Starting to free range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Faydra, Oct 27, 2014.

  1. Faydra

    Faydra Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 28, 2014
    British Columbia, Canada
    Hello All!

    I am new to chickens but I have recieved/purchased 12 hens and one rooster and they have been locked in their new coop for about a week. They came to me from friends and neighbors who free ranged them but I wanted them to fully get used to their new home before I let them loose.

    We are on a 600 acre ranch and the coop is in one of the fenced paddocks but the chickens will basically have access to go wherever. My plan is to open their chicken door on my way to work every day (approx. 7am) and let them explore, forage, etc and then hopefully by the time I come home from work (approx. 5:30pm) they will have nestled back into their coop and I can just close their door.

    Is it silly to assume they will go back into their coop or am I going to have to be running around herding chickens every night? Also, all my layers do their laying in the mid to late afternoon (between 1:30 and 4), will they go back into their nesting boxes when the time comes or will I have to hunt around for eggs?

    Sorry for the stupid questions!

  2. Toddrick

    Toddrick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 28, 2014
    They'll go back into their coop alright, just not according to your schedule. They go in to roost at dusk, and rarely before.
  3. Faydra

    Faydra Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 28, 2014
    British Columbia, Canada
    Where we are, 5:30 is at dusk this time of year. I will be on maternity leave at the end of March so I will be available as the days get longer to go down and close it up. I just hope everyone goes in and I'm not chasing chickens with a newborn strapped to me in the dark! [​IMG]
  4. Americano Blue

    Americano Blue Mush on!

    Apr 14, 2014
    Hello Spring
    My Coop
    Mine go to roost at dusk or a bit before. Chickens lay where ever they feel safe. They should mostly use nesting boxes but you might have to go on a few Easter egg hunts! [​IMG]
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Depending on where you are, predators may be a problem. You may get lucky for a while, as in the predators may not find you right away, but once they do, they can quickly diminish a flock.

    I live on a Ranch in South Dakota and I swear I have EVERY chicken eating predator! But I still like them to get out and about, peck and be chickens. If you want here are a couple of tricks that kind of help.

    Don't free range every day on the same schedule...... predators figure that out.

    If you get hit, lock up for several days. Even if you free range, you need a completely enclosed run attached to your coop so that you let them outside but safe from predators.

    A mature year old rooster can really help keep losses down, some are better than others, none are very good until close to a year old.

    If the weather is either windy or dreary don't let them out. Wind interferes with their ability to hear and predators can sneak up on them, if it is a rather dark day, night time predators range a little longer.

    As for the eggs, chicken are habitual for the most part, laying in the same place. So if you have them laying in the coop, they will most likely keep on laying there. However, every once in a while, they will get a notion, and one chicken can lead others astray. However, if you lock them back in the run/coop, they will go back to laying in the right place. If I get a sudden drop in egg production, I look for a hidden nest, and they can be very good at hiding them.

    Good luck, this is my favorite hobby!

    Mrs K
  6. hennible

    hennible Overrun With Chickens

    Lol I had to do that a few times! But everyone almost always goes back... I only ever had to chase newer birds back home with the baby strapped to me :D
    x2 on Mrs.K advice... Right now I free range one flock ( no pen ) and the other flock is out most days, but I want a second pen for sure. I've been lucky so far so good... No loses to wild life.
    Congratulations on the baby :)
  7. Faydra

    Faydra Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 28, 2014
    British Columbia, Canada
    Thank you so much Mrs. K and everyone for your great advise and info!

    We are in BC, Canada and unfortunately airborn predators are very prevalent - eagles, hawks, huge ravens, you name it - we got it. We don't have an enclosed run at all but we built the coop near several large trees not only for shade in the summer but for added protection from airborn attacks.

    We don't tolerate coyotes or bears on the ranch as they are very hard on the fawn and calf populations in the spring. There are very few lynx or bobcat around and I've never seen a fox.

    I do have one rooster but he is only 6-7 months old and a bit of a suck. Hopefully as he gets older he will start to become more protective of his girls.

    I let them out for the first time a couple of days ago, just to see how they would do. All but one hen came out and started exploring and happily picking around in the grass. They were out for about five minutes when all of a sudden my one hen made a mad dash for the coop and everyone followed her. I wasn't sure what happened so I closed their door and was about to leave when my husband pointed out a large raven that was flying overhead. I'm happy that they recognized the raven and immediately ran for safety but nervous that it only took five minutes before I had a predator scoping out my hens!!

    I will be letting them all out again on Saturday so I can do a big cleaning of their coop. Hopefully all goes well but if I suffer any loses we will be building a fully enclosed run asap.
  8. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    It would be a good idea to go ahead and build a secure run now so you have a place ready when you need to keep them penned for any reason. When you free range it's not a matter of if but when you will have losses. You don't want to get to the point of having a predator problem where a predator has found your flock and is picking off birds every day and have no place to keep them secure for a while other then locking them inside their coop 24/7.

    Having a mature rooster does help in that he will give warning and may allow more time for hens to get into hiding, but he cannot prevent or stop an attack and a good rooster often looses his own life trying to protect hens.
  9. hennible

    hennible Overrun With Chickens

    Fraydra, I'm in BC too! Best wishes with your flock.
  10. Faydra

    Faydra Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 28, 2014
    British Columbia, Canada
    Thanks Hennible!!

    Do you have snow yet where you are? Any tips on keeping the girls warm over winter? We built our coop fully insulated (even the nesting boxes) with two large overhead heating lamps and we have a thermostat that regulates the temperature and monitors humidy levels. Right now we are keeping the inside temp around 11 degrees and humidity hovers between 55-70% (depending on outside levels).

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