Pros and Cons of Free Ranging

To free range or not to free range?

  • Free Range

    Votes: 40 61.5%
  • Large Run

    Votes: 25 38.5%

  • Total voters
    65

Aleelupton

Songster
Jul 3, 2018
241
463
146
Warren, Ohio
With lots of snow and rain the last few weeks I've been feeling like a terrible chicken mom. Their run has become a giant muddy disaster. Theres no grass left and no where for them to dust bath or scratch around. They live in muck with the only dry place being inside the coop.Recently we moved our flock to my inlaws house in the country because I couldn't part with my big Roo and the neighbors weren't fond of his wake up calls. With them being close to federal wooded land and having a large wide open back yard I was nervous to let them free range. We have 2 fake owls on posts to keep hawks away, but we would need 10 more to cover the property. I'm also afraid of foxes, coyotes, or raccoons getting them. I'm so torn on risking their safety to let them free range and have access to lots of food and foraging areas. I feel terrible about their current run even though it's large. Since this is my first flock I would love for some advice and opinions on my situation. Thank you so much in advance!
 

Aleelupton

Songster
Jul 3, 2018
241
463
146
Warren, Ohio
Only you can make the decision, but I'd imagine the potential loss of a significant number of birds would make the large run the option I would go for. Maybe trying to cover a small area of the run to try and help keep it dry may be something to consider :confused:
We have a roof over a very small area, but it is still terribly muddy. :(
 

scrambled please

Songster
8 Years
Nov 30, 2010
149
133
176
With lots of snow and rain the last few weeks I've been feeling like a terrible chicken mom. Their run has become a giant muddy disaster. Theres no grass left and no where for them to dust bath or scratch around. They live in muck with the only dry place being inside the coop.Recently we moved our flock to my inlaws house in the country because I couldn't part with my big Roo and the neighbors weren't fond of his wake up calls. With them being close to federal wooded land and having a large wide open back yard I was nervous to let them free range. We have 2 fake owls on posts to keep hawks away, but we would need 10 more to cover the property. I'm also afraid of foxes, coyotes, or raccoons getting them. I'm so torn on risking their safety to let them free range and have access to lots of food and foraging areas. I feel terrible about their current run even though it's large. Since this is my first flock I would love for some advice and opinions on my situation. Thank you so much in advance!
I free range but have lost chickens and eggs because I free range. They lay a couple years, they can live a long time, I have one of my first hens running around, she’s black and predators seem to leave dark birds alone.
I personally am not going to eat my girls or boys and if I lose one it was out playing chicky games not sloshing around in poor conditions
 

New2Chicks97

Songster
Jul 3, 2018
561
1,423
166
Washington State
We have a large covered run but ai still let ours out to free range. Granted they enjoy it more in the summer and early fall when it is warm but they still like stretching their legs even when it is cold. They enjoy finding what green plants they can find that are left and digging through the composting garden stuff. They also seem less quarrelsome when they get free time even if it is only an hour or so a day.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
Nov 27, 2012
71,064
71,922
1,557
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
I chose not to free range due to predators(mostly hawks)....
... and (a close second) didn't want poop everywhere.
Yeah, they're confined and miserable(sarcasm)....but are alive.

Ramial wood chippings is the best for keeping mud, muck(wet poop), and the resulting odors at bay. You can add other dry plant matter in moderation.
This is not 'deep litter', I'm not trying to make garden soil.


1st day birds had access to run, this came along:


Forget the fake owls(pic from internet):
 

Dona Worry

Crowing
Jul 5, 2018
1,526
6,528
377
Vermont
Alright, so let's break this down....

A cheap roll of poultry fence and some stakes could get a temporary run set up on dry ground, giving you some time to revamp your run. Start with that.

How big is the run?
How big is the coop?
Got any pictures?
Do you live in an agricultural area?
What type of soil do you have?
 

Dona Worry

Crowing
Jul 5, 2018
1,526
6,528
377
Vermont
I would start with finding a way to permanently dry the run. A ditch, drainage rock, tiling (which is a plastic tube with holes in it) are all long-term solutions to a soggy location. A picture of where the coop sits in relation to the rest of the land will help determine best solution for that.
If you can cover some or all of the run that would be helpful too.
Setting up a dry, enclosed area for a sizable dust bath is essential as well. If you live in a farming community, hop on your local dairy Facebook page and see if anyone will sell/give away a poly calf hutch ( sometimes called calf domes) and/or a large tire. It's what I use for dry areas in the run, and let me tell you, they are a HUGE hit.
Here a few pictures of my bathing areas. The hutches come is varying degrees of opacity, this round one acts like a mini greenhouse and has been very popular since it got cold, whereas the square on has a shading effect, and was more popular when I first set it up in the warmer weather. You can just see the giant tires filled with sandy dirt.
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Good luck.

The pros of free ranging are:
It's easier than revamping and modifying your entire run
The chickens will be happier than in their current set up.

The cons of free ranging are:
You risk loosing some or all to predators.
 
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