need kick in the pants and/or support, for starting free-ranging :P


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
Y'all know I don't do this often, but I could really use some hand-holding here, as I am having an awful time getting over the hump of just DOING IT

I am trying to get my "hen pen" -- my son's 3 red stars, plus 3 EE's and a young roo -- free ranging in the backyard. I consider them sort of expendible, which is good because we have LOTS of hawks and raccoons around here, but would still really rather not lose any, at least not in stupidly-avoidable ways.

For a couple weeks I've been letting them out in late afternoon inside 80' of electronet to keep them from wandering too far, and although they need to be shooed back indoors in the evening, things have gone well so far.

Now however the electronet has been replaced by a 3-strand electric tape fence (my ram needs more grass so am letting him graze in that part of back yard), so I have no means of controlling where the chickens go if I let them out.

I am just petrified they will go into the large stand of very, very tall reed-canarygrass that is right near the coop, or into the dense flowerbed in the other direction, and I won't be able to find them to chase them indoors in the evening, and Mr Raccoon or Senor Coyote will have them for dinner. It has already happened once that one of the EE hens hid under a dense clump of grass and it took me 10 minutes to find her, and that was IN the electronet enclosure. If they hide in the tall grass or flowerbed, honestly there is NO way I will be able to find them.

Words of wisdom sorely needed, here




DownSouth D'Uccles & Silkies
12 Years
Jul 5, 2007
Sevier County, TN
When we were teaching our birds about free-ranging, I took a bucket of treat food with me every evening. I'd tap the bucket and yell "Chickers, want a treat?" and they'd all come running! No searching or chasing required, because they all wanted a treat. Scratch grains if I didn't have any leftovers. After the snack I'd herd them indoors and shut them in.

I also refilled the feeders at dusk as well. So there was double incentive to come home on time.


9 Years
Apr 7, 2010
They should learn to go in by themselves, at night. chickens do have some common sense and, as evening approaches, they should go into the coop by themselves. As long as they feel like it's home (places to sleep, food, water) they should return there at night by themselves.

Once they do that, they should be able to range in the canarygrass or whatever, and find their way home.

What if one night you didn't put them up just to see what happened? Maybe put a flashlight in their coop so they could see it easier the first few nights.

Good luck!
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Love My Chickens
13 Years
Jul 28, 2009
Floyds Knobs, Indiana
My Coop
My Coop
My words aren't usually too it works for me and everyone who's tried it as far as I know; Get them use to running to you at the sound of the cracked corn cannister. When I shake my "treat" jar, they come running from across the field and follow me like I'm the Pied Piper.
I think that would totally up the odds of them not hiding out when it's time for bed.
Good luck - I'm sure things will go smoothly.


Where Chickens Ride Horses
14 Years
Jul 9, 2007
always changing
My hens all put themselves away at roosting time. I've tried shooing them in, but found it is much easier to just let them do it. Its hard to chase them in, as they all go in different directions, and then the ones that are in first get out as you go after the rest.

The older girls usually go in first and the youngest stay out the latest.
Like others said, treats and feeding time will help get them in there. The tall grass will give them a place to hide from predators. I have lots of things in my yard that my hens go under, they know to hide from hawks.
I do have a few chickens that do not go in to roost, but they are of the wild type that just roam around this area anyway, never caged. Tree Chick just decided to come live with me. Guess she didn't want to be a wanderer anymore!
She's been here for over two years now. I recently caught some baby chicks of these 'free birds' and they are two months now. At first they were going into the coop, but now they rather sleep in the rafters of the stall. They have the 'wild' instinct in them.

Good luck!


10 Years
Apr 16, 2010
southwest Florida
I've just started letting mine free range and so far I've only had to lead them back to the coop on the first night, unless I wanted them in earlier. Then I just get out the oatmeal, shake the can a few times, yell "here, chicky, chicky and they come running. I've also made a trail of oatmeal that leads right to the coop and they follow that.

They haven't gone too far from the coop, we have a couple acres here and they haven't explored 1/4 of it yet. It may be different when they realize they have more room to roam.


12 Years
Dec 28, 2007
SW Ont, Canada
My thoughts are if you have a roo in the mix, you should be just fine. he will warn if danger is present. and the chickens will learn to go in at night. My 2yo's are in the barn by 7:30, the young ones run around near the barn for about another hour, but then they go in too. I second the motion of getting them running at the sound of scratch grains in a tin can. I give mine scratch in the morning--so they get out of the barn, and in the evening-to get them into the barn. They L O V E their scratch.

The roo will warn of over head danger, and really, you shouldn't have coons coming around during the day. Once you get them into the routine of coming in when you call them, (before dusk so as to avoid the coons) they will do it automatically and be wating for thier scratch.

As far as the tall reeds and bushes, use the tin can to call them out, if they do happen to get in there.

In three years, I have only lost one, and that was to a neighbours dog. And it was the roo who protected his hens.


11 Years
Apr 27, 2008
Ashland, Missouri
Pat, just adding to the layers of reassurance about freeranging your flock. I was told that chickens will stay within sight-range of their coop and ours have proven this idea. They will actually meander their way around our house, so that for a while they cannot see the coop, but if the house were not there, the coop would still be in sight range. Crazy? I don't know, but they do not wander dangerously far, but hang around in a safe territory. Ours, like others discussed here, return free will to their coop by dusk, a few earlier, a couple hang out by the ramp up into the coop as long as they can. As soon as they see us coming to close the coop, they scamper up the ramp for the night. Treats bring any lingerers back on the run. One of ours last summer did not return and we thought she'd been taken by a hawk. Early the next morning when I went out to open the coop, she was frantically running back and forth under the Russian Olive trees alongside the fenced outdoor chicken yard, wanting back in with her sisters. I suspect she was frightened by something and took cover in the brushy tree area for the night. All was well. Mine have lost free range for a couple more weeks until I feel that my garden is well enough established to withstand their peckish visits. They remind me every day that I'm terribly unfair to them and that they'd never destroy my hostas or garden. Ha! Just do it, Pat. Your chickens will stay in range and return when it's getting dark. Your tall grasses will offer them shelter and shade when they want it--a good thing. Mine love dust baths at the edge of tall grasses. Best wishes, ~G


Snuggles with Chickens
9 Years
Apr 29, 2010
Rockport, Tx
I don't know about wisdom, but hand holding - I can do. All of my pets come when I call them and I bet yours do too. If they don't, make treating a ritual; same time of day, same treat.

Other than that, just remember how happy they will be playing in the grass and dirt, chasing bugs, etc.... You're giving them a great life however long that will be - could be today or years from now but it will be great because of you and your care for them. High grass is a good thing; lots of places for them to hide from predators. They'll come running out of it when you call them for treats and you'll put them up in the coop safe and sound from here on.

So go ahead, let 'em out to play and enjoy them. And relax.....


11 Years
Nov 25, 2009
I used to let mine out about an hour before dark. So they werent exposed to predators to long. If you lock em up and they learn that the coop is there home, they will come back in the coop. The wind used to accidentally close the door and the chickens used to roost on our lawn mowers and our golf cart
Every now and then we had one go missing. Just beware! All should go well though.

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