Thinking about letting them "loose" (aka really free range )

Chickaroos

In the Brooder
7 Years
Mar 6, 2012
91
2
43
I have a acre of land and right now I have my 12, 14 week old chicks in a rather large chicken wire fence area. The love it there and since day 1 they have put themselves to bed in their coop every night at sunset. The last few days when I go out to check on them and give them treats, one or two have hopped the fence and is just hanging out in the yard, not to far from their fenced area. I can always get them to go back in because they follow me around like little lost puppies :) So my question is, since my yard is not fully fenced, would they be ok to go free range around the house for a few hours before bed time? Or is it just a bad idea? We have 3 dogs so I think thats the reason why I dont seen preditors, but obveously there are cats in the area and I have spotted a fox ONCE and my yellow lab scared the poop outta her and she has never been back.
I guess im just worried about them not being able to find their way back to the coop at night, then wondering off... I have had such good luck with my first family of chicks that I would hate to loose one or two...
Opinions please :)
 

gickelvolk

Songster
8 Years
Oct 1, 2011
142
9
109
Nebraska
Greetings!

I wouldn't let ours free-range outside of a controlled area..... personal preference, I guess. you have every reason to be concerned about the safety of your flock outside of a restricted area.

As for the dogs, can they be trusted alone around your chickens? We also have 3 older dogs and they have been part of raising the chickens since they were bought as chicks last year. The main thing to consider with the dogs is that the dogs understand that the chickens are part of "the pack". Our Border Collie (11 y.o.) has taken to protecting the flock, the old Border Collie mix (16 y.o.) is very tolerant of them, and our Irish setter female (10 y.o.) is just fascinated with them since they were "babies". They understand that roughness is not tolerated and that the chickens are part of the "pack".

We live in town and have 1/3 acre fenced yard (privacy fence), that allows us to free-range our hens all day. The ladies put themselves to bed at dark, with some oversight from "their" dogs.

Our main predators are Red-Tail hawks, cats, and the occasional possum..... The dogs ensure the cats and possums only come around late at night when our chickens are safe in their coop.

... just a couple of thoughts and experiences
 

CrzyCknLady

Chirping
7 Years
Apr 13, 2012
125
4
93
When I try to get into my run, my flock comes running to the door and escape as soon as I open it. I do let them wander around in the yard a bit but I don't leave them without a human (whether it be me, my husband or one of my kids) to keep an eye on them. I'm not legally supposed to let them free-range but as long as I am outside to keep an eye on them, I let them wander around. The kids are great at chasing them back to the run and generally, they go back if I tell them too and shoo them in. My biggest problem lately is keeping them out of my garden beds! I need to block that off very soon!

I wouldn't just let them free range without someone watching them or at least close by though. My neighbor has several cats who love to use my yard as a litter box.......I went out to lock the chickens in the other night and heard a noise in the woods behind the coop.....one of my neighbors cats.....and quite frankly, I don't trust her cats. I also saw a fox a couple of blocks up the street - I worry about it coming into my yard at some point so I definitely keep an eye out for that too.....
 

KeilFamilyFarm

In the Brooder
7 Years
May 22, 2012
62
1
46
Kitsap County, Washington
I guess I'll be the odd one out,

We do let our truely free-range. We live on 5 acres, 13 miles out of town surrounded by unoccupied countryside. We have 1 neighbor that is a couple parcels away from us and thats it. Ours free range all over about the 1/2 acre that is surrounding the house and don't go much further then that. I leave my dogs out with them and I leave the front door open if I'm in the house. They are always locked up if I leave the property.

We haven't lost one yet
 

Melinda35

Songster
9 Years
Oct 1, 2010
193
11
101
Texas
I have always allowed my chickens to free range sun up to sun down when they are about three months old. I don't have a predator problem as my dog takes care of that. It sounds like your run is not covered as you mentioned a couple flew into the backyard already. I think once you let them in there they will go anytime they want. They will learn to fly over the fence. To me it doesn't sound like it will be long and they will all be there whether you want them to be or not. I don't think it is going to be much different than what you have now unless you cover your run. I would make sure they can't get on a road and get run over. Mine learned to go under the gate and would stay by the fence but never on the road. I think the high speed and noise of the traffic scared them so they kept their distance.
 

Gofygure

Songster
8 Years
Mar 4, 2012
222
17
136
Pennsylvania
My Coop
I used to let mine free range over 25 acres, but about two weeks back a fox got four of them. I was already planning to build them a run, but now they're confined to a little fenced in area until I can put it up.

I guess what it comes down to is: is it worth the risk? For me the answer is no.
 

luvmyEs

Songster
8 Years
Dec 9, 2011
170
2
131
North Carolina
I guess I'll be the odd one out,

We do let our truely free-range. We live on 5 acres, 13 miles out of town surrounded by unoccupied countryside. We have 1 neighbor that is a couple parcels away from us and thats it. Ours free range all over about the 1/2 acre that is surrounding the house and don't go much further then that. I leave my dogs out with them and I leave the front door open if I'm in the house. They are always locked up if I leave the property.

We haven't lost one yet :thumbsup
This is exactly us with our land and dogs! I feel like my chickens are happier free ranging.
 

n8ivetxn

Songster
8 Years
Nov 15, 2011
1,574
65
181
Elma, Washington
We let ours free range too.... I know the risks and accept them, haven't lost a bird - yet....the girls know where their nest boxes are.... They usually don't wonder too far, maybe 1/2 to 1 acre area. I have seen a fox up on a nearby ridge (my little bull was watching him) and we have a pair of bald eagles that visit the area on occasion.

I just feel like the birds are happier, it's a natural life for them. - And, yes, it will cut your feed costs dramatically! (especially if you're very good at chicken math!)
 

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