The Down Side of Free Ranging Chickens


11 Years
Aug 16, 2008
If I had my way, all of my poultry would free range year round, except on the coldest days when frostbitten combs are probable. Thanks to having made the decision to have a "better" half, who happens to have a green thumb and loves his garden more than he loves my chickens (seriously, what is wrong with him? ), I am forced to keep my flock(s), the ones that don't jump the fence that is, confined until the garden is pretty much done for the year.

So, from September until usually around March, my beloved chickens have control of the property.

The pros of free ranging, IMO definitely out weigh the cons, but there are a few problems we've found that have cropped up in our free ranging experiences. I thought I'd share the "rundown" of problems with all of you, in hopes of helping some of you decide to free range or not to free range.

1) Chickens have no sense of ownership. More precisely, they don't think YOU their human, have rights to anything. Everything you see in the yard becomes theirs. They have a way of marking their property, too, by smearing their poo over whatever it is you might be wanting to use.

2) Chickens demand to know everything you are doing. Planning on digging a hole? Plant a post? Did you get the chicken seal of approval yet? If not, you best wait until you do! Going to mow the grass? There's a parade of chickens behind you, making sure you don't miss a blade of grass!

3) Chickens have predators. Sadly, this is an awful truth. I lost my favorite Silkie, PJ, to a chicken hawk. So far, he's been our only predator loss in a little over a year. A good rooster is a must for free ranging, as he'll warn your little ladies to run for cover!

4) Hidden Nests. Sad, but true. Once they get that taste of freedom, they don't want to waste one minute of it by returning to the coop to drop their cackle berries. We've found, at the minimum, 4 hidden nests this year.

5) Broodies without permits! That's right, little Mama's to be will run off and hide, and you think they've been the victim of Number 3, only to find them a week after they've disappeared on a clutch of 11 or more eggs! This happened to us just today. It's also the main reason for my post! My white smooth feathered Sizzle disappeared a bit over a week ago. Couldn't find her anywhere. Today, E found her sitting under a brush pile, in the pasture field, sitting on 11 eggs!!!

6) Any Animal Feed is For the Chickens. Ok, maybe not, but tell them that! Feeding the dogs when the chickens go to roost is the only sure fire way of knowing the dogs got to eat any of it!

7) You're only purpose is to bring them treats! Chickens think everytime you come out of the house, it must be to bring them some goodies! If you come out empty handed, they will doggedly follow you everywhere until you give in and get them some treats.
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Maybe you could fence the gardens.
I have 10 young chooks who free range w/the Scovies since they learned to jump the fence.
It started w/4 EE pullets who I call the Wiley Girls. I got sooo tired of chasing after them and putting them back into the chook yard till I realized they knew how to jump back in. Now, if a chook can't figure out how to jump back in they aren't allowed to free range. I have lost two though, a pretty BO and a Black Ameraucana Roo, to the dangers of the back woods in just a few months & noticed that both chooks were lost when they didn't stay close to the Scovies and ranged out on their own.

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