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When and how to free range?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by hensandchickscolorado, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. I have 5 9-week old chicks who have been happily living in their coop & run for 4 weeks now. They have never been allowed out onto the lawn, but they get TONS of fruit, veggie and lawn scraps as well as bugs. The run is about 12 x 12.

    The questions are:

    1. Do I need to let them free range? I do want healthy eggs and chickens...are scraps enough? Can they live in the run forever?

    2. If it's a good idea to let them into the yard, are they old enough? Or should I just wait until they are actually laying?

    3. How do I do it the first time? I'm thinking of opening the door of the run about an hour before bedtime so that they will go back in when it's time. I am nervous about having to chase them all over the yard to get them back in. Or, maybe just sending out 2 so that they don't stray too far?

    Any tips or varying opinions would be appreciated!

  2. hennyannie

    hennyannie Songster

    Mar 12, 2011
    North Carolina
    I can't free range my chickens even though I live on a big farm because of too many dogs in our area. What I do is use chainlink lot panels and add to my run to allow them to get grass.
    My run is 20x10 and the coop is 8x10 so I don't feel bad if they have to stay in alot, it's safe and they get veggies left over from the garden.I do have some escape artist, but they are easy to round up with food. (They will chase a bread bag for miles!LOL)
  3. SIMPleChick

    SIMPleChick Songster

    Mar 10, 2011
    If you worry about them free ranging and want to mainly keep them in the run and coop, I would let them out for like an hour a day at first, to let them run and stretch their legs and eat the bugs and grass. They know where to go to bed at night so maybe when you get home from work, let them out and they should go back into the coop at night, if they know where the door is, that is....I worried about mine being in my back yard but I clip their wings and they have a blast. They put themselves to bed at night and I just close the door. I do not let them stay out if I leave or am not at home, so they can stay in the run. I love to watch them in the yard and they love it....But that's just me....
  4. MuskokaChick

    MuskokaChick Chirping

    Feb 20, 2011
    Muskoka Region Ontario
    I got my first set at 15 weeks. I kept them in the coop for 1.5 weeks, (we still had melting snow) then I let them out into the run. I was nervous to let them out, nerves on end. I would let them out if I was sitting there and then get nervous when they got too far from the coop and then would run around getting them back in.

    Then the nerves started to settle. I would let them out more and more....then after asking on this site and reading other posts of those who free range, I decided to let them out once I got all the eggs for the day (they usually lay by noon) then I open the run and and say "see ya" I did spend an afternoon going out on the deck and having treats every so often...they would come running. Now they come running at the sound of the sliding glass door open. At 9:30 at night I walk out to the coop and all of them are on their roost and I shut down. Next day do it all over again.

    I got my second flock last wed, and I left them in the run for 1 day (with the older hens, which are only about 29 weeks) and day 2 after I got eggs (around 1pm) I let them ALL out...the nerves flared because I didn't know if the new hens would make it back to the coop. It has been a week and every night all the hens are IN the coop.

    It takes time to get used to it. I just keep their food and water in the coop and open the run so they can get back in to drink...They KNOW that's their safe place. [​IMG]

    Good Luck...and sorry, I don't have the answer about how old they should be to do this?

  5. chickenbythesea

    chickenbythesea Songster

    Jun 15, 2011
    Nova Scotia
    I too want to free range in moderation... we live by the ocean and there are lots of arial predators that I worry about. However, quite a number of my neighbors free range almost 24/7 and most have never lost a chicken. I too worry about getting them back into bed at night. I think I will wait until they get the hang of going in to bed from their run before I let them out. We're still in the catch'em up at night stage. I will be a nervous wreck the first time I let them out of the run... you probably will too, but like everyone else's chickens, our will probably have no issues and we'll have worried for nothing. [​IMG]

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