I have a lot of questions....

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

  1. Shamo Hybrid

    Shamo Hybrid Songster

    Jun 6, 2018
    I have a neighbor that lets their chickens roam free in their front yard on a somewhat busy street. Sometimes when I walk pass the house the chickens will follow me and I have to shoo them away, it's funny though they seem to know where the boundaries are and never cross the road or venture out of the front yard.
  2. AllenK RGV

    AllenK RGV Chicken Addict

    For free ranging I would really like to know what type of hens you want to range, if silkies for me that is a hard no. Breeds that are of the heritage type either with or without a rooster and good foragers I would vote yes. I have 4/5 of my heritage types from this year still free ranging and my thoughts on my one missing Sumatra hen is she was still raging with broody hormones and challenged one of my dogs on the wrong part of the property so got sent away to the other side of the fence where neighbor dogs roam.

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  3. Compost King

    Compost King Crowing

    Apr 19, 2018
    Salisbury, North Carolina
    one free range compromise is to contain them in a run until an hour before sunset then let them out. Just so you know many predators can get into runs unless you put a lot of money into chicken run defenses. So even not free ranging them you can have predator issues. Predators like hawks need to find chickens in an open field, tall trees around the property can prevent them from trying to grab a full sized chicken, they need a runway to take off with a heavy load. When I was new to chickens and afraid to free range them I did last hour of the day thing, then the last 2 hours, 3 hours etc etc etc until eventually I was comfortable free ranging them.... Certain breeds can be contained without a fence but you do need to deter them from venturing too far, some breeds will fly over fences I even have a breed that can clear 8 feet fences no problems, while some breeds won't even attempt to fly over a 2 foot fence... even though they fly up 4 feet to roost lol.
    HuffleClaw likes this.
  4. Aunt Angus

    Aunt Angus Crowing

    Jul 16, 2018
    Sacramento County, CA
    My Coop
    Depends on your hawk! Coopers hawks don't need open spaces. They can't carry off a full grown chicken, so they eat them at the kill spot.
    AllenK RGV and Compost King like this.
  5. PirateGirl

    PirateGirl Chicken Lover, Duck Therapist

    Mar 11, 2017
    South Park, Colorado, USA
    1. How do I keep them from wandering away?

    Chickens will establish an area around their coop that they consider safe to explore. Some chickens are braver than others, some go further than others, the longer they are out the more likely they are to explore more territory. Before they are let out for the first time, make sure they are trained that the coop is home. A week locked in the coop or a few weeks of making them return to the coop each evening and not allowing them to roost elsewhere will help. You want them to become familiar with the coop BEFORE allowing them to become familiar with the rest of the property.

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

    Unfortunately, it could.

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

    Whether or not chickens can even feel happiness is a topic of debate. Think in terms of meeting their needs. Do they have food, water, safety, shelter? If they have these things they will be just fine. I will say this, my chickens were confined to their run for over a year. They never tried to escape out the door. We have recently built a larger fenced area for them that I let them out in occasionally. Now if I am not careful, any time the gate is not latched they make a break for it to explore the larger area. So yes, they do get used to the freedom and if they have the choice, they seem to choose the larger space.

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

    For the most part, yes. People don't often have chickens dropping dead from eating a bad plant, but chickens are curious, they will pick up (and swallow) a bit of plastic, a nail, foam insulation, a stray staple. Whenever you are out on your property, be sure to pick up any random temptations you find lying around.

    5. Will they all stay together in one flock?

    Depends how many birds you have, but I feel like they usually stick with at least one buddy.

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

    Depends the predator load in your area. You could have a loss on day one or you could go years without a loss.

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

    They will naturally start looking for a spot to roost at dusk. They will learn the routine, some treats near the coop at this time might help entice them. Mine always return at dark, but if it's not dark yet I do have a challenging time rounding them up if I need to. If for some reason they can't get back to the coop (at dark or in bad weather) they will seek safety and shelter other places, under a bush, in a dog house, under a car, etc.

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

    Give them lots of places to hide. Give them multiple food and water sources so they have options if the don't feel like one is safe for some reason. There are many animals that will ALERT to predators but may not actually fight off and/or kill one. A dog, a donkey, a goose, a rooster, all could sound the alarm for your girls to take cover, but don't count on any of them to fight off the predators. Other options that would be more secure would be electric bird netting that you move around to different areas for them, or a chicken tractor that you move around.
    AllenK RGV likes this.
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    A lot depends on what you mean by free range. Is this your backyard? Or is it the open prairie in a pasture (me).

    I have every predator known to chickens. I kind of free range. This is what works (kind of, sort of) for me.

    • Do not let them out at the same time each day. Predators take notes, I swear! Let them out in the morning, or the afternoon and some days don't let them out at all.
    • Do not let them out on high wind days or real cloudy days - gives too much advantage to predators.
    • Do have bushes, and deep vegetation around
    • Do have a mature 1+ year old rooster. He should be the first bird to see you when you go to the coop/run. He should be very aware of his surrounding. Less than a year old, not worth much. Some people do not think they are worth much, but when I have one, my day time predation really drops.
    • If...when you get hit, go into lock down, 24/7 for many days. Predators will be back once they find you. As my granddaughter says, it sucks, but it is the circle of life...and now we can get chicks.
    • Do invest in a live trap, I have a husband that takes care of that.
    • Do not think that if you free range you can cheat on your numbers, you really can't.
    Good luck
    Mrs K
    AllenK RGV likes this.
  7. PirateGirl

    PirateGirl Chicken Lover, Duck Therapist

    Mar 11, 2017
    South Park, Colorado, USA
    I second the idea of lock down. A fox discovered our coop this summer. Someone in our house saw her every day for almost a week (maybe longer). She kept coming back at different times, sometimes pacing the fence, definitely trying to figure things out. Predators can be determined once they discover your birds and will definitely return. The cats and the birds were on lock down. We only let the big dogs out and had them chase the fox all the way back to it’s den a few times. It’s been a while now and I think it’s moved on, but I just want to reiterate that predators will return. This one most often showed up at the time I most often let my birds out, they watch and they know.
    AllenK RGV likes this.
  8. chrissynemetz

    chrissynemetz Free Ranging

    Dec 19, 2013
    Olathe Colorado
    A hawk flew right over my head and got one of my hens last summer. I wasn't 8 feet away but he didn't even seem to notice me :(
    ShannonR likes this.
  9. ShannonR

    ShannonR Crowing

    Sep 17, 2015
    1) Electric netting, very tall fences, only let them out close to dusk.

    2) yes, I've had that happen before.

    3)They will be happy if you bribe them with treats. They should go back in on their own at night, but that is NO guarantee...

    4) Yes, mostly.

    5) for the most part. They can wander apart sonetimes.

    6) moderately to very likely, depends on circumstances.

    7) Bribery. Or waiting till dark. Or alot of chasing and four letter words.

    8) A few large, free range dogs work well for me. Pray. And kill everything that comes near your chickens.

    Hope this helps.

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