Need advice Free Range VS Caged and setup

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by kybosslady79, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. kybosslady79

    kybosslady79 Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 5, 2016
    Graham Kentucky
    We purchased our first flock 9-10 weeks ago. It consist of several breeds of chickens, 4 bronze turkeys, and 7 guineas. We have 15 acres and no close neighbors. Eventually we plan to add cattle and sheep to our farm. We already have goats dogs and cats. My question is we converted 1/4th of our barn into a fully indoor enclosed chicken coop. The entire coop is about 40 by 30. We were planning to add a 40X40 outdoor area that is fenced and covered to protect them from any predators. My concern is with having 15 acres I really wanted to allow them to free range. Would love if they would roam around the property during the day and return to their safe coop at night.

    What are the pro's and cons of each way? Also if I were to allow them to free range at what age would be ideal to let them out for their first time? They are 9-10 weeks old (all of them we tried to keep the turkeys guineas and chickens very close in age) Should I turn them out in the morning and let them roam until evening and try to lure them back into their coop with food? Or would turning them out for just a few hours before dark be better? I just want the best for them and I feel like being contained to a 40X40 area as their "outside" space is not good enough when we have 15 acres they can explore. Also I plan to add milk crate type hen boxes to the inside coop. What would be the ideal thing to use on the flooring on the inside coop? Right now the entire floor of the barn is gravel.

  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    Make sure the goats can't get at the chicken feed, they can gorge themselves sick to dead on it.

    Which way is better? Both is ideal.
    Free ranging is great, but there are risks of loss to predators....but then the chicken wire on your 'coop' is not predator proof and looks to be open to the world.
    Having a secure covered run will be a great thing when (not if) you have a predator event and need to keep them confined for a time.

    As to what age, well... the smaller they are the easier they may be picked off.....can depend on cover available and local predator load.
    After they have spent a few weeks inside coop and run, they should automatically return there to roost.
    The chicken anyway, not sure about turkeys and guineas can be a whole different story(best to search on that).
    It's often suggested that the first time free ranging to let them out just an hour or so before dark, they won't go far and you can 'test' their 'homing' instinct.
    Increase time by an hour or so for a few days.

    Gravel is a pretty hard to 'clean'......can be hard on their feet too, you might consider removing gravel and/or 'deep litter'.
    Here's a great description of contents and how to manage organic 'bedding' in a run or coop...and there's a great video of what it looks like.
  3. Historienne

    Historienne Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 22, 2016
    I have no experience with turkeys or guineas, but my chickens are only slightly younger than yours and I'm having success coop-training them. They lived in the coop for several weeks. Then I began letting them into a makeshift pen an hour before it started to get dark. I have a specific jar that I keep their treats in, and when it was time to herd them back inside I would shake that jar and offer them treats. The first couple of times it was laborious to bribe and load all of them back inside, but within a couple of days they were heading back in on their own. I'm waiting until they are a little bigger to let them range on their own, but it seems that with a small bit of effort they can quickly learn where home is if you use nature to your advantage.
  4. ramsburgchicken

    ramsburgchicken Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 15, 2016
    We do supervised free range. As we have too many predators, live too close to the road, etc. to let them go off on their own without hubby or I being home to peek out once and awhile. We usually let them out to do their thing in the yard 8-9 hours a day and let them coop up during the hottest part of the day in a cool coop with icy treats. We've taught the chickens the property boundaries and now we have 49 chickens that don't wander off to the woods or neighbors property.
  5. Autumnswirl

    Autumnswirl Just Hatched

    Jul 10, 2016
    We are free ranging our chickens, so far they go in every night. I moved them completely outside by 5 weeks, in a small temporary coop with access to anywhere- the stray cat gave us some worries at first but they grew fast and by week 6 the cat left them alone. When we finished the large coop remodel and moved them into that at 8 or 9 weeks old I did fence it off and kept them inside the fence for a week, then rolled it open. They go everywhere, they pick and scratch apart the horse droppings, they chase bugs, they wander through the garden, they explore the woods. They like to be in the woods during the hottest part of the day, and the yard/pasture hunting bugs the rest of the time. Their water is inside the coop, along with free-choice feed. They havent reached laying age yet, I will see what happens when they do. But so far, no issues. *knock on wood*

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