I didn't expect this when I let them free range

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by WildBillHicks, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. WildBillHicks

    WildBillHicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2011
    Durham, North Carolina
    I decided to let a couple of my hens free range. I know a lot of people that let theirs free range. They assured me other than predators the hens will not run away and they will return to the coop before dark. I decided to let two of them out about 2 hours before dark to see if they would enjoy it. Much to my shock they ran back in the run within a few seconds. I left the door open and one went back outside but for an hour she basically stood right outside the run and looked confused. The other one I picked up and set outside again. This time she took off and I didn't see her for over an hour. Next thing you know she shows up and starts pacing outside the run. It's like they don't really like being outside. Do they have to get used to it or was it because the others were left inside. It kind of freaked me out.

    I have had them both for a year. They had never been outside the pen. The pen is about 25x30.
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Birds hate change and being alone. Eventually they will learn to wander, often in sight of what they call home, and go to roost at night. What they call home may be their coop, their run, your house, or a fenceline or particular tree, but will generally not stray far.
    1 person likes this.
  3. silkensunlight

    silkensunlight Out Of The Brooder

    I think that would be normal for the first couple of times. I started free ranging my flock over the last few weeks. At first they acted a little funny, but now when I go out there they crowd the door till I let them out. They figure out pretty quick that there's lot of fun things out there. They'll get the hang of it quick. Try letting them out just for a little in the evenings and increase the time as you're comfortable. They will go "home" when it's time in the evening.
  4. NJchixs

    NJchixs Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 26, 2012
    Jackson, NJ
    Like it was said start by letting them all out about an hour before dark. They are a unit so I would let them all out not just a few. The separation from the others may be confusing them. Just open the door and call them or shoo them out. Offer a treat maybe. They will soon know the enjoyment of free ranging for bugs and digging holes around your yard. Before you know it they will be trying to slip out anytime you attempt to open the door so watch it. They know the coop is their home so they will eventually make their way back in. Have fun.
  5. serama hen

    serama hen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2012
    Nothern New Jersey
  6. DianaMallory

    DianaMallory Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 20, 2012
    Lancaster Ohio
    Don't let them out! Keep them safe in their run! Why put yourself through the worry? Sounds like you have a large enough pen that they have plenty of room. There are to many predators out there been through it 2 times before, my girls stay in a completely enclosed pen and the coop door is shut every night! BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY!
  7. WildBillHicks

    WildBillHicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2011
    Durham, North Carolina
    I share the coop/run with my dad. He absolutely refuses to let them free range but he said I can let mine birds free range. I know there are predators but I just feel like they aren't getting everything out of life they could if they were free ranging. Their nature is to forage through grass, woods, etc. They can't get that in a pen. I figured once or twice a week for an hour or so before it gets dark would be good for them. I would not leave them unattended all day. A friend of mine does that because he doesn't care if his get killed. He says "oh well it was a $7 chicken, it's not like your dog or cat."
  8. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I let mine free range but I have almost no predators in my area. They stayed very close to the coop at first and then gradually explored more and more.

    If you have a big yard but are worried about predators you could do a chicken tractor so at least they get new dirt and plants and limited adventures.
  9. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer Premium Member

    May 11, 2010
    If the rest of the flock are staying in the pen, your two hens will want to stay with them. Remember, you can always bring the outdoors to them. Collect various plants, grasses, sand and bring it to them. You can encourage their natural behaviors by doing so.

    And to the $7 chicken comment, I get my dogs for free. So they are $0 dollar dogs, but I spend money to keep them healthy, content, and no, they do not free range. I have too much respect for my neighbors. The dogs will live longer if kept contained in their yard. The same goes for chickens.
  10. WildBillHicks

    WildBillHicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2011
    Durham, North Carolina
    Well I can't plant anything in the run they will eat it destroy it in no time. Maybe I could plant some bushes outside the run.

    I do throw scratch in the run.

    I also have a dust pit full of dirt/sand. Funny, the other day I added sand after a heavy rain had washed a lot of the dirt away. They got in there and was eating the sand.

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