Improve Free Range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Bush84, Feb 28, 2016.

  1. Bush84

    Bush84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My chickens have full access to my 8 acre property and beyond. Couldn't find anything discussing ways to improve your property for free range birds. Is there something you can plant? Environment that you can encourage for certain bugs? Thoughts?
     
  2. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    You probably also have free range for predators too. Not quite sure how you can free range them beyond your property, but whatever. How many birds are you talking, as a larger flock can make getting new plants established difficult. Chickens are hard on landscape, but a lot of chickens are worse.

    Hopefully you have bushes and trees to provide some shelter and hideouts.

    Hopefully Centrachid will chime in, he does some serious free ranging, and really works with his property, but predators can be a real problem.

    Good luck,

    Mrs K
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

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    I would plant different shrubs, some for berries and for hiding under, as well as some fast growing trees for shade. You could start a compost pile, your chickens will dig in it daily. Mine have about 20 acres to free range on, they seldom go more than 500 feet away from their shed. The more cover you have the further they will travel. Mine like to hang out under a couple of old trucks in the field and any machinery or hay wagon parked near by.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Chickens associate strongly with edges such as between wooded and pasture. They also like areas with lots of detritus where animal prey can be found easily. Pasture plants best if a mixture that contains some legumes. I have found it is better to leave some pasture areas to to grow deep as those areas can be a refuge or even a bio-attractor for insect forages that drift from other areas (think grasshoppers). Also make so they have multiple shaded areas dominated by shrubs and the like, especially brambles. You may find it prudent to put out feeding stations / feeders to encourage birds to forage more locations or less depending how you do it. I often arm the feeding stations with scratch or whole grains of some sort.

    Predator management will be your biggest challenge as you get flock(s) to forage larger areas. You may find it prudent to have a fenced area in reserve in case Mr. Fox, Coyote or dogs get into you. I suggest you run at least one fully mature standard sized rooster with flock as such can be a protection against hawks. I have almost 20 acres but most chicken largely confined to about six of those on north side of property. I have to use dogs in order to keep losses to predators under control. Note I say under control, some losses are incurred but are light if you or your other anti-predator systems respond quickly.

    I am also into native plants and it takes multiple years to get many stands into a condition that provides benefits and can tolerate pressures imposed by chickens foraging.

    Avoid having too many birds for the ground that will support them.
     
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  5. Bush84

    Bush84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 13 right now but planning on hatching some legbars and maybe welsumers this year. By beyond I mean the surrounding field. There is a corn field behind their shed that they like to hide in. They also like to hide in the nearby wooded area.
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    You might consider trying to get birds to concentrate activities away from property boundaries and areas with monoculture (row crop feilds) as those are locations where predators will have easy time and you will not know until a significant portion of flock lost. Your typical wooded area provides protection from hawks like Red-tailed Hawks but not much else. I like the food benefits provided by wooded areas but they can be all for not if too many birds lost.
     
  7. Bush84

    Bush84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The area of the woods they hang out in is not really a woods. I call it that but it's more like a tail coming off of the woods. It's just a few trees thick but does have tall grass that I don't mow. I would prefer to have them there than in the corn for the reasons you just said. I have no idea what they are doing or where they are when they disappear into the corn. As far as predators go eagles and hawks are the biggest concern. I don't have neighbors and dogs don't come around. We do have fox and coyote but I haven't seen/heard them around during the day. Not that I can always count on that I suppose. But eagles and Hawks are always around. Almost had a rooster taken by one last year.

    The nice thing about this area of the woods is that it does have an area of extremely tall grass by it. I'm 6'5" and could easily disappear in it. So scratch feeders are the best way to encourage the chickens into these areas?
     
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Feeder near cover patches works great. You can even scatter grain on ground each morning and they will learn to look there. Foxes will in the long-tem be your biggest headache especially if you do not have a lot of coyotes about.

    Look at grass around you hive in avatar. That can be descent for browsing tender plants but not good for most types of insects. Consider allowing narrow strips of vegetation to growup in more open areas. You can even seed with plant good for bees. Such strips can stop insect drift in locations chickens can glean through it eat each day.
     
  9. Bush84

    Bush84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I probably should plant a row of something between the shed and woods area. It's maybe 50 yards between the shed and the cover. It may be helpful for forage and safety to give them a path there. Or I could just not mow it and let the grass get waist high. Lol.
     
  10. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

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    My chickens won't go into too tall of grass, we use a king cutter to cut the pasture back in July, you need to cut it back far enough not to allow predators to hide in it and so the birds can see what is coming, a large distance between coop and tall grass gives the birds an advantage. They need cover, but the grass shouldn't be too long, so shrubs work nice with some mowed areas.
     

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