How To Start A Safe Free Range Flock?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by saguaroskeleton, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. saguaroskeleton

    saguaroskeleton Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 28, 2017
    Marana, AZ
    I'm getting my planning and prep work ready for getting a new flock, and I want to let them be free range during the day and come back to their coop/run at night. I honestly have no clue how to accomplish this haha
    Do I just leave them in there for a few weeks so they know that's where their shelter, food, and water is? Am I going to have to gather them all and put them back in at night for a while?
    Any helpful tips and tricks are appreciated :D
  2. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 6, 2015
    Mora, NM USA
    Welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    Lock your chickens in the coop for the first while... I generally do at least a week in there. That way they know it's home, that there is food and water, and as long as it's nice and comfy and roomy enough for the amount of chickens you have they will be happy to go in there at night.

    But your thread title is "how to start a *safe* free range flock" emphasis mine, obviously... Free range chickens *can* be safe, but not necessarily and generally if you free range you can pretty much count on losing anywhere from 1 to 100%. Maybe you will be lucky. I was, until a raccoon killed every last one of them. I would suggest to read all the threads on here you can, to help you understand different practices, and maybe join the thread for your state/area, and ask there about the luck people have had with free ranging. Maybe you are in a fortunate area!
  3. saguaroskeleton

    saguaroskeleton Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 28, 2017
    Marana, AZ
    Thank you!
    I have plenty of room to keep them in their coop, I just have a lot of property that's too rocky and uneven to enclose to make part of a coop or run, just wanting to give them more natural space.

    Yeah I guess my wording was a bit off haha I understand the risks of casualties are higher with free range. Fortunately my hunting hound has eradicated the raccoon population on and around my property (there was only about three of them, so maybe 'eradicate' is a strong word haha) we mostly just have javelina here. I actually just introduced myself in my state thread so I'll ask!
  4. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    How to imprint the coop as home has been addressed. This is only necessary, though, if you are starting your flock with older birds. If you start with day-old chicks, they will grow up knowing where home is. It's actually a much safer way to start a flock since there's always the chance you might import a contagious virus when getting older chickens. They can carry a virus and be perfectly healthy appearing. Chicks from a NPIP certified hatchery is what I recommend.

    As for building a run on uneven ground, I built my run and coops on a slope. The coops are on pillars and the run follows the contour of the slope. Take a peek at my personal file photos for photos of my coop and run construction. A covered secure run is worth its weight in peace of mind.

    But there are ways to make it safer for a free-range flock. Construct numerous shelters for the chickens to take cover under if hawks approach from overhead. Birds of prey are probably the most dangerous predator for free range chickens. And dogs.

    Simple table-shaped low ramadas or lean-tos, can make a huge difference for chickens out in the open. Chickens get stressed and fatigued if they don't have any cover under which to rest from time to time. These are still no substitute for a secure run, though. My chickens spend time ranging outside, then return periodically to the run to relax under cover. If you have a lot of low shrubs and a good canopy of trees, this will greatly reduce the stress of free ranging. If your space is mostly open, you need to provide cover of some sort.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
  5. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I think you have more predators than you think. Most places do. And you may do fine, until they find you. Once they do, they'll be back, and EVERYTHING likes to eat chicken.

    I think you should build a run. It is nice to have a place that they can get outside or inside as they want, but be protected against predators. If you start in this set up, they will be able to be outside and will naturally go inside at dark. Then you can let them out to free range if you want, but have another option if you get hit too hard.

    For the safest free ranging tips: (Not 100% but will increase the odds)
    • Don't let them out at the same time every day,
    • Don't let them out if it is very windy or very cloudy - gives advantage to the predators
    • When you get hit by a predator - go into lock down for several days, so the predator moves on

    Looking back at your original post, I think you are worried about getting them penned back up. When you feed them, shake the food bucket and call "here chick, chick, chick." They will quickly learn to come on the run. As the other posters and I pointed out, that is not the real problem. Predators are. Good luck,

    Mrs K
  7. realsis

    realsis Crazy for Silkies

    Jan 17, 2013
    It's not safe at all to free least where I live in southern California. I live DIRECTLY In the flying path of Several different types of hawks. I've personally seen them trying to get my girls. I've also personally seen in my yard opossum , skunk, and large rats.these are just a few characters you need to look out for. Not to menation neighbors cats and dogs. Also mice. ( They can chew legs off chicks!) You may have more preditors than you have noticed.ESPECIALLY if you live in the country or even semi country like me.i have 10 females and one male. What i have done is build a nice large comfortable hen house attached by a door i can lift and close at night to a covered and enclosed run. Where i live roofs MUST be covered as well as ALL SIDES! I don't know your area but with the preditors I have i cant recommend free range. I love them all so much it would break my heart if a preditor got them. If you have a rooster they usually go through him first as hes the flocKS protector.but I couldn't even stand loosing my roo! The thing is, it wont just be one attack. It will continue over an over. My best advice being build a Large coop with a large attached run. Keep them safe and sound. I wish you the best and hope this helps!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by