I want to free range but worried

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jprice2ndlt, Jan 29, 2011.

  1. jprice2ndlt

    jprice2ndlt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I want to let my flock free range while i am at work and go up at night but i am afraid they wont come back. How long are you supposed to keep them locked up before they learn where home is.
     
  2. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

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    If they've been raised in the coop for most of their chickhood on, they're fine. I usually raise mine in the coop when they're old enough to be out of a brooder, and if there's not already other adults around, I keep them in a run for a while to get them used to boundaries and their home, then I let them go after a week or more, depending on how flighty they are.

    The question is - Do you know of the predator rate in your area? How old are your chickens? How long have you had them? Are they friendly?
     
  3. jprice2ndlt

    jprice2ndlt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    well i live in the boonies so i guess hawks and foxs but i have never seen a fox. They are real friendly had them about 2 years or so. i think my youngest hens are almost a year now.
     
  4. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

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    They should be just fine when it comes to the boundaries issue. As for predators, that's your only toughie. I don't know your surroundings, so that's up to you. My hens are in a 3 acre, wild looking pasture that is fenced with simple, cheap field fencing, and their walk-in coop has a door wide open to the pasture 24/7, but I just about never worry of predators. . . . The fence seems to be doing pretty well, even a carcass doesn't get touched overnight out here, and I've got livestock who I guess do a pretty good job of intimidating the hawks and coyotes.
     
  5. Barred Babies

    Barred Babies Red Roof Farms

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    I let mine out in the am and they put themselves to bed each night and I just close the gate on the run!! I take a chance against hawks, etc. I have 30 acres but my backyard that's fenced is about 1/2 an acre.
     
  6. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    I was worried too, for some months, then finally opened up the run. They all go back to their coops in the evening just fine. They have an acre in which to range, and they took a LONG time to investigate the whole acre. Mostly they stay pretty close to the house. Most of the young ones stay in the back yard; when they start to come around to the front of the house, I know they're getting brave.

    I have a lot of tree cover, though, in the back yard and down one side of the house. I think that helps with predator issues, and all of the roosters are EXTREMELY vigilant, sounding the warning call whenever there's something unusual nearby or in the air.
     
  7. spiritdance

    spiritdance Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Have you trained them to a "call"? Whenever I feed mine, I not only fill the feeders but I also throw down a little scratch (not too much, as it's a "treat" and not a balanced diet) and I call "here chick chick chick". I've done this with all my chickens from the first time I feed them, so when I bring newbies home or move chicks to the yard, I can pen them for a few days inside the free rangers' yard to make sure everyone's getting along, then I let them out. The "old hands" teach even mature newbies what that "call" means in the evening, and everybody's front and center in no time. It's actually pretty funny to watch chickens erupt from everywhere, popping out of trees, bushes, the barn loft, etc., anytime they hear that now! I'm sure even if I didn't do this they would come to the roosts by dark, but I like to be able to secure the yard before then, or if I have to go off somewhere and don't know if I'll be home before feeding time. I can call my brood up anytime of day and they'll come into the run ... if it's off schedule (yes, I know chickens can't tell time, but they do like a routine) I might have to wait a bit longer for all of them, as I have 30 acres and during the day they wander a bit further at times, but they come in for me. And it didn't take me long at all to train my first bunch of chickens - maybe a week - as we all know how food motivated they are![​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2011
  8. Luvroos

    Luvroos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've had mine free ranging for 6 months now and until Wednesday I thought all were ok until a neighbors dog attacked them. This dog has run at large for to many years now and has killed an entire flock of chickens before and not to exclude that AC has been on them in the past about him roaming! I'm undcided on weather or not I want to cage/pen them and or let them continually roam the poroperty because I know he'll be back for more. I don't think it's a matter of them knowing where home is but, weather or not they can get away from a predator if something were chasing them. Due to my recent experience and knowing that yours are penned for a year or more, I'd say build a larger run with protection on top if you can afford to. If I could turn back time, mine would be caged after this dog attack.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2011
  9. spiritdance

    spiritdance Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, dogs can certainly be a problem. I don't have that issue because I have donkeys in the pastures where the chickens roam. No dog, fox, coyote, etc., stands a chance against them, especially since both my jennies are in foal. Add to that my own dogs, who won't tolerate any interlopers and who are "chicken friendly," and my birds are pretty safe from canine predation during the day. They're locked up tight in their coop and pen before I stable the equines and bring the dogs in at night. My biggest risk comes from night predators like coons and opossums, so my pen/coop is secured against them. During the day, hawks are a concern, so I don't free range my bantams. For my standard free range flock, I have plenty of trees and bushes, plus we have placed 30 and 55 gallon drum halves with pop holes in them strategically in the open pastures (secured against wind to fence posts). The only issue with this is you have to leave the hens in a bit later in the a.m. so they'll lay in the nests, and I still occasionally have one decide the drums are more attractive. It doesn't bother me because I walk the fence lines every day anyway. The chickens are pretty aware of their "bolt holes," and the roos do a good job as look outs. Still, I do occasionally lose a bird to hawks, but I personally feel it's worth the risk to let the chickens have run of the place. In the end, it is a personal call for each of us, and I admit there are some of my birds I simply can't bring myself to free range ... my Dutch bantams, for example (one of them is sitting on my shoulder watching me type right now). The birds I free range do seem to be happier for it (or else I'm simply anthropomorphizing them again to make myself feel better ... who knows?!)
     
  10. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    I'd be surprised if they didn't come right back to the coop, both to roost and to lay, as that's what they are used to. Mine free range and wander over maybe an acre though they could go much further. I had quite a few losses, 3 to fox that I saw, probably some to coons, all during the day, for about a year, til I trained my dogs not to bother the chickens. The only hen I've lost since, over a year ago, I suspect died of egg laying problems. I did lose 4 chicks, all in one day, about a month old, also. I suspect one of our resident hawks got hungry, though we've never had a hawk attack before.

    If you free range you will have losses. Roosters are definitely a help, as is cover like bushes. A good roo will fight a predator while his ladies escape, often losing his life in the process. That's what happened to my favorite roo, a BA. Some people feel they should do all they can to keep their birds safe, though a truly predator proof coop is rare if it exists. Or you can let them roam as they want, accepting that there will be losses. Personal decision.

    I do have a large fenced yard that I put them in at times, if my other critters indicate there is something on the prowl.
     

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