Starting to free range at 18 months?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by kitchwitch, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. kitchwitch

    kitchwitch Songster

    Feb 3, 2009
    Greensburg, Pa
    I have 4 hens who have never free ranged ever. They have a good size run (20x8) and a decent size coop with lots of roosts that they've lived in nearly all their 18 months. Unfortunately the ground in the run is ruined and I have been wondering if I were to let them out to free range, would they know to come back?

    We live on an acre and I have a big garden that's gone to pot this summer so there's a lot for them to pick around in but at 18 months with having never been let out free before do you think they'll see it as a chance to escape? I should add that they're really not "pet" chickens, I never developed the relationship with them I should/could have so it's not like they follow me everywhere or even respond to treats.
  2. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    IMO, 18 months is not too late for them to learn about freeranging. I don't think it's ever too late really. The only thing I've noticed is that when allowed to free range from a very young age they gain more chicken "smarts", i.e., they learn how to protect and care for themselves. My chicks go outside at 2 weeks and they learn young how to avoid predators, where to go for the best grit, etc. etc.
    If your chickens have lived in their coop/run for 18 months I'm sure they won't have any doubts about their coop being home. What you could try is letting them out for the first time just a few hours before dusk. Chances are they won't wander far the first time and they should put themselves back in the coop at dark. Don't be concerned if they wait until the very last minute, although chicks are usually worse about that than adult birds. After free ranging all day my adult flock usually go in their coop about dusk, my chicks push it sometimes staying out till there's barely enough light to see by.
    As your chooks demonstrate to you that they know to go back to the coop to roost you can increase the time they are out, letting them out earlier and earlier, until they are out all day. Be aware that once a chicken has had a taste of free ranging they can become very upset when suddenly confined again.
    If you have any trouble getting them to go back in the coop at night, just use a light inside it to lure them back in; even a flashlight will work in a pinch.
    Good luck [​IMG]
  3. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Songster

    Jul 22, 2010
    Anderson, Texas
    I've only had my 10 RIR which are 10 weeks & 14 week old for about 10 days. I asked this forum about letting them out & everyone said let em out. So I let them out everyday now & stay with them . They chase grasshoppers, eat grass, scratch the ground & they never go far from the coop.After about an hour are so they all go back to the coop. I don't have any other animals so I think I spoiled them. Their fun to watch. seems when they get to far from the coop they get ancy & haul arse back to the coop.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by