How do I start free ranging

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ChksontheRun, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. ChksontheRun

    ChksontheRun Songster

    Mar 18, 2010
    Central Virginia
    I have a flock of 15 birds--13 weeks old. They have been living in their run for 8 weeks. I really want to start having them free range sometimes but am so afraid that they will not make it back to the pen. How do I go about letting them have some time outside. I was thinking that I would let them out after noon today, and at about 3 try calling them in with some scratch. But if they don't come in, I am gone from 6-9 and it will be dark. Perhaps I should wait until there is a day when I can watch them till they all go in at night. Help!

  2. Sir Birdaholic

    Sir Birdaholic Night Knight

    Let them loose. They should return to where they're used to sleeping about sundown. Go out after dark & make sure everyone made it in.
  3. bufforp89

    bufforp89 Songster

    Jul 26, 2009
    Chenango Forks NY
    If it were me I would just let them out. Especially if they have been in the run for a few weeks. Just leave everything open and they will figure it out. They should stick pretty close to the run and coop for the first few days too. I also doubt that if you let them out at noon they will come back for scratch at 3, mine are almost impossible to get into the coop durring the day. Good Luck!
  4. ibpboo

    ibpboo Where Chickens Ride Horses

    Jul 9, 2007
    always changing
    It may be hard to get them back in at 3pm, but if they are used to getting treats from you, they might follow you into the run.
    What kind of chickens are they?
    Usually they do stay pretty close to their run at first. If you can not get them back in before you leave, they will go to sleep once it is dark and you can catch them if they haven't gone into their coop. Is your property/yard fenced so they can not go far far away?
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  5. oldchickenlady

    oldchickenlady Songster

    May 9, 2010
    Cabot, AR
    I put my girls in their outdoor run for about a week before I let them free range. When it gets fairly late in the afternoon they will start back toward the run and go inside on their own. Your birds will know the run is the 'home base' to go to in the evening. I leave my waterer and their feeder in the run, I think that helps them to know where 'home' is. It would probably be better to start when you can be home around dark time, for your peace of mind! I work 12 hour shifts and I let mine out at 6:15am and shut them back in about 8:30pm when I get home. They are always all back in the run by then. I live in the country and I know there are coyotes, coon, fox, bobcats, possums, and also predatory birds, but so far I have been very lucky and have had no losses! I haven't built my coop yet, going to start that soon, but for now the run is sufficient at least until they start laying. Your birds have been in your run plenty long enough to know where home is.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I'd wait until you can be there at dark. They will know where home is and at dusk they will go back to it. Trying to get them back in during the middle of the day may be challenging. If you have them trained to come to you when you rattle a feed bucket or have a special call, you can try it, but I make no guarantees it will work. I'd suggest letting them out after your evening meal when you can watch them, at least for the first few times.

    One problem I consistently have is that some will trap themselves the first time or two they are out. I have a 12 x 32 run. They will get on the side away from the gate and not be able to find the gate. They are trying to get in but have no clue. I have to walk them around the run until they come to the gate. It is usually 10% to 20% that get confused this way and after once or twice helping them find the gate, they are OK. I had one BO that kind of looked back over her shoulder after she went in the gate, as if saying, "What took you so long to show me how to get in here".
  7. TeamChaos

    TeamChaos Songster

    Nov 8, 2009
    I have chickens of a similar age and I'm still getting them used to free ranging. We've got an 80 acre farm and I had visions of them running for the back 40 as soon as I opened the run door so I started by fencing off an area with scrap snow fencing. Once they got the hang of how to go in and out of the run (yes, sometimes a chicken still goes to the wrong side of the door and tries to squeeze through the hinge...) I expanded the area and made the fence more of a suggestion than a boundary. So far, they've done great. If a hawk or low flying plane goes by, everyone books it back to the covered run, but I did put out a few little covered boxes that they can get in if they are caught in a situation (hawks, rain) and don't want to risk the run to the coop. They start trickling back into the run between 6:30 and 7, everyone is "in bed" by 8. I refill the water and feeder in the coop at nite and they get their supper scrap treats then too, so that might help encourage the round up but even if I'm running late, they are not. I haven't had any stragglers yet.

  8. spottedtail

    spottedtail Songster

    Aug 5, 2007
    You should be there at dusk to make sure all come in, even after they learn the routine.
    If you're not there, you don't know what's happening. There could be a problem that requires your attendance and immediate response.

    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  9. MareeZoCool

    MareeZoCool Songster

    [​IMG] I suggest that you start their free-ranging on a day when you will be home during their free time. Let them out just an hour or two before dusk, so they'll be ready to go back home when you want, with that scratch ready & reminding them how good home is. If there will be times you won't be home, leave them in their run. You want to keep them in the routine of going back to their place at dusk, whether you're guiding them or not.
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I took a kind of different approach...

    ...I made sure they were trained real well to The Sound Of Treats before ever letting them out. Didn't try free ranging til they would come running from the far end of the large outdoor run to even the faintest rattle of my scoop o' black oil sunflower seeds.

    I have only had them out for, I dunno, maybe 3 wks now? (just in the afternoons), but have been able to troll them over from deep amidst the bushes on the other side of the yard by rattling the treats in the scoop.

    So that is another approach to consider.

    Protect your garden though. I just lost half my potatoes last night to two particularly adventurous/bored hens [​IMG]

    GOod luck, have fun,


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