Free-Roaming Chickes All Over The Place?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ninjapoodles, May 25, 2008.

  1. ninjapoodles

    ninjapoodles Sees What You Did There

    May 24, 2008
    Central Arkansas
    So, what is the deal with all the pictures I see on flickr, and even in real life, in my own neighbors' yards around here, of hens and roosters just roaming all over the place, hanging out in the yard, roosting in trees at night? And nothing ever happens to them! Every morning on the way to work, we have to stop and wait for the chickens from the nearby goat-farm to get out of the road so we can pass. (These same people don't even contain their goats properly, as evidenced below:)


    And yet, when I finally get to get the first real flock of my own (I lived with some "inherited" chickens once, but they were feral), I lose two right out of the locked-down chicken yard before they're 2 months old. (We apprehended the beast responsible last night, I'm happy to report--1 'coon down, forty-leven to go)

    Judging by flickr streams, lots of folks let their adult chickens out just into their yards during the day for free-ranging. Some folks have chicken-tractors, but a lot do not.

    I'm curious--do any of you let your chickens out of their designated enclosures during the day? If so, how do you manage it (aside from using a chicken tractor)?

    Even today, there is a HUGE turkey vulture circling our place. (I smell something dead in the woods adjacent to us today, so I'm hoping the vulture is after THAT, and not our birds.) I can't imagine ever letting them out into the big, bad world, but at the same time, the bucolic mental images of chickens clucking and scratching and pecking away right at my doorstep are mighty seductive. *sigh* [​IMG]
  2. GAhen

    GAhen Songster

    Aug 2, 2007
    Carrollton GA
    My chickens free range during the day and back in the coop at sun down.
    I close them in, they relax and roost for the night.,then back out in the morning.
    It is their routine. I have a rooster that sets off when he thinks danger is near. It is a risk to free-range, but I enjoy it and so do my chickens. So, it is a risk I have chosen.
    Good luck with your decision...
  3. dacjohns

    dacjohns People Cracker Upper

    My full grown chickens free range during the day and find their way home at night. The rooster seems to do a pretty good job of watching out for them although they have minds of their own.

    I don't have a chicken tractor.

    I'm letting one hen that just hatched a batch out now. They hatched a week ago. She stays close to home and is very protective of her chicks.

    I live in the country on 100 acres. I know there are predators but I have been extremely lucky so far. Maybe having a cat and a dog helps.

    The vulture shouldn't be a problem with your chickens. Vultures eat carrion (they are scavengers).

    The people with the goats need to invest in stock panels designed for goats.
  4. ninjapoodles

    ninjapoodles Sees What You Did There

    May 24, 2008
    Central Arkansas
    Thanks to the feedback--that's pretty much exactly the kind of input I'm hoping for, so I can figure out my own risk:benefit ratio here.

    I'm assuming you'd only let out fully-grown birds, who have a solidly established routine of returning to an indoor coop at night? And that you'd only let them out while you're at home?

    I'm really wondering about how it could go with turkeys, especially because I wouldn't want them flying off! The yard we are preparing for them is much bigger than the chicken yard, and covered on top. The entire perimeter of the property is fenced with chain-link, but there are spots where the ground has eroded due to rain washing downhill, so it's not totally chicken-proof.

    We live on 5 acres, on a hillside, so there's not much level ground that would work for a chicken tractor, so we're really trying to come up with some ways to get these guys some natural grazing without putting them in danger.
  5. dacjohns

    dacjohns People Cracker Upper

    My birds go nuts if I don't let them out in the morning. Most days I let them out even if I'm going to be gone for a few hours. It's always a little tense until we see them when we get back home.

    I have some 5 week old chicks I'm thinking about letting out but haven't decided to do so yet.
  6. BeckyLa

    BeckyLa Songster

    Jan 11, 2007
    N. Louisiana
    The first year I lived here, my 12 acres in rural Louisiana, I let my girls free range. They prefer it and so do I. And their eggs are a deep orange and have a better flavor. But, the longer I've lived here the more red-tailed hawks seem to enjoy a free lunch. The only birds I free range now are the ones I won't cry over if something happened to them. I don't seem to have a problem with land critters, except the occasional snake grabbing a baby, or even dogs, my problem is predatory birds. Even owls come out just before dark which leaves birds on their way to roost in danger.
  7. ninjapoodles

    ninjapoodles Sees What You Did There

    May 24, 2008
    Central Arkansas
    Quote:Well, mine DO have a good-sized yard that their house sits inside of, so they wouldn't be locked up in the building. The yard just doesn't have any grass.
  8. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Songster

    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    Everyone's experience seems to be different.

    Personally, I loved the IDEA of free-ranging, but I was too nervous to do it at first. So I let them out for an hour before dark, and stayed out with them.

    Well ... give them a taste of freedom, and pretty soon they demand it. Now they will pitch a real FIT if I don't let them out. My birds go out first thing in the am, and put themselves up at night. I used to keep them in the covered run when I had to be gone for a few hours, but even that has gone by the wayside. I worry about them while I am gone, and pray for them.

    Chicks are in a covered pen though. I won't let them out in the yard when they are babies. Those are the ones the hawks tried to get. I keep mine in a pen inside the big yard with netting over the top, and some cover inside the pen, and a dog kennel for them to go inside. They WANT to get out with the big girls, but they are about 8-1/2 weeks old now and I'm not ready to let them. They're getting big, but I think they are still too small.

    Hawks are my biggest worry. I lock everyone up at night, and I have a dog that goes around in the yard (and a hunting cat), so I think ground predators are not as much a problem for me.

    Still ... I know the hawks can kill any of my birds. Sigh ... I guess it's a risk /benefit thing.

    I sure hope the geese look too big to tangle with though. That would make me very upset.

  9. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Songster

    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    Quote:Hi Becky! [​IMG]

    Guess we post in different topics ... I don't "see" you much. Sorry to hear you've been having problems with your birds. Hawks are what I worry about too, and the only problem I've had as far as something trying to get the birds. It's good to see you though. Hope everything else is going well. [​IMG]

  10. Standard Hen

    Standard Hen Songster

    May 17, 2007
    I think once chickens are used to free-ranging there is no turning back. I have covered pens just in case but they are let out every morning and I lock them in their coops before dark. I have lost a few to hawks here and there but honestly not since I have got my big rooster. There are plenty of places for them to hide once the leaves are out. To me it is worth the chance, they are happy and healthy, their eggs are awesome, and there is nothing prettier than looking out and seeing my beautiful flock all over my property. It is definately a risk/benefit thing and something that each chicken owner has to decide for themselves.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: