Please advise: free range time required?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by DazeGoneBy, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. DazeGoneBy

    DazeGoneBy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My husband and I can't agree on what our chickens need. Here's their coop and run:

    [​IMG]

    It is 4' x 10' and the coop itself is 4 x 4 x 5'.

    They are in the run all day, except in the evening when we let them out into the fenced in area below:

    [​IMG]

    We sit with them for about 15-30 minutes and throw out some scratch and mealworms for them to look for. This time is cut short if there are a lot of flies or mosquitoes bothering us, none if it is raining.

    I have been feeling guilty about what little time they get to come out of there. We keep it pretty clean...rake it and replace bedding once a week, etc. We put leaves and treat in the run to keep them occupied, and there is a peat moss/DE bath in there too (all shown on my BYC pages).

    I am pestering my hubby to give them some kind of protected area where we can let them out of the run, unsuperivsed, so they can have more time on the outside. I was thinking of attaching some chicken wire to the balcony and enclose the right-hand side underneath (that is their favorite scratching spot). But, hubby is against it. His arguments are: 1) It would look ugly. 2) It is just as small as the area they have now. 3) They are just FINE right now.

    I asked him to build a tractor (A-frame) we could move around and give the girls time on different ground. This won't work realistically because we have trouble catching the girls to transfer them back and forth. It's just stressful for everyone if we try.

    So, I turn to the BYC community. Please advise on HOW MUCH time *out of the run* our 3 girls need (a Dominique, a Buff Orphington, and a Delaware) to be happy. I know these are all breeds that "tolerate" being confined.

    Please also advise what solution YOU would implement, given our circumstances.

    THANKS!
     
  2. Magic Birdie

    Magic Birdie Overrun With Chickens

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    Well, they don't NEED any time outside, but they do like being outside [​IMG]

    That's a very pretty coop, by the way
     
  3. welasharon

    welasharon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Unless they are crowded there isn't much point in them just being out of the run unless you can get them out on grass. when you read free ranging it means they are out in pasture where they can get bugs, grass and seeds to eat.
     
  4. DazeGoneBy

    DazeGoneBy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, Birdies, for the compliment. But, you took my hubby's side! [​IMG]

    I understand the life of a production chicken, and I guess I know they can exist as-is. (just as people can exist in jail... perchance I'm being a tad dramatic. [​IMG])

    Here's some more background:
    We haven't yet clipped their wings, but we'll do that today. We've trapped 3 possums and 1 coon around their coop since July, and we have a cat that is very interested, but I think the girls are big enough to nip that in the bud if he ever got too close. My hubby is worried about them being unsupervised *at all* because something might kill them. I'm worried about them being unsupervised and unenclosed because they might fly off (fence isn't too high).
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2011
  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Yeah, as welasharon said, the main point of free ranging (assuming they are not overcrowded) is for them to get a chance to eat grass and bugs. I'm not seeing grass in the area in your photo...can't tell about bugs. In your situation it may also be a time of entertainment and bonding (if they're lap chickens). Chickens are curious creatures, so they also like exploring...so letting them out can also add variety.
    Do you only have three chickens? If so, your run space is decent for them. I would not feel guilty about them not getting out more - just use that time as visiting/entertainment time.
    * Your coop is adorable [​IMG]
     
  6. DazeGoneBy

    DazeGoneBy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I was just thinking they needed something different to look at. We do put scratch and treats on the inside, and seeds and other treats on the outside when we are out there with them. But, they just seem so HAPPY to be out.

    I would love to come home from work, let them out, toss treats on the ground, and walk away for 1-2 hours, then come back, and let them into the run, and close the coop door at dusk.
     
  7. DazeGoneBy

    DazeGoneBy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Ah. OK. Thanks for the tip...yes we only have the 3, and we hang out with them because they are so much fun. We do give them a few live crickets and mealworms each evening (heck, that's part of the fun of watching chicken TV). One is definitely a lap bird, another is friendly - if you have food, the third doesn't trust you further than she can throw you.
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    I do think even a couple of hours outside their protected run is valuable, even without grass, as it is something different and allows spreading out and exploring. But -- sooner or later it will likely result in a loss or losses if unsupervised.

    This is an old debate on here, one I also continuously feel tugged by, and in my case when they are turned loose they have weeds, grass, bushes, even woods. Yours should do fine inside their protected run, even all the time -- but they will enjoy the periodic freedom, too, and it might prevent pecking problems in the long run.

    It's really more a matter of what we assume they prefer than what they need. We can't read their mind, of course, but behavior indicates they prefer foraging on vegetation.
     
  9. DazeGoneBy

    DazeGoneBy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I hear you. Thanks for the posts, all.

    Seems like it is hubby for the win. We'd surely rather have bored, safe girls than the alternative.
     
  10. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    Another thing you can do to make them happier is grow some pots or garden flats of grass and dark leafy greens. They love eating those. You can set them in the yard or in their run, when they've grown large enough to eat. It would give them something nice on the evenings when you aren't going to have them out as long.

    You can also grow wheat grass or sprouts. They like those, too.
     

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