Keeping Chickens Free Range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LadyBroody, Jun 15, 2014.

  1. nvdirtfreak

    nvdirtfreak Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 14, 2014
    Hello all! I am a new chicken mama with 10 hens and 1 rooster. I am thinking about letting them free range - they have a pretty large run, but we don't use the majority of our 2.5 acres, so I thought it would be nice for them to get out and nice for me to get some free weed control! Some questions though...

    1) All of my chickens are 19 weeks old, and only one of them (a Gold Sex-Link) has started laying. Her first egg was on the ground in the coop, all of her eggs since (reliably 1 egg/day) have been in a nesting box. Will she continue to lay in the nesting box? Will the other girls lay wherever they feel like it? I don't like the idea of searching over 2 acres for eggs...

    2) How reliably do they usually come back to the coop at night? I live in the high desert, and right now it gets in the 80s during the day and drops to the 40s at night. Will they come back in at dark? I have noticed in the mornings, on my way to work at 645AM (and every day the days are getting shorter), they aren't really out of their coop yet - just the rooster. Is this a good indication that they will come into the coop at night?

    3) Two of my girls (the two Black Australorps) are quite the bullies, to the point that I may need to separate them. Although their run is pretty large, could letting them free range "cure" this behavior?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    I'm surprised your rooster allows 2 of your girls to be bullies. My roo will not tolerate having his gals bickering. Yes, if they have been living in their coop for any length of time, they view it as their home, and will return there to roost. You might start by letting them out for a couple of hours before dark. They'll stay fairly close to the coop, and this will give you a chance to see how well it goes. Some folks allow free ranging when they're not home, but there's always the risk of predators... of course there's that risk even in a run.
    1 person likes this.
  3. gander007

    gander007 Chicken Obsessed

    Falcons are the Altamont Predator's an if they can't carry their dinners away then the Falco will just eat it emplace so the best thing to dos keep your poultry undercover of some kind ......
  4. S5apiotrowski

    S5apiotrowski Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 19, 2014
    Our Black Australorp is quite a bully to our other hens (at least at night on the roost). However, we let them free range during the day, and the hens are happy and have space. They do much better in the open. Our hens started laying after being allowed to free-range, and they have always come back to the nesting boxes to lay. They typically always return to the coop at night (we close it).

    We had a brief problem after being gone for a weekend (we left the coop completely open) and something got in (feeder was busted and empty and a huge clump of rooster feathers found down) and the hens wanted to roost on garden fence. We brought them back to the coop area and closed it in and after a few days everything was back to normal.
  5. heiditam

    heiditam Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2014
    My chickens are free ranging for first time all day today! :) They did well in fence and the outside of fence at dusk, and they appear to be doing well today...but they do not appear to be the best scavengers. Will they get better? Everytime I go outside they come running for food, and they keep going to their food bowl...
  6. ChickyChickens

    ChickyChickens Chickening Around

    May 24, 2014
    BYC? Epic <3
    My Coop
    Cute and congrats!
  7. blkjak

    blkjak Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 18, 2014
    Manitoba Canada
    Some of the chickens will get better at scavenging but all my chickens come running when it is time to fill the feed dishes. We fill at dawn and just before dusk. We have some chickens that will range a lot further from the coop than is comfortable for me. One brown layer will be by herself out in the pasture with the horses. Our barred rocks are on the lawn always. Some of them never leave the area around the coop and just wait for the easy meal.
  8. SmColorInDaPan

    SmColorInDaPan Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 19, 2012
    An old cowboy/rancher saying is that if you leave them in until they lay, you guarantee, they will lay there almost FOREVER. However, pulling out to work before they are out and about, doesn't sound like that will work for you. If you leave them in all day, MAYBE TOO HOT, (I'm SURPRISED the hi desert ONLY gets to the 80s this time of year!!) let them out that evening, in a week, you should have them 'trained' to lay in the boxes. That way, letting them out in the morning, you SHOULD have eggs int he boxes each night. NO guarantees, nature is like that….
    I have 2 boxes that the girls go back and forth on. Sometimes 3 eggs in one box, 1 in another, sometimes 2 in each, sometimes, 2 in one, 1 in another. They're critters and only The Big Guy knows what, when, where they do……
    Pretty much same with the roosting; as long as they feel comfortable, not threatened by predators, they will go back to their 'home' to sleep. Like we humans, we sleep best @ home?
    ******Heidi, In my observations, chickens are like many; if you have food for them, WHY WORK FOR IT? I have 3 roos, 2 lil men, 1 full grown & 4 hens. 1 3/4 full lrg cottage cheese container of scratch, morning & Evening, maybe veggie scraps, egg shells, caught moths, through out the day. The rest of the time, they are on their own. IT IS HARD TO BLV HOW much LESS I have of grasshoppers, NOW as opposed to before i brought home the girls!
  9. K Epp

    K Epp Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 15, 2012
    North Georgia
    I don't leave free choice food out for my free ranging chickens. They roam around and eat off the land. I throw some feed out to top them off in the evenings. I haven't seen grasshoppers slugs or ticks since I've had the birds. I have a few ducks do they may get credit for the slugs.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2014
  10. ChickyChickens

    ChickyChickens Chickening Around

    May 24, 2014
    BYC? Epic <3
    My Coop
    Same here! I don't leave choice food out! I just feed in the morning one cup and the evening one cup.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by