okay to free range my chickens again?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MysteryChik, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. MysteryChik

    MysteryChik Chillin' With My Peeps

    Okay, So several weeks back we were having a problem where Eleven of our chickens (one hen and five each cockerals and pullets) decided to stop coming into the coops at night. They decided they wanted to Roost up in our apple trees, free ranged all day and ate all of our ripening tomatoes in the garden. Well, after posting on here, a couple people recommended that I lock them up in their coop, run and not let them free range for a while. Basically to "reteach" them where home was. Finally after about three days of chasing chickens out of an apple tree and finally able to catch them.. we had them all put up. Well, we did that for two weeks. Now I am trying to figure out: Do I start letting them out in the mornings? Or should I do like we did when we first decided to start letting them range after we got them, and hour right before dark to see what happens, and then slowly let them out earlier and earlier? Advice always appreciated more than ya'll know. Still (slowly) learning about chickens and trying to do things the "right way." If there is one :)
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Are they young birds? Many young ones will try that. Chicks raised by a hen will be taken to the roosts at night to learn the routine. Without a mom or even older birds to show them a routine they often will start making up their own. You will have to be the mom hen and round them up or lure them back with a nightly treat before locking them in. I don't think it matters when you let them out, but I would initially do it when you can be around and be there to round them up after an hour or two. Chickens like a routine, so get one going and they should soon like it.

    I would also make sure your coop is appealing, they should feel safe in it and it should be comfortable with enough room and roosts for everyone. It's possible there's something they don't like about it. Good ventilation is most important too. So watching them to see if there's troubles at roost time that has caused them to look elsewhere for sleeping arrangements.
     
  3. MysteryChik

    MysteryChik Chillin' With My Peeps

    They are about 15 weeks now. We got them when they were probably a week old. (and they were raised by our adult Hen "Granny". When we got them, (granny and her babies) we kept them in the open air coop for a week, then started letting them out slowly at night. She did great, taking them back to the coop every evening like clockwork. But then.. around the exact same time that she started obviously weaning them... they all (including her) stopped coming to the coop. We would round them up, and put them in. They started to get higher and higher in this apple tree where we couldn't get them anymore. Then she (granny) went missing. we thought for sure something had gotten her. We would see the little ones during the day, and every night they'd climb high into the apple tree to roost. 21 days after seeing her last, Granny appeared in the yard one day. It was then that I figured out by doing research that she was probably sitting on eggs somewhere. (keep in mind granny and the babies are our first chickens ever. Later that evening after hours of searching... I found granny behind the tractor in the shed, and sure enough she was sitting on 14 unfertilized eggs. we got her, cooped her, and caught them and cooped them over a matter of a few days.

    We have two coops actually. They are both "open air coops" and are each 15' by 17 foot. They have wood halfway up on two sides, and heavy duty chain link fencing around the other two sides. They are also reinforced with 1/2 inch chicken wire where the chain link is to help keep predators out. We have two coops, bc we bought Four BRocks about a month ago, and knew we would need separate coops for them, at least for a while. So before we got them, we built another coop. Granted the three Barred Rock Hens and one rooster are in one coop, and the other 11 (granny and the babies) are in the other. They each have nesting boxes up off the ground, and roosting bars. They all roost really well when in there although I am trying to figure out how to make the bars all one height and length bc our hen and littles seem to fight over the highest bar. She doesn't want to let any of the babies up there with her. (we have the ladder type roosts that you see on pinterest, etc. We wanted to keep granny in with the barred especially bc our rooster is so in love with her BUT.. he's not interested in the other BR hens yet. (they and the rooster are 21 weeks.) so I know I probably can't let her be round him too much bc I have heard that having only one hen that is "of laying age" for a rooster, could hurt her. he wouldn't want to stop trying to mate with her over and over and over...
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Your hens are getting close to laying age. They might be more inclined to return to their coop now. I would try some ranging and see how they do. Otherwise keeping them confined until they start laying is another option if they are still giving you trouble.

    Your rooster can probably be with Granny. If he's mating her too much her back feathers will start to break off. Only you can tell if it's too much. Every rooster is different and some are respectful. You might have better luck returning her to the other group.
     
  5. MysteryChik

    MysteryChik Chillin' With My Peeps

    I know the Barred rocks are at laying age.. hoping any day now. They free range and come back to the coop with no problem. Its the others, that are about 15 weeks that I am having trouble with. So you think I should put Granny in with the BR Rooster and three BR hens that are 21 weeks? Granny and the ten younger chicks are apparently "gamefowl". We were given them by someone who no longer wanted them, and had no clue what they were but ppl on here have helped me figure out what they were. We wanted better laying Hens, which is why we bought the BRs.
     
  6. Peeps61

    Peeps61 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I free range my birds, and at dusk, just before they would go to roost, I go out with mealworms and get them into the coops that way. Otherwise, about half of them would roost in the rafters of the barn and poop all over everything. As it is, I can get 95% of them into the big coop and the remaining stubborn few will roost on top of my smaller coop (which has chicks in it) or in the rafters of the barn. If I want to get them locked up, I have to remove any outside food or water so that they want to go in to the coop in the morning to get to the food and water there.

    It's a routine that works well for me, so I thought I'd share.

    If it were me, I'd keep them locked up until they begin to lay. Then, you won't have to search high and low for the eggs too.
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I find that I keep the coop as the home front, if I don't let them out every day at the same time. Some days all day, other days not at all depending on the weather. If I have a sudden egg production drop, that almost always means they have a hidden nest, and I lock them up until they are laying back in the nest boxes.

    I would let them out, late afternoon, lock up at dark. Next day, don't let them out, next day a little longer free ranging, next day not at all. Then see how it is going. Always feed and water in the run. When they are locked up, training them to a shaker can of grain or other treats is a good idea, it will help when they are free ranging.

    Mrs K
     
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  8. MysteryChik

    MysteryChik Chillin' With My Peeps

    well, let them out yesterday for about thirty minutes. Took them probably ten minutes for all of them to come out. A storm came, and they all ran back in the coops. some of them confused and went to wrong one.. but hey atleast they went in. Let them out again about an hour before dark. Only one chick came back in the coop. The other nine ended back up in the darn apple tree. I don't get it.. coop and is clean, they were locked in it for a little over two weeks. I thought for sure theyd' come back in!
     
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    You might have to fence off that Apple tree temporarily or put something scary by it like an owl decoy or fake snake.
     
  10. Peeps61

    Peeps61 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That's a great plan Mrs. K! Mine are locked up this week because my egg production is down again. The last time it happened, I found the nest and was going to clean it out so I'd know if any of the newer eggs laid there were fresh. When I went to clean it out, there was a broody sitting on it! We're in week two right now, and she's still sitting, so I'll give it another two weeks to see if we get any chicks. I only have one rooster to 30 hens, so I'm sure not all the eggs are fertile - there were about 12 of them - but some may hatch out. It would be neat to see a broody raising some chicks! She's a Silver Laced Wyndotte, and the eggs are from various breeds of chickens with a Polish buff laced rooster.
     
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