Letting them out to free range for the first time....

joskt0204

In the Brooder
8 Years
Apr 9, 2011
87
0
39
east TN
I have four pullets, all about three months old or a bit more. They are in a chicken tractor that we move around the yard. We've gotten a kennel for the dogs, so now we can let the chickens out some to free range. Any suggestions on how to handle it? How do I know they won't just all run off? I assume they'll come back in when it gets to go-to-your-nest-box time?
 

gritsar

Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!
12 Years
Nov 9, 2007
28,906
269
421
SW Arkansas
The first time you let them out you may want to wait to do so until close to dusk. Give them an hour or two out. They won't have time to wander far from their coop and being their first time, they will probably be too scared to.

As they demonstrate to you that they know where home is and how to go to it each night, you can start increasing their time by adding an hour - letting them out an hour earlier, every couple of days. You may be surprised though when you find that their idea of roost time is different from yours. They may not go to bed the minute the sun starts going down. The younger ones especially seem to want to put off bedtime till the very last minute. Just because they don't go in right at dusk doesn't mean they don't intend to.

My two free range flocks know exactly what time it is when they are supposed to be let out. They also know when they are supposed to go to bed. The younger chickens are always the last ones in the door.
 

hoping4better

Chirping
9 Years
Nov 22, 2010
130
1
99
Middle Tennessee
How far they go depends. I've heard some people say they're flock will range all over the place - really far. Mine however don't go more than a hundred feet or so, but we have stray dogs around and I've lost 5 since march or so. So, mine may just be scared/cautious.

As for knowing when to go out and when to come home, yeah they know where home is and they'll be fine. My biggest caution will be in regard to potential predators.
 

JodyJo

Songster
9 Years
Sep 27, 2010
2,786
51
188
Colorado
the first time I let mine out, they didn't go too far, I got them used to me feeding them and calling, "here, chick, chick, chick," and I gave them treats...then when they free ranged, I would call them to the run, tossed the treats in, they chased and I locked them up...worked really well. Eventually as they got older, towards evening, they all went in anyhow, time for bed...they are smart enough to understand they are safer and more comfortable inside. Only once did a couple dumb roos sleep outside!
 

joskt0204

In the Brooder
8 Years
Apr 9, 2011
87
0
39
east TN
Well, I let them out, and they explored within about 20' of the tractor for about 30 minutes, then they all went back in. It's a start, right?
 

Arielle

Crowing
8 Years
Feb 19, 2011
16,722
634
411
Massachusetts, USA
Yeah, good start.

Mine have a large run but I have gotten up the courage to let them free range. THey go all of about 30 feet from their area now!! As I read about different breeds, I realize that mine are the types comfortable with confinement and so they don't like to roam very far. Each time I have let them out they roam a little further. But I don't expect them to go as far as some other breeds like dorking and hamburgs. IMO. Enjoy!
 

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