Everyone is telling me to let my chickens out so they can eat bugs out of the yard during the day. When you are ready to put them up, go to the feed barrel and get a scoop of scratch and they will come running. It this true?
Absolutely! As long as they are used to the coop as their normal place where they roost they will come back. I let mine out in the evening an hour or two before dark and they go back in on thier own. If you let them run loose all the time however they will eventually find someplace else to roost or lay or both.
Do they come running IN the coop when you offer scratch? If it's a sound they're accustomed to and they typically respond to you, then I think it's reasonable to expect them to return for it if they've been out.
My neighbors laugh because I can get my flock lined up in just a few seconds with nothing more than a "CHICKCHICKCHICK!" if I stand in the spot where I give them treats. Just the expectation of some stale bread will bring them running!
Sometimes I give them some extra scratch and sometimes not. If I let them out earlier than usual then I don't feed them until their normal time or yes, I use the feed to attract them to come in early. Otherwise, I feed them first before letting them out and then they put themselves up at night.
We leave their food and water in the main coop so if they want regular food and water they have to go to the coop to get it. This keeps them associated that the coop is their main home. The gang will forage, lounge in the bushes, dust bathe, sun bathe, and at different intervals go to the coop to get some food and water. They hang out in the coop for a bit then go back out for more foraging, lounging in bushes, dust bathe, sun bathe, and chase the squirrels back up the trees where they belong.
The silly stinkers even harrassed a rabbit out of the yard cus they did not want it eating their grass. Oh and yeah they also like to hang out under the bird feeders.
Mine freerange everyday from dawn till dusk and they put themselves to bed every night!! The only problem I ever have is when one finds it's way in my fenced in garden area. They can get in but can't figure out how to get out!They never try to roost anywhere's else!!