When to free range

Katielovell530

Chirping
Apr 24, 2020
35
38
59
Grass Valley, California
I hope this isn’t a silly question. My girls are 7 weeks old and they have been in their coop now for 2 weeks. I let them out of their coop and they have a fenced in area. But I am wanting them to free range on my lawn but it’s not fenced in and there are predators such as coyotes and hawks in my area. I’m wondering if I should wait till they’re bigger to let them free range or should I let them so they get use to coming back? I’ve attached pictures of where they’re at right now and of my yard of where they would be free ranging.
 

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Starburst

Jesus Loves You
May 25, 2020
3,511
39,468
866
Western Washington
I usually start free-ranging at around 3-5 months, but when the chicks are younger, at around 7-10 weeks, I start letting them out to free-range as long as I am with them. So basically, free-range is probably okay at that age so long you are with them and making sure that they don't wander away somewhere and get hurt or eat something poisonous. Otherwise, you may want to free-range when they are older.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,245
20,001
857
Southeast Louisiana
Are they putting themselves to bed in that coop every night or are they trying to sleep in that fenced area? If they are reliably going to that coop at night don't worry about them not wanting to return every night. But that's only when it is getting dark. They will not necessarily return there during the day.

If you haven't done it you can train them to come to your call. Use the same bucket every time and use a call like "here chicky, chicky". Rattle a treat like Black Oil Sunflower Seeds or corn in that bucket. Then toss the treat to them as you rattle the bucket and call them. It should not be long before they come when called. That can come in really handy.

Something that has happened a few times. The first two or three nights you want to be out there at dark. They might get confused and need help. I've had chickens that desperately wanted to return to the coop when it was getting dark. But they have no concept of gate. Although they only needed to walk ten or so feet to get to the same gate they had used during the day they just stayed where they were, desperately trying to get through the fence to go to the coop. That drive to return to the coop is so strong they can't think. In some ways it's funny but they might really need your help.

The age to start free ranging is up to you. I've had broody hens wean their chicks at three weeks and those chicks could handle it. In some ways yours are "free-ranging" in that large fenced in area. Any time you free range they are vulnerable to predators, whether they are chicks or full grown chickens. Smaller chickens may be more at risk from smaller predators but they are all still vulnerable. There is no age where it becomes safe. It's when are you willing to take that risk.
 

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