Transitioning to Range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by CapitalChickens, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. CapitalChickens

    CapitalChickens In the Brooder

    Aug 22, 2014
    Hi everyone,

    I just acquired a small flock of four pullets (probably 12-16 weeks old): 2 chocolate orpingtons, one blue cochin bantam and one cream crested leg bar. I don't think they were range-raised for the first few months of their lives and they seem very nervous to come out of the coop (house + run) to eat grass, clover, and other yard goodies (read: eat my ticks!!). And they're small enough to be a bit flighty (especially the two chocolate orpingtons). I've been coaxing them out with a treat trail to the grass, but they seem to head back in after only a few minutes and anytime they get spooked, which is rather a lot since I have city noises (airplanes, dogs, etc) versus farm noises.

    It's so different than my short-term flock of three cockerels that we raised from 2 weeks old to 14 weeks old, who just loved being out, knew exactly how to come home to the coop at the end of the day, and weren't too into flying.

    Any tips?
  2. Anuthatch

    Anuthatch In the Brooder

    Apr 17, 2014
    Saratoga County, NY
    My experience is they will figure it out. No need to bait them. It's a big world out there and they are prey so they have every reason to be scared. [​IMG] Mother nature kicks in and they experiment with going in/out and soon they are happy (demanding) to be outside pecking and scratching.

    I'm transitioning one flock outside now and just letting them have the option and some safe spots to hide is getting them more adventurous. I leaned a few tree branches with leaves up against the fence for them so they have hiding places near the coop they can feel less exposed in. I also use boards for lean tos. Hiding places. They need to have the sense to protect themselves if they are free ranging so I didn't want to push them over their comfort zone too soon by forcing or making too much enticement. I observed my first flock was not even afraid of the cat for some time and he was stalking them licking his lips. But it eventually all kicked in and they get it now. Your's will come around!

    Have fun!
    1 person likes this.
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I agree with the above post, anytime you start letting birds out, they stay close to the coop/run at first, each day they will wander farther away. My flock free ranges 10-12 hours in the summer time, but with winter's shorter days, sometimes they don't get out at all, with spring and I start letting them out again, they exhibit the same patterns, staying close at first, a little farther later on.

    They are a little "chicken" at first.

    Mrs K
  4. CapitalChickens

    CapitalChickens In the Brooder

    Aug 22, 2014
    Thanks everyone! My girls are transitioning quite well.

    Now I wonder how I train them to use the egg boxes in the hen house if they have free range of the yard all day? I don't think they've started laying yet (they're just about the right age to start). But I also haven't searched the yard.

    Their egg boxes are full of that an indication they don't see it as a nest for laying?
  5. ShockValue

    ShockValue Songster

    Jan 10, 2010
    West Sound, Washington
    If they sleep in there, they will either not associate it as nesting place, or they will still lay there and you will always have dirty eggs.

    This is common and there are a lot of threads on "how to fix" from folks with much more experience than myself. But basically make sure there are no behavioral issues at roost time (alpha birds not allowing others to roost?), that roost bars are easy to get to and are higher than the nest boxes (chickens naturally try and roost as high as possible). If those things are sorted out, you might have to manually put your birds on the roost for a few nights at dusk for them to "get it".
  6. 3chickchicks

    3chickchicks Songster

    Jun 25, 2013
    N. Texas
    Mine were like yours at first. I got them mid summer. They didn't move very far from the coop until the winter killed the grass and they couldn't fill up on grass within 5 feet of the coop.
    They'll move about more as they become more comfortable.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: