Tips & tricks for free ranging chicks :)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by DCMuffin, Jul 16, 2016.

  1. DCMuffin

    DCMuffin Out Of The Brooder

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    Good morning! We currently have 11 hens and a roo. The chickens are (I think) approximately 13-14 weeks, though maybe I should post pics so you guys can confirm :).

    Anyway, we have about 16,000 sq. ft of space in the backyard that is fenced inside a 6 ft. high chain link fence. I really want to allow the birds free range from time to time but to be honest, I'm so nervous about them not going back into the coop/run at night. They have now been outside in their coop/run for about 2 months. The first night, I had to shoo them into the coop and put them up on their roost. Night two, I went out to do it again and they had already gone in and put themselves to bed. Thus far, this has happened every single night. But, is the same thing going to happen if I let them out into the yard? We have a lot of trees, and we have raccoons at night that come over the fence and into our yard so the thought of any of them roosting in a tree really scares me.

    I know, I'm probably more freakish than I should be, but I adore these ladies (and gent) and am so careful with them. I had chickens 20 years ago when I was much younger and to be honest, I didn't lock them in their coop or anything at night and never gave it a second thought. Now, I'm a nervous wreck and set a timer on my phone to make sure I close things up right at dark LOL.

    We are releasing three (wild) mallard ducks next Friday, that came to us when they were orphaned back in May. Until then, I can't just leave the run door open but once they are released, I would really like to try free ranging for a bit late afternoons until dark. Any tips and tricks you can offer would be great!

    Thanks so much!! :)
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Mine have always returned to the coop. This year's batch was free ranging at 4 weeks. Sometimes younger ones can be goofy about going inside their coop. What I've noticed is they are outside a lot later than the adults and I think they wait so long that the inside of the coop is too dark for them to go in, they are scared. Yours should return to the run at dusk.

    Otherwise you could start a routine of feeding them their favorite treats to lure them into the run when you want to, call them or shaking a can will work as a sign it's time for treats, and you can them locked back in the run when you are ready instead of waiting for them.

    You could try a nightlight in the coop, or keep physically putting them in there until they mature a bit and start going in earlier.
     
  3. DCMuffin

    DCMuffin Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you. So...they actually DO go in early and in fact, are all roosted in their coop at about 8:15 PM, just as the sun begins its way down. They have been fabulous at putting themselves to bed from day two. I'm just more concerned about them finding their way back there if they are out in the yard. I suppose I'm overthinking too much and not giving them enough credit. There are days when I'm certain my chickens may be smarter than me [​IMG]
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Mine will start out tentative and will range short distances initially, every day they get a bit farther out until the reach the general limit of how far they will go out. So the first time they should stick close to the coop.
     
  5. DCMuffin

    DCMuffin Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you. I hope that this will happen and that I'm just making way more out of it than I should be. I'm such a worry wart lol
     
  6. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    This is exactly how mine do as well! It seems the more of them there are, the more adventurous they are.

    As long as they are homed for a few days to where they should be, they see that as their safe place.

    My last brood lined up at the back door waiting to get in, it was the cutest thing ever. I ALMOST regretted having to move them to the coop.

    The advice about calling them with treats is also good.

    As a fellow worry wart, "Yay for timers"! The other morning I woke up and one of my BR's was hanging out already. So I thought... oh no I locked her out last night. To my surprise when I went to let everyone else out, I had apparently forgot to lock them up. We are in PREDATOR country. Then I remembered... oh ya, I was waiting for someone to head in still before I locked up. We were lucky that night!

    It doesn't sound like you should have a problem with them going back to roost in coop when you are ready to free range.

    Good luck!
     
  7. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    On the days I think that, I just remember....

    At NO point in my life have I ever saw poo come out of something else and thought oh I will have a taste of that! [​IMG]
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Relax, all will be well!
     
  9. DCMuffin

    DCMuffin Out Of The Brooder

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    [​IMG]

    I'm not sure why, but this calms me lol
     
  10. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    One thing you can do is start letting them out of the run an hour or two before bedtime. They won't go far, they won't lose sight of the coop, and they will put themselves back in with no problems. I'm sure of it. Chickens are creatures of habit (have you ever tried changing anything on them?) and have been in the coop long enough to be "homed" to it as their roosting place. Unless they get scared out of the coop, they won't change their minds.
     

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