sad I can't let them be "fully" free range

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by lilmama, May 25, 2010.

  1. lilmama

    lilmama Songster

    May 2, 2010
    Howdy All,

    So, I have four nice ladies who are about 2 months old. Coop/run is 18' x 3.5'. Weird dimensions I know, but it runs along part of the back fence of our yard. On one end is the semi- enclosed coop part -- a ladder goes up to a few laying boxes and their night roost. I feel it is a decent amount of space for four hens. But I can't help but feel bad I'm not letting them just go wild in our yard. Thing is, I have 2 small kids and 2 dogs and a landscaped yard and I really don't want chickens picking away at our yard and pooping where the kids play. I could built additional space for them, and I am thinking about it...but I can't afford it now (plus my husband would think I'm crazy.) Do you think chickens can be happy if they enclosed- even if the space is technically big enough? They seem happy, but then again, they don't know what they are missing....
  2. bfrancis

    bfrancis Songster

    Mar 30, 2010
    Okmulgee Co, Oklahoma
    From what I've read, chickens get if you give something to occupy their time, like scratch grains, multi-level day time roost, hanging cabbage...perhaps live crickets from pet outlet from them to chase...they would survive.

    If you only feed and water them with no would be a little more than a boring jail. [​IMG]

    Addition space would be good [​IMG] , even if you had to purchase a few of the supplies each payday, and complete the project when all of your supplies were gathered. You might try construction sites for usable discarded new material.

    good luck
  3. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I'll be honest, when I see chickens who never get out of their pens, I think " sad," because I know my girls love getting out to wander and peck about. But you nailed it...if they don't know what they're missing... It's kind of like totally indoor cats...if that's all they've ever known, then I doubt they're sitting there longing for the great outdoors. And as long as your pen is very secure, then they're actually safer kept penned. Place a few roosts around inside the run, which should be easy since it's a narrow run. Occasionally hang a cabbage up for them to enjoy. They will be happy birds!
    Last edited: May 26, 2010
  4. Marie1234

    Marie1234 Songster

    Mar 29, 2010
    Just an opinion....
    No reason to feel badly. You have given them 15 sq. ft./bird which is generous. As much as they might like to get out there is no need to. With any enclosed birds you will have to watch for signs of aggression or feather picking, but that could happen even if you free ranged because some birds have bad attitudes. In order to make the chicken experience a good one for your family you have to do things your own way sometimes. As long as they have quality food, clean water, adequate housing for the weather, and enough space to move around then go with it.
    If this is your first start with chickens make an effort to keep the husband on board by not getting excessive until next spring at least. lol.
  5. lilmama

    lilmama Songster

    May 2, 2010
    Thank you! I think I will get a square of sod, which I see some people do. And hang a cabbage and place another roost- tho they already have two.
    Maybe someday I will expand the coop, but until then I'm happy to hear they'll do ok. They have a great, safe space. It's all wired around it and on the bottom a foot down and under a nice shady tree (we live in southern cal where it can get toasty in summer.)
    Thanks Again, and more thoughts are invited!
  6. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    I agree that they won't miss what they haven't experienced. If you want to do more things for them, though, they would surely enjoy it.

    I free range most of the time, but some times they are in the run. When they are, they enjoy jumping up on the old resin patio table and chairs I put in there. I see them watching the neighbors across the road from that vantage point, plus they can see farther on our hilly property, from there. They have an old stump they like hopping up on, too. They've got a nice dust bath that's under cover and always available, even when it's rainy. Plus, there is sand in part of the run that they mess around in.

    Food is always a big hit. They like scratching around in the run for sunflower seeds or scratch grains. Once they've eaten all the grass in the run, you could grow some flats of wheat grass to put in there or pots of dark leafy greens to rotate into the run. You could also put a couple of grass protectors in there. Either a garden tray that has an open grid on the bottom or some 2x4s made into a frame with hardware cloth on top. They keep the chickens from eating the grass down to the ground and scratching up the roots. You can even plant something a little larger and just make a shrub protector of welded wire around it.

    I also plant extra veggies for the chickens, including some along the run and climbing on the run. Cherry tomatoes can be fun, as they will run around like a football game, if you only toss one in. Then I toss in more for the others. They like larger tomatoes, too. They like most fruits and veggies. I plant extra greens for them, especially chard for all seasons, as well as kale, so they have something growing late in the year. They'll also eat alfalfa and clover growing here. Sprouts are also good, of all kinds. You just soak the grain/seed overnight, drain really well, let it start to sprout and then feed it.

    Hanging fruits and vegetables is good. You can also use a little cage of some sort, stuffed with greens or other food. I've even used hanging suet cages used for wild birds for this.
  7. Celtic Hill

    Celtic Hill Songster

    Mar 7, 2010
    Scotland CT
    I feel bad for my breeders, they have a wire yard attached to their pen, and there in that most of the day. They get let out during chores or when im out side, but other wise they are in there. I can't afford to let anything happen to them.
  8. shopchicks

    shopchicks Songster

    Sep 4, 2009
    Boise, Idaho
    It sounds like they are living in chicken luxury, and I wouldn't feel bad for them. However, you could build a very cheap "play pen" for them by using 1/2" PVC with chicken wire over it, and a simple tarp or something on one end for shade. Then you could let them out to new areas where they can pick for weeds and bugs for a few hours a day, but still be contained where you want them.

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