how young can I free range chicks?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Jewelwing, Sep 2, 2013.

  1. Jewelwing

    Jewelwing Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My very first batch of chicks is 7 weeks old today, and I just finished the coop enough to move them in (still needs some caulking and painting on the outside). So today they went to their new home! I'm very excited to finally have them out of the brooder that they have been trying to escape from for weeks.

    But I haven't started building the run yet, so they're stuck inside the coop. Unless I can free range them at this age. If I let them out, will they come back to the coop to roost, or are they too young to do that?

    Also, if they're out and my dog, who has never met a chicken, decides to chase them, will they run back to the coop, or will they scatter and get lost? I was planning to keep the dog inside while the chickens are out, but if they're out all day long, that won't work for the dog. So I was hoping I could let them out for a few hours, and then call them back to the coop. They do come rushing over to me when I call, "here, chick, chick, chick!" because I always have noodles for them. Do you think if I went inside the coop and called them, they would come in?

    Thanks for helping me with this!
     
  2. AmateurChickie

    AmateurChickie Out Of The Brooder

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    We free range ours since they're born. We don't use an incubator or anything. We don't even separate the broody chooks, just let them go about their business.

    If they come when you call, they'll go when you call them into the coop. I haven't started from 'scratch' with chickens before, ours came with the house we're renting.
     
  3. Jewelwing

    Jewelwing Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm just worried because we don't have any adult hens to show them the way. Just nine clueless 7-week old chicks.

    I'm not sure how reliably they'll come, if they're outside having fun. I suspect it's different than being bored in a brooder and having me be the most exciting thing that happens to them all day! :)

    If I can't get them back in the coop on their own, I'm sure I won't be able to catch them, and they'll be goners if they spend a night outside (we have all the great predators - coyotes, raccoons, mink). Come to think of it, we have hawks during the daytime, so I should probably stay out with them when they're out of the coop until we get the run built.

    Will they think of the new coop as safety place right away, or should I wait a few days?
     
  4. ChickieG'ma

    ChickieG'ma Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It would probably be safest to keep them in the coop for a couple of days cause, like you said, they are clueless. [​IMG]The first day you could let them out shortly before dusk so they don't have too much time to start having fun and getting distracted. Do this for a day or two then let them out earlier as soon as you are sure they know where "home" is. Without a fence anything can happen.

    Our first batch just didn't have the desire to go back in at first when they found out how much fun outside was. Had to catch the little buggers for a couple of evenings till they got the picture. But at least we have fence all around where they were forraging.
     
  5. Jewelwing

    Jewelwing Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, we don't have a fence. Just lots of space with yummy bugs. I'm anxious to let them forage, but I don't want to lose any chickens! Not sure how we'd catch them if they didn't want to go back in the coop.
     
  6. Tara80

    Tara80 Out Of The Brooder

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    I concur with leaving them in the coop for a few days; maybe even a week to feel safe and comfortable (a place they will want to return to when it starts to get dark).
    I do free range all of mine, and do exactly that. Also, I always feed them in the coop. Even if they are foraging and getting what they need that way, they will always come running for scratch grains. So if you need to put them away to give your dog some time to play outside - just throw some scratch grains in the coop and they should file in nicely.
     
  7. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    If your dog has never been around chickens before then it would be very wise to keep the dog put away when your birds are out. Chicks/young birds running around is too much to ignore for many dogs, especially one new to chickens. Save yourself the heartache. Train the dog to be around the birds when you have him on a leash and under your direct control and/or when the birds are in a run or other safe area.

    Something else to consider is that young birds free ranging without the benefit of a hen, or any other older flock members to learn from, are going to be at especially high rish of predation and by any number of critters, especially hawks but the list is long.
     
  8. TaraBellaBirds

    TaraBellaBirds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am on board with the advice to leave them in the coop for a week or two before letting them explore the rest of their world. This might also give you some time to finish their run. My older flock (20 weeks) got started in a small run before they graduated to free range. I have a younger flock (12 weeks) that won't get that opportunity for several weeks yet. One good thing to know is that when you do let them out, in my experience chicks are unlikely to start running around. Most chicks will explore close by before venturing too far out. I let my birdies out early in the morning while I was doing chores, and shooed them back in in the afternoons at first. It's easy to want to see them out doing their chicken thing, but slow steps are the best way to avoid losing a flock member! Good luck
    .
     
  9. Jewelwing

    Jewelwing Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I haven't fed them any scratch grains yet. Is it time to start? I'm just feeding them Scratch & Peck Starter food, fermented. I also toss some dry food on the ground for them to find (they love that!). Oh, and some chick grit and the occasional people food. They're almost 8 weeks, and I'm almost out of the Starter, so I'm about to give them Grower.

    Yeah, I'm all over that. I was hoping that with me out there, the predators would stay away (the dog being one of them - she'll definitely be inside!). Once the run is built, they'll be safe outside, and confined, so I won't have to worry. Then when they get bigger, I'm hoping they can free range outside the run without such a worry about hawks. The dog is the biggest worry, I think. She's a 1-1/2 yr old Great Dane, so she's still a puppy! She's a little crazy and unpredictable. I thought a Great Dane would be calmer (ours were when I was a kid), but this one just wants to terrorize our indoor cats, so I'm sure she'd want to chase, catch, and chew on chickens. They'll definitely be safer in a run.

    You're totally right! I really don't want to lose anyone, so I'll keep them in the new coop for a couple weeks and see how far we can get on the run (counting on my hubby to dig the holes for the posts!). I'd feel more comfortable starting them out in a run before letting them loose in the world.
     
  10. Tara80

    Tara80 Out Of The Brooder

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    I see scratch grains to them in a similar way we see candy or a nice piece of pie - it's a treat but not something I give them very often but it does the trick for me, to get them to go where I want them to - or if I just want them to get all excited and run up to me! haha
    I'd think that anything you've got that they love would work; i.e. bribing them back into the coop so it doesn't result in chasing them around or it being a bad experience to be put away.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013

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