When can I let my girls free range?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by threecatmanor, May 8, 2009.

  1. threecatmanor

    threecatmanor New Egg

    Apr 29, 2009
    Hayesville, NC
    We have 6 week old pullets who have only just been released into their coop (last weekend). I am anxious to let them free range. I know some disagree with that-feeling perhaps that it is not safe. However, I really would like the chickens to have more freedom. They will only be "out" when we are home-mostly only weekends. So my question is, how long do they need to stay in the coop before I can let them out in our yard around the house? Thoughts are appreciated! Thank you!
  2. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    I'd give them a couple of weeks in the coop and enclosed run.

    Then if you must let them free range, start by letting them out about a half an hour before they would normally start to roost. Supervise.

    You can gradually increase the time in the evening.

    When they "run free" you have to be prepared for losses. Also, if they run free they don't always lay eggs in the coop.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I understand your feelings about free-ranging. When mine are big enough, I'll try it with some to see how it goes. But I'll wait until they are fully grown to try it. My main concern is my neightbor's dogs. They were running free when I bought this place, so I feel it is my responsibility to adjust to them, not move in then try to change the way things were. The reason I'll wait until they are fully grown is, if the rooster has enough self-confidence, he may quickly teach the dogs to leave his flock alone if the dogs want to be a problem. I understand the risks I am taking, as I think you do, but I'll be there for the first few encoounters so I can minimize my losses if it doesn't work out. It is always a personal decision.

    I agree with Mahonri with her procedure. They'll probably go back into the coop on their own at dusk. If they don't, you can entice them back in just before dusk with treats and lock them up for a few nights so they get inthe habit of coming in. Depending on your windows, it may be beneficial to have a light on in the coop at dusk to help guide them back in. A small light, like a night light, should be plenty.
  4. GaNewChick

    GaNewChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 12, 2009
    McDonough, Ga.
    Mine have free ranged for 1 1/2 years ~ 24/7/365. They roost in the trees by the garden. A neighbor behind us moved out and left a rooster and hen and we've been throwing them scratch feed a couple of times a day ever since. Mine are game fowl ~ so maybe their survival technique is a little different from other birds, I don't know. You can see pics on my BYC page.

    I have never lost one chicken to a predator. We are finishing the coop this weekend and plan on moving the girls in there. I'm feeling very anxious about this ~ in fact, I'm dreading locking them up. The reason we are doing this, is because they are laying eggs all over the yard, and by my next door neighbor's front door...[​IMG] I've read the horror stories about chickens getting killed while in a coop. I'm going to see if I can find a baby monitor at a garage sale so I can hear them at night. I never worry when they are sleeping in the trees and they stay in the wooded areas during the day, only coming out a few times to hunt for food and to stare at me through the back door to remind me they want some cracked corn. [​IMG]

    I agree that a couple of weeks is good. Let them out and only feed them their grain/treats inside the coop ~ never out in the yard when they are out playing.

    Good luck and keep us updated.
    Last edited: May 8, 2009
  5. citrusdreams

    citrusdreams Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 4, 2009
    I have a few different sections in my chicken pen. One attaches to the henhouse, but the sections away from that are pretty much enclosed with doors. We used dog kennels and just kept attaching them as we expanded. So when I have a new batch of chicks, I put a doghouse or some small encloure and confine them to one of the sections until they're "big enough" to play with the big ones. They've always gone back to their enclosure until I removed it and then they were forced into the henhouse. Mine have always liked their shelters so I've never had problems with them going back inside after dusk. Except for the guineas, who like to roost in trees when the weather is warmer. If you have some way of constructing a pen of sorts, I'd keep them in that until they're bigger.

    Maybe a pen made of chicken wire on all sides (even the bottom - use a bigger-holed bottom for droppings to not make a mess - or even a little eleated), framed with 2x2's? And if it's not a big mostrosity, you can keep it close to the house or where you can see it.

    But I have a lot of loud and obnoxious dogs who freely go outside and come back inside at will, and when they're outside, that keeps the predators (even neighbors' dogs) at bay. It's when they're sleeping inside that I might lose one, or two or three [​IMG] So my chickens all free range right now (except for lil chicks confined to the henhouse atm).

    I've never lost a chicken enclosed in a henhouse. However, I got over being worried about that as my flock increased and I felt it was important to give them space and air. Now the door is always open, even in the death of winter. But the pens are closed at night. We did have a problem once with a raccoon undoing the net overhead and we lost a few chicks that way. But once that was fixed, it stopped happening. I think there is such a thing as a secure henhouse with pen, I think it's quite safe. Once in a while that security can be breached but really, it's been quite sucessful for us.

    Just keep in mind that when you have chicks outside, you might have to line your pens with chicken wire (they might be small enough to get through spaces in your fencing). You might lose them to snakes which are attracted to the chicks' chirping. And unless you have overhead netting over your pens, you might lose them to predators that can fly in or climb over the fencing. Keep a close eye on your overhead netting because raccoon's can peel it off (if you're using netting).

    Did I even answer your question? [​IMG]
  6. threecatmanor

    threecatmanor New Egg

    Apr 29, 2009
    Hayesville, NC
    Thank you everyone for your replies. These are wonderful suggestions and I will try them out. This forum is great. Extremely helpful. Thank you.[​IMG]

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