Info on "free range"

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Dustoff79, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. Dustoff79

    Dustoff79 Songster

    Aug 5, 2008
    San Antonio, Texas
    I want to free range my chickens. I live in San Antonio, TX. I have about 4 acres, some open areas and lots of live oaks, most is fenced with 1"x2"x5' wire. some is 8' field wire. I am going around and filling in the low spaces with rocks. It won't keep out all predators (skunks, racoons, opossum) but will keep out roaming dogs and coyote. I have several questions.

    first, I will build a small run outside my coop for daily excersions for the chicks to get them used to going outside and then back into the coop at night. When can I let them out completely on their own? I want to let them out in the morning and back in the coop at night.

    when they are free to roam, should I just have the feeder in the coop or one outside or both?

    If outside feeder, how do you keep the doves (we are overrun with white-winged doves) out of the feeder.

    how far can I expect them to "wander".

    and a question I have never seen answered, I have a swimming pool, is that a problem?

    and last, I am told I should clip one wing, will they likely fly over the fence (my big concern) or not bother?

  2. tvtaber

    tvtaber Songster

    Aug 2, 2007
    Central CA
    After a month or few weeks of being in the run, they should have the idea of where home is and be able to be let out. It may be less time than that, but no rush. They really do not go too far, and will come back to the coop to eat so don't bother moving the food or having another feeder. They'll be eating bugs, grass, seeds, lizards, etc in the yard and may not be interested in the feed as much, but will return to the coop, where they know it will be, when they need it. Generally, they will not wander so far they cannot see the coop, but I am sure there are those that really get around. Four acres is a lot for chickens though, so you should be fine.

    Clipping wings is tempting, and may add to your mind's ease, but is really not necessary. They'll find their way out of the fence if they want to, even if it is not over the top. I think if you free range you'll lose an occasional hen, but there is a trade off in everything. Many of those predators only come out at night so a safe coop that is closed at night will be the best protection you can offer.

    Ooh, swimming pool. They don't swim but they do drown. I doubt it is a problem but if it helps I can come visit for a week or so and then give you an answer. [​IMG]

  3. Heather J

    Heather J Songster

    May 29, 2008
    My birds never fly over my four foot pasture fence because there is plenty to do and see inside their 1/2 acre free-range area. Now, if you have good solid wooden posts for them to land on, that may be another story, but with all of that space to roam, I doubt they'll be tempted unless there's something really good on the other side of the fence.

    I read an article somewhere that you could have two flocks a hundred yards apart and they would never mix, even if there was no fence between (maybe he said a hundred feet, but that seems way too close to me) four acres should give them plenty of room to roam.
  4. ausamerican33

    ausamerican33 Songster

    Aug 5, 2008
    Wendell, NC
    I had the same questions - thanks for posting them! [​IMG]
  5. FlockofFun

    FlockofFun In the Brooder

    Jul 30, 2008
    I would not worry about them flying over the fance at all, I have over a dozen free range birds and that has never been a problem. Like mentioned before, they like to stay within range of the coop so if something happens they can make a run back to it.

    I would keep the food in the coop if you are worried about the doves eating it all. I leave a little out during the day, in the barn for my sultans who are free range, but prefer to stay inside.

    You'll be suprised with how well they'll acclimate to their free range lifestyle, I know that I was.

    Have fun!
  6. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    My grandma would leave them in the little fenced run for about a month before letting them free range.

    Also, she would not let them out of the little fenced run until afternoon, to try to get all of their eggs in the nest boxes.
  7. ausamerican33

    ausamerican33 Songster

    Aug 5, 2008
    Wendell, NC
    I was wondering about the eggs - if chickens are allowed to free range, do they still usually go to their provided nesting boxes in the coop? I don't want to go egg hunting every day.
  8. beckyloveschicks

    beckyloveschicks In the Brooder

    Jul 9, 2008
    My chickens free range and they lay their eggs in the nest box in the coop. I had one hen go broody for the first time, and she started laying her eggs in a secret nest that I happened upon yesterday.

    My chickens have about an acre fenced, mostly wooded and they never jump the fence.
  9. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    Quote:Even with letting the chickens out to free range about lunch time, we would still, every so often, find eggs in the barn. But it wasn't often. Most of the eggs went in the egg nests.
  10. I don't usually turn mine out to free range untill about 3PM, and I still have one hen that will wait until I turn her out to lay, and she lays on top of a hill I can't climb. so I give up on her. most of the others lay before I turn them out.Ikeep the feeder full of layer mash and they eat what they want when ever they want.They know when I turn them out they will get treats(bread) and they stand and listen for the back door to open and start cackling to get out. marrie

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