What Age Can Chickens Free Range?

pwog

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jun 8, 2011
28
3
34
Hi,

I have searched the forums, but could not find an answer. My chickens are 10 weeks old - they are getting so big! They have been in their coop and attached run since they were 5 weeks old. I want to let them out of their run (when we are home and watchful). At what age can I let them free? One of my concerns is how difficult will it be to get them back in?

Thanks!
P
 

Illia

Crazy for Colors
10 Years
Oct 19, 2009
16,240
247
336
Forks, WA
I gradually get them used to it. As soon as they're able to leave a heat lamp, assuming you're not using a broody, I allow them to leave the coop into a temporary run for weeks, then when they finally figure that home is home, which is a VERY easy concept to get them to understand, I remove the temporary run. I still fence my chickens in, just, in a very, very large fenced area
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Yours sound just at a good age to start. Since you already have a run - Do it! They're already pretty glued to the coop as home, so they'll return.



Under a broody hen is best of course because the chick starts out free-ranged. If it wanders, it will get scared, lonely, or called back on by mommy.
 
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,515
20,796
907
Southeast Louisiana
Yes, yours are ready. I suggest you start out by letting them out about an hour before bedtime so you can be with them and gain confidence in them free ranging. That is more for your benefit than theirs. By now, they should see the coop as home and go back there for bedtime on their own. You can train them to come back to the run with treats, but you need to work on that before you start to depend on that. Sometimes getting them back in the coop and run can be a problem other than bedtime, but at bedtime they want to go home.

One thing I would watch for. Chickens do not have a real good grasp of the concept of gate. Usually when I let mine out for the first time or two, a few get stuck on the wrong side of the fence. Even if they went in and out of the gate several times, when it is bedtime they want to go to the coop so bad, they will stand next to the fence and try to get through instead of walking around to the gate. I've had to guide a few of mine around to the gate a night or two before they can find it on their own at bedtime.
 

Mamaboid

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jul 21, 2011
47
7
24
Muncy Valley, PA
If you are hesitant about leaving them out and having them return at night, try the guinea method. Leave about half of them out and keep half of them in. The ones that are out will want to stay close to the ones that are in and the ones that are in will watch the ones that are out and learn from them. Do this for a few days and then you can let them all out and they will return with no problem.
 

pwog

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jun 8, 2011
28
3
34
Thank you everyone for your suggestions. I haven't let them out yet, but I will soon and I'll let you know how it goes. Irene put a stop to my plans...

P
 

Beekissed

Free Ranging
13 Years
Feb 14, 2008
22,974
5,086
682
This world is not my home.
Unless you have good protection from both...and then you can free range as soon as they are fully feathered. If one has an older flock, one can integrate and free range as soon as the little ones can climb the ramp into the big coop...usually 2-3 weeks.
 

saladin

Songster
10 Years
Mar 30, 2009
2,831
148
221
the South
Quote:
Of course your first statement is true; I just don't call that free-ranging. As I use the phrase both terms have meaning: Free means Free, Range means Range. If the Range is confined then it isn't Free.
 

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