How to get free range birds in coop

Regina Larsen

May 6, 2020
Long Island NY USDA zone 7

I have a flock that free ranges (see my signature, below). I've hit upon a management method that works for me, and seems to be unique among BYC posters. I can't find a single study that provides the illusion of "science" behind what I've stumbled into.

In short, this is an anecdote, and as advice, is worth not more, and perhaps less, than you paid for it.

I feed my birds once a day. At night. In the run. This encourages everyone to come to the run, and thus the coop, at night for a "free feeding". Which allows me to observe behaviors, look for signs of injury, get a head count, and make certain everyone goes to bed at night with a full crop. Seasonally, I find feed savings between 20-35% against expected consumption.

It also means that the birds know they aren't getting fed again till next sunset - so when I open the gates between 6 and 7am, they are awful eager to go bug hunting and grass/grain nibbling in my biodiverse polyculture (acres of weeds).
Agree with yr post. I manage both my ducks and chickens this way. Goats too. There is a happy association with 'bedtime' after a day of foraging (with some snacks lol of course). We never have to chase anyone down and its a nice relaxed time to get everyone settled in.


Aug 4, 2021
I guess I'm lucky mine gladly trade their freedom for grapes. Toss a few into a coop, and even the most reluctant hen jumps right in.

Of course, there is a down side. They know I have grapes in the house, and often I have to wade through a flock of hungry chickens, positioned at the back door, waiting for their bribes.
So do I!! My lot love blueberries. A number of times I've nearly tripped over several girls in the kitchen who know there are blueberries in the fridge. I use a lovely bag of yummy scraps to lure them back into the coop. They love dry rolled oats BTW. And I have a call I only use when I want them to come in. Have no trouble at all with this system.


6 Years
May 19, 2015
the Netherlands
My Coop
My Coop
Another roosting time anecdote:
I have 3 youngsters who free range now. Started to let them free range with their ‘mothers’ and under supervision because we have lots of cats here. They started to roost a at about 8 weeks.

At approx 10 weeks the mothers a banded them. And they free range on their own after that. Often they are the last ones to come home (teenagers !)

A few weeks ago they all went to the garden of our neighbour who likes chickens. The chickens and chicks went through the 4” fence with ivy. My chickens returned before sunset. But one chick ‘Kwik’ didn’t return and I heard him at the other site of the fence. So did my chicken Janice (not a former broody) .

She went through the fence to show Kwik how to return. She nows the places where the holes are big enough to pass.
Janice went though the Ivy fence a few times. Calling Kwik and showing the way. Finally after 3-4 attempts he understood and came home.

After this ‘incident’ Janice alway keeps an eye on the 3 youngsters. Like a nanny.
I love her for doing so. She is so sweet for them! 😍


Hilltop Farm
Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
My Coop
My Coop
I do more or less what the others do. Originally the birds are in the coop for several days before I let them out. Sometimes when I open the pop door for the first time they are hesitant but eventually come out. I feed the youngsters in the evening and they gladly go into the coop to eat. When they are older they will get moved to the outer coops and I repeat the process. They will stay in their coop for a few days and then I let them out. In the outer coops they always have food available. I don't shut the pop doors in the outer coops but the coops and the pens aver very well protected from predators. I have electric wires around the coops and pens, good heavy duty netting covering all of the pens and concrete under the gates all due to losses from predators in the past. I don't free range anymore either due to losses from predators in the past, but my land is mostly open pasture. Good luck...

Show Sebright

Apr 1, 2020
Orlando FL
I’m late to the thread but here’s what I do (and its kinda weird) I let my birds free range my yard when I’m home for a few hours every day but i usually put them away before sunset
I trained them to come when I call so I don’t have to chase them
I’ll post a video later but I normally walk from the front yard around the the house to backyard where there coop is with a plate of treats while calling them
It’s weird I know but it works and normally I can get all of them in without having to catch anyone
Yeh that works for my little sebrights. I can Minnie and it my legs then she comes running like a dog.
May 5, 2021
I try bringing mine in around 7:30-8:00. Between putting my kid to bed and then myself (I go to bed early), I don’t want to wait until it’s dark. Idk where they’d try to roost, I’m assuming my Adirondack chairs and the board I’ve laid across for them to have somewhere to hang out when it’s raining.

We just finished their coop (well to the point they could move in) last weekend and I’m going to build a run so I can go back to the office (right now I’m going out frequently to check on their mischievous little butts) but I’m not sure if they’ll go to the run willingly after I let them have free range time at night.

I’m not sure if age has anything to do with it, they’re right about 8 weeks. I dread going out each night and chasing them down, I do try luring with treats (mealworms are their favorite) first and they’re definitely on to me and are so hesitant to come to them.
Beautiful birds! 🐓❤️
May 5, 2021
When I sit out in the run at dusk I find that they don't really want to go to roost until it's getting fairly dim and the bats are out.

So 10-15 minutes AFTER sunset rather than before. :)
I've had an interesting dilemma around this subject. I had a game hen who was sitting on some eggs inside a storage tub in my barn. She is normally a 100% free range chicken but I had just lost 2 other broodies to a predator so I opted to carefully move her to my predator proof Silkie pen. She and her chicks stayed in the Silkie pen for 3-4 weeks. Finally I let them out to free range during the day. In the evening, I'd open the door to the Silkie run and mama&chicks would go back inside, easy peasy. This went on for another week or two. Now chicks are generally weaned and mama game hen doesn't want to go back in the Silkie pen anymore. At first she would "hang around" the pen and I would just wait until dark to catch her and take her inside. Then she moved back into the barn rafters where she used to stay prior to having chicks. But since she started doing that, her chicks have subsequently been more reluctant to go in the coop as well. They do not follow her into the barn though. They stay around the coop but are simply really difficult to get them to go inside. To complicate the problem, I can't just leave the door open because I don't want my Silkies or other chickens to get out.... I was going to try feeding treats at night to encourage them into a routine. Maybe this isn't a good idea but I was hoping to establish a pattern for them.
Herd those babies with your hands out and walk low, repeat, repeat. They’ll catch on! 🐓❤️

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