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When do they learn where "home" is?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by newfmadible, Apr 17, 2009.

  1. newfmadible

    newfmadible Out Of The Brooder

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    I want to let my 4 wk old chicks out in the grass for a bit but I am afraid I won't be able to catch them to bring them back inside. They are in a big box in the garage right now but it is so nice out and the grass looks so inviting that I want to let them out. Should I just wait until they are older? I have 22 chicks and they are all doing really well. I am afraid to jinx things. I am thinking of transitioning them to their coop this weekend. I had planned to let them free range but now that I have them I am afraid I won't be able to get them back if I let them free. Maybe it is just too soon. Is there anyone on here who lets their chickens free range without the benefit of an enclosed run? While they are really young I would stay out with them. Maybe I should make some kind of temporary intermediate run until they are ready to fully free range. (My husband will NOT be happy about that idea!) What to do??
     
  2. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    Make a little wire cage for them, for now, and follow gritsars advice...
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  3. swtamour

    swtamour Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi, I kept my chicks in the coop for 2 weeks straight so they know that's home. Then I just open the door one day and they can go out freely if they choose. The first day, they hung outside for the whole day and I kept wondering if they knew how to go back inside. But I didn't have to worry, once the sun was setting, they started to walk towards the coop and found their way back into the coop. Lately though, they just go outside for like 30 minutes and go back into the coop for the rest of the day. Not sure why but it's their choice.
     
  4. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    After two weeks of allowing my 2 1/2 week old chicks outside every day and herding them back on to the screened porch when playtime was over, they would line up at the screened door to be let in. They were under constant supervision when they were little.
    When we finally got their coop finished and they were free ranging all day, they would still line up at the screened door thinking that was still home.
    We had to lock them in the coop for two full weeks before they got the message that the coop was now home.
    Now as one year olds, I open the coop door in the morning and they tumble out. They free range everywhere on this farm, 80 acres, with me checking on them a couple times a day or when my rooster lets me know there's a problem.
    At night, they head to the coop. All I have to do is go out, do a head count and lock them in.
     
  5. newfmadible

    newfmadible Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 4, 2008
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    Thanks for the replies! So maybe if I move them to the coop this weekend and just leave them in there for the next week or two when I do let them out they will know to go back in at night? I suppose I could rig up some kind of chicken wire pen right outside the door for them to stay in at first. Hmmm. I will have to think on this. Gritstar I am glad to hear you don't have an enclosed and covered run. I was beginning to think everyone must do that and that I had better change my idea of "free range".
     
  6. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Quote:Free ranging is an individual choice. You have to be able to accept that you will lose chickens over the years. My chickens are happy. When I do lose some it will be with the knowledge that they had an excellent life.
    The little ones are most prone to predators, so you have to give them supervision. A pen for the young ones is not a bad idea. As they grow older they gain confidence and so do you. [​IMG]
    I consider my rooster an excellent protector of the girls and it helps to have a dog that's very alert (read: barks his fool head off) too.
    P.S. For help in herding the young ones back in, consider employing an "evil broom". For ours, it was the porch broom they were scared of. They weren't afraid of the house broom, only the porch one. To this day, they see the evil broom and they head for the sanctuary of their coop.
     
  7. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    People who free range invariably fall into two groups:

    1. Those that accept the vagaries of it.
    Chickens wander off, get eaten, die of disease or something they ate, set up camp in the neighbors trees, whatever. You have to accept that, especially if following them around to supervise is impractical.
    We'd call these folks pragmatists.

    2. Those that cannot accept it.
    They wonder why their chickens hate them, or seem ungrateful, or why the cruel fox snags them, or what to do to get them to come on command, etc. They succumb to the romantic notion of chickens running free, "Nature unbound before them," etc.
    We might call these folks idealists.

    I personlly think of chickens as livestock, and as such they should be controlled. I'm more in line with the 'range' part of it than with the 'free' part. It's like that for me.

    In controlling them I prefer the idea of management. Give them space, but make it space that is under your control to the best that you can arrange it. Fortunately, chickens are in agreement with this and will stay pretty close to the food, water and shelter once they learn where it is.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  8. azelgin

    azelgin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Davaroo, I always enjoy your brand of wisdom.
    Quote:Actually, around here, they do.

    We're still the "Old West" and open range. If you don't want "Cowboy Steve's" heifers in your front yard, or on the front porch, It's up to you to fence them out. There are actual state building standards for fences, that put the liability for damages on the stock owner, if they get through your fence and eat your rose bushes.

    I probably fall in to your category 1-b. My chickens free range all day. Locked up at night. There's not much that interests the chickens, that's more than a few hundred feet from the coop, so they're pretty easy to keep an eye on. We used to only let them out when we were home, but they go out every day now. Are they safe? Time will tell and we'll deal with the consequences.
     
  9. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    Actually, around here, they do.

    Okay, okay so somewhere they do, but you knew exactly what I meant. Dang! [​IMG] But thanks for the heads up... correction made.


    "Time will tell and we'll deal with the consequences..."

    The pragmatists motto, right there. Yep, you're one.

    {{{ By the way, I love the avatar. Very subtle, "dripping" with nuance. }}}​
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  10. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Quote:We do too. At any one time there are at least 100 head on this place. They belong to a neighboring farmer. We lease the pastures to him because we don't have time to tend cattle ourselves right now. If it weren't for the yard fence they'd be eating my rose bushes. As it is, getting off the place without slinging cow **** on your vehicle is a challenge.
    As for getting my chickens home before dusk, all I do is step out the kitchen door and holler "c'mon girls!!" Instant chickens! They know where home is and they know me.
     

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