come in with tractor and bushhog and cut the tall grass as it will grow back in the spring and this will give the brids a better chance to range out and be safer doing it i range mine on 8 acres but i have 4 different types of brids and some will range father than others but i trune a diffarent type out each day my land is part paster and part woods hope this wroks
     
  9. Rin

    Rin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 22, 2009
    Moonglade (EU)
    Quote:You got that right, we have so many deer ticks it isn't even funny. They rarely bother me now that I take garlic supplements though and geese? Nahh. I can't imagine any geese letting me call them in and pick them up for a bit of affectionate stroking and cuddling. I also already have the chicken chickies ordered.

    Hmm... nets, nets I can do without too many issues, actually. Clever idea, actually. Can probably set some posts out of PVC pipes and hang a large net over 'um.

    Quote:I'm not entirely sure how this would make the birds safer? I've been out walking in it myself often enough and it seems to me the way they grow up (thin baron at the base but bushy thick up top) would make it much easier for something small like a hen or wild hare to roam then say a dog which would have to walk through the thick mat of it? I'm not criticizing, just would like a bit of clarification here as to me it seems far too drastic.
     
  10. kota1369

    kota1369 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 17, 2009
    Kansas City, MO
    Is the property fensed at all and if so with what? Also, what state are you in? That would help get an idea of what kind of predators you have.
    Chickens will most definately help out with the bug problem. Also, guinea's are supposed to be hell on ticks. Do you have neighbors to worry about?
    If the property is not fensed you will definately get intruders of many kinds. and once they know where the food is, they usually come back.
    The property has a fair amount of cover but they also need other places to hide. And like someone said, they most likely will not fly to get away from a predator. And I can also say if it was me and there is not a privacy fense or a chain link perimater I would not free range at all. You will not have a good mortality rate.
    Look forward to hearing more.

    The lady with 4 dogs and 4 city chickens
     

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