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I have a lot of questions....

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by cluckmecoop7, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. cluckmecoop7

    cluckmecoop7 Crowing

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    Hi everyone!

    I want to free range my flock, but I don't know where to start.

    Hawks are my main concern....I have lots of them around. So, here are my questions:

    1. How do I keep them from wandering away?

    2. Will a hawk get them if I'm right with them?

    3. When I put them back in their run, will they be not happy?

    4. Do they know what and what not to eat?

    5. Will they all stay together in one flock?

    6. How likely is it something will get one of them?

    7. How do I get them back to the coop?

    8. How do I protect them from hawks, foxes, raccoons etc. while free ranging?


    Sorry, if I'm asking to much, but I'm really nervous about this.

    Please reply soon!

    Thank you!

    Cluckmecoop7
     
  2. HuffleClaw

    HuffleClaw Addicted to Birds

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    1. How do I keep them from wandering away?
    Well... it’s called "Free Ranging".... most wont go too far from home, but some will without a fence.
    2. Will a hawk get them if I'm right with them?
    Yes. At least the especially bold ones will.
    3. When I put them back in their run, will they be not happy?
    Unless your run is small & cramped, no not really.
    4. Do they know what and what not to eat?
    No. But do your best to keep them away from toxic foods.
    5. Will they all stay together in one flock?
    Depends.
    6. How likely is it something will get one of them?
    Very, without protection.
    7. How do I get them back to the coop?
    Some will follow you right back into the coop if you have food. Some go back at roosting time. But using a stick to guide them into the coop is always good.
    8. How do I protect them from hawks, foxes, raccoons etc. while free ranging?
    Well... you can’t really. It’s a chance that is taken. :idunno
     
  3. cluckmecoop7

    cluckmecoop7 Crowing

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    Ok, thank you for all the answers @HuffleClaw. :)

    I'm still thinking....:oops:
     
    HuffleClaw likes this.
  4. Aunt Angus

    Aunt Angus Crowing

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    My Coop
    X2, but I think that if they see the coop as "home," they will come back, at least at roosting time. I also found that my girls seem to know what not to eat at least to some degree. I have a jasmine bush (a true jasmine, so it's toxic to chickens), and they haven't touched it. I didn't know it was toxic until after I got my chickens.
    :confused:

    ETA: My birds get angry when I put them away, but they get over it pretty quick. I have a pretty big run, so it keeps them happy.
     
    cluckmecoop7, azygous and HuffleClaw like this.
  5. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    Excellent questions! And so neatly organized.

    Free ranging is not without its risks. You can't insure a predator won't swoop in and snatch a chicken standing right next to you. Hawks will do this in a heartbeat, and even bobcats have been known to dart in and take a chicken right in front of a flock keeper.

    Chickens will not wander away as a rule. They also tend to stick together out of self preservation. I've found, with an occasional exception of course, that chickens will keep their coop in sight and not range far from it.

    One thing that has helped me protect my flock while they are free ranging is clicker training. You can get one at Petsmart for $1. While dishing out a treat, precede it with the clicker noise. In no time at all, your chickens will come running when they hear the clicker, no matter where they are. I've had to summon my chickens back to their run when I thought a predator was in the area, and the clicker got them all back into the run in under one minute.

    Chickens won't be unhappy in their run. Quite the opposite. If you provide a secure run, especially a covered run, chickens are grateful for the secure cover. They can relax their vigilance and not worry about what might be about to snatch them from their world.

    Chickens that are regularly fed won't usually be tempted to eat what they shouldn't. There are exceptions. Recently here on this site, a flock keeper had a chicken with a serious crop issue that wasn't responding to treatment. They took the chicken to a vet who X-rayed the crop and gizzard. They posted a pic of the X-ray. The chicken had been consuming so much hardware they could have opened an Ace store. It is assumed a dietary imbalance caused this chicken to eat any metal they came across while free ranging.

    You do want to check over your free range area for poisonous plants and pick up any litter.
     
  6. cluckmecoop7

    cluckmecoop7 Crowing

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    Thank you!
    They are my dear pets...so I'm still not sure.
    They are 20 weeks old today, so I might wait until they're older. :idunno
     
    the cluck juggler and azygous like this.
  7. Shamo Hybrid

    Shamo Hybrid Songster

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    Usually chickens will know where home is (coop) if you keep them there for an extended amount of time before letting them free-range. First few times you let them out they will stay very close to the coop and eventually they will stray further and further away in search of food, but they always know where home is and will come back to roost when it's dusk.
     
    ShannonR likes this.
  8. so lucky

    so lucky Crowing

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    If you are able to be with them outside when they free range, that would be some help. It also might keep them from ranging so far away.
    Also, is there one chicken that has taken over as leader? A good roo or dominant hen will sort of be a watch dog for the flock, and keep an eye out for dangers.
    It helps to have places for the chickens to run to, like under bushes, porch or picnic table, if they sense danger. Sometimes, if the danger is real, they will run into the woods or brush, and you might not see them till the next day. (Scary)
    If you wait till evening to let the chickens out to wander, they will only have a certain amount of time to play before it starts getting dark. Then they will automatically head back to their coop to go to roost. I adjust my time to let the chickens out, starting earlier in the late summer as the days get shorter. In deep summer like now, I let them out around 7 or 7:15 PM. They have a little over an hour out in the lawn and surrounding weeds, then they go back to the run, and soon after, to the coop. Then I go lock the doors and go inside. In the dead of winter, the time to let them out will probably be around 4:30 or so, since it gets dark around 5:30.
     
    the cluck juggler likes this.
  9. the cluck juggler

    the cluck juggler Incubator Addict

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    "Free ranging" can mean a lot. From letting them out in the yard a few hours a day, to having them wander loose and find their own food. Most will choose something in between, a fenced yard, access to chicken feed and locking them in at night.

    Predators are of course an issue. They should have cover to run under, natural ones like bushes or built ones. You can also cover some of the free range area with bird nets or ropes. How hawks behave depends on the area you're in and how used they are to people, but they can be quite bold.

    If you take away their chicken feed during free-range time, they'll be hungry at the end of the day and come willingly into the coop to eat and rest.

    If you don't want to risk them free-ranging there's many things you can provide in their run to brighten their day and give them the "free-range feeling". You can make grazing frames, fodder, or pick edible plants for them to enjoy.
     
    livinginthewild likes this.
  10. Bugmom16

    Bugmom16 Chirping

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    All of our chickens free range all day. We have hawks and other predators in the area but so far...knock on wood...we have been blessed that we have our whole flock still. We are looking at building a large enclosure/run in the next few months. We have 2 small coops that they sleep in and run to if they need to.

    Our chickens put themselves to bed every night, we just go out and lock the coop. Our chickens are used to us so they come running whenever we go outside to look at them. Our chickens are also very food motivated so if we ever have an issue, shaking of a cup of meal worms or a bag of treats and they come running.

    We have considered buying a net to help capture those who do not want to be captured. We have some fast runners and if they don't want to come they don't always come.

    We have had some get out of our fenced yard - it is only a four ft fence but generally they still stay close to the fence line. Typically they are trying to figure out how to get back in vs stay out. We open our fence and they come running back in. In the last couple of weeks this has become a daily thing but once they get out in the morning and go back they are done with that exploration for the day.
     
    Aunt Angus likes this.

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