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Free Ranging ...

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Julie_in_PA, Aug 9, 2008.

  1. Julie_in_PA

    Julie_in_PA Out Of The Brooder

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    May 15, 2008
    Southern PA
    Hey everyone - I missed this forum ! My computer crashed several weeks ago, so I haven't been on for a while. Until now.

    Anyway - my question is, how old should my chickens be for them to free range safely ?

    My chicks are 7 1/2 weeks old and growing like crazy ... their feathers are comming in very nicely. These are my first chickens, so I don't know if their feathers are all in, or if they have more to come through, or how it works. I just know that they looks like young chickens ... no longer like peeps.
    I could take some pics of them I suppose. But anyway, when are they big enough to free range safely ? What I mean by safely is - we have cats and dogs .... I think my dogs will be ok with them, as long as they don't give the dogs to much of a chase. If they run wild - then yes, it's possible my dogs will run after them and possibly hurt them, but if they don't run like they're wild, my dogs won't bother them. My dogs leave the cats and goats alone ... because the cats and goats don't run from the dogs. So I'm uncertain how the chickens will react to the dogs and vice versa. Also - I'm curious how big the chickens need to be so the cats won't bother them.

    I would like to free range them during the day, and then put them in the coop at night. So ... what are your opinions ? At what age should they be mature enough to try them free range ?
     
  2. chickflick

    chickflick Overrun With Chickens

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    First of all, before you let your chickens out to free range, TRAIN YOUR DOGS!! You are going to have to work with your dogs so they know NOT to bother the chickens. Don't take the stand that you don't know how they will react...find out NOW befoe one of your birds ends up dead.
    I kept mine in their run until they were at least 3 months old. Then you can start out by letting them out in the evening....close to dusk, so you know they won't travel too far from their coop and know where to go to roost.
    Train your dogs first. Expose them to the chickens with fencing in between them and see how they react. Yes, I'm trying to get a point across..... You don't want dead chickens....
     
  3. Heather J

    Heather J Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 29, 2008
    Mine have started ranging at that age already, but there are lots of adults birds around to keep the feral cats at bay and I don't have dogs in the free range area. I wouldn't let them range with the cats and dogs around without supervision for a while.

    Last spring my dog got all excited about the birds and killed one. Then we chastised her (strictly verbal with finger shaking, and possibly a short stay in the bathroom-she hates that) so much she won't even look at them now. They can walk a foot away and she won't blink. On the other hand, I still won't let her back my with babies because the temptation might be too great.

    If I were you, I would just free range them for an hour or so before bed with supervision for a while. They are still small enough to make a cats a tasty meal even if your dogs are easily trained that the birds are not for catching.
     
  4. pkeeler

    pkeeler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 20, 2008
    Shamong
    Chickens have some built in reactions. Cower at barking, run like mad when you see a dog. The first time my chickens (about 7 weeks old) saw the dog, they all bolted. This was a problem because they were in a run [​IMG] Chicken after chicken slammed over and over into the back wall.

    I don't let the dog out unsupervised, but he has gone from chase to stalk to look to can't be bothered much. The chickens have calmed down around him to. He won't be outside all the time, and sometimes other dogs might come through, so I don't want them to lose their fear completely.

    I don't think cats would be a problem unless you have bantams. If you have cover, they should be able to avoid hawks. I would just work with the dog as the chickens will get to a place where they won't run first. But they can always, "run wild" especially if they are chasing some bug.
     
  5. Julie_in_PA

    Julie_in_PA Out Of The Brooder

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    May 15, 2008
    Southern PA
    OH yes of course ... I would take the appropriate measures to make sure that my dogs will be ok with my chickens. I wasn't planning on just throwing them all together and letting them go !

    Basically, I figure that at a certain age of maturity the chickens will be more docile ... and not run wild if I let them out to see how they do free range. I could be completely wrong ... but that's why I asked about what age they'd be most safe to begin free ranging. Plus I figure the bigger they are - the cats wouldn't mess with them. On my Gram's farm ... her cats don't mess with her chickens. And it's not that they're trained or anything, the chickens just simply "don't put up with the cats" ... and so the cats don't bother. So that's why I'm curious how old/big the chickens should be to where they can "stand their ground."

    Of course when I'm ready to experiment with them free ranging - I will be there for full supervision, and of course I will work with my dogs so I can trust them. But I want to give the chickens the best chance possible, and don't want to start working with free ranging them until they're physically and "emotionally" ready. When is that ?
     
  6. Julie_in_PA

    Julie_in_PA Out Of The Brooder

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    May 15, 2008
    Southern PA
    pkeeler - I didn't see your post before I posted my reply. Thanks for the info.

    SO I could start working with the dogs and chickens to see how they do then ? And the cats won't bother them ?
    I don't have bantams ... my chickens are Red Sex Linked. And I have 40 some.

    Will my chickens stay closeby ? We live on a huge acreage of woods and farmland. Our home/farm is surrounded by dense woods ... would the chickens stay in the open area of our farm ? Or would they actually stray into the woods ?
    Do they know already - where to return to eat and sleep ? Or do they need "trained" ??
     
  7. McGoo

    McGoo Chillin' With My Peeps

    I say around 3 mos. I started by letting them free for a little while and then pulling them back with feed. Did that a few times. I was surprised that mine stayed really close to the coop for about 1 week, then around the lawn/field for another couple of weeks and now they've combined with the older gals and they travel into the woods, etc.

    Good luck.

    ps. even around the 2nd week of free range they raced for cover when a hawk was overhead. They seem to have sense by around 3 mos.
     
  8. pkeeler

    pkeeler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 20, 2008
    Shamong
    They won't go to far. At least, that is my experience. But I don't put feeders outside the coop. But I do put waterers around the yard. 50 yards is as far as they have gone, and that is across the lawn. They go into the brush, but not very far. They like the shrub islands in the lawn, which makes sense since they are protected from above and can see anything coming along the ground.

    I put mine in the coop at 5 weeks. They were in there and the attached run for about a week. The first night, most went right in at dusk, but I had to round up a couple. When I put them in, I tried to put them down in front of the ramp and let them run up it on their own. Only half the birds would even venture into the run the first week.

    Do you have cockerels? They tend to be more bold and check out places first. I have one Lakenvelder roo that seems to be way ahead of the others and he really takes charge out there.
     
  9. LilBizzy

    LilBizzy Chicken Storyteller

    May 20, 2008
    Maryland
    My 10 week olds have been free ranging for several weeks now. They are still in the shed with an attached temporary run that was fine when they were smaller, but is cramped now that they are bigger. So I have to let them out.The first week or so they stayed real close to the shed. Our deck is just a few feet away from the shed, so they really like hanging around. But then they started wandering. We have an acre, and they have explored pretty much every inch of it. They have also wandered into our neighbors yards. But every night they put themselves to bed as it starts to get dark.
    As for dogs and cats- my dog would love to kill the chickens. I take her out on a very short leash and wont let her go by them. Lately, when I take her out to the back of the property, I look back.. and there are chickens running after us.LOL
    I worried about my cat, and my neighbors 2 cats. My cat would get into stalker position. Well, I don't know what happened, but now, the cat runs from them. And they give chase, pecking at his butt. ( sorry to say it, but as I am rescuing cat from chicken pecks, I am also laughing pretty hard at the situation).
    Neighbors cat- which was a stray that wandered into their yard, and isnt very friendly- doesnt bother them at all.
     

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