When to free range?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by fishboy1, May 13, 2011.

  1. fishboy1

    fishboy1 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 28, 2011
    Our 6-7 week old chickens are loving the outside run. All but one weirdo are fully feathered out and look like adult chickens.

    Here is the rub. Over half of them are too dumb to go back inside their coop at night. Some even stand out in the rain instead of going back inside their cozy coop. They have food, water, nest boxes, & roosts inside and yet they huddle on the ground well after dark. We have to go and round them up and put them back inside the coop.
    This is after they spend most of the day doing a conga line up and down the ramp into the coop so they know where it is.

    I would like to start letting them out into a much larger fenced area but I doubt that they will make it back inside the run, much less the coop at night.

    Is this normal? I thought chickens were going to want to go back inside their coop at dusk?

    There is no way I will be able to chase down the chickens in the larger area or even find them if they decide to hide in the bushes or under the tractor in the barn. The larger area is not totally predator proof the way the coop and run are so leaving them out at night would be a bad idea. Lots of dogs/coyotes/hawks/cats around here.

    Will they eventually "get it" and go home to roost at night?

    Thanks!

    chicken rookie.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Have you tried leaving them locked in the coop for about a week so they get used to it being home before you let them in the run? If you put them in the coop with access to the run, they don't know where they are supposed to sleep. We lovingly call them bird brains, not for a lack of intelligence, but because their intelligence operates at a different level than ours.

    I always leave mine in the coop for at least a week before I give them access to the run and never have a problem with them going inside at night.

    For what it's worth, my brooder raised chicks usually do not start roosting at night until they are about 10 to 12 weeks old. Until then, they sleep in a pile on the floor in a corner of the coop.
     
  3. Jferlisi

    Jferlisi i dont eat chicken!!!!

    Nov 2, 2010
    Menifee CA
    Did you keep them in the coop before turning them loose in the run or was it an instant let out in the run? I would say that they are still too young to let out to free range, i would keep them in for another few weeks and if your coop is big enough i would lock them in it for a few days so they get the idea of thats where they need to go.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Northwest Arkansas
    I forgot to say, I usually let mine totally free range from about 8 weeks on. They could go before that, but I figure they are of a good size to be hawk bait until they are about 8 weeks old. I'm probably just being overprotective.

    My broody raised chicks free range with Mama from about Day 2 or 3 and are sometimes on their own (after she weans them) much earlier than 8 weeks and they do OK, but they had Mama teach them how to take care of themselves.
     
  5. mdbokc

    mdbokc Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 22, 2009
    Oklahoma County, OK
    Herd them in. Use a white PVC pipe, easy to see. Mine is standard 10' length. They respond well being herded, not driven, into where you want them. Mine do not fear the pipe after the second evening. They know what it is about and what they are expected to do.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  6. AMChandler

    AMChandler Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 24, 2010
    Missouri
    Is it dark in the coop? They can't see in the dark. If I dont have a light on and/or they aren't in there before dusk, mine won't go into the dark coop.
     
  7. fishboy1

    fishboy1 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 28, 2011
    Hmm. They were locked in the coop for about a week before they got the keys to the run.

    First couple nights we left the light on. Half still stayed outside and the ones inside would stay up late partying and pecking each other so we quit leaving the light on.

    Guess I can try leaving the light on until just after dark for a while and shut it off at bedtime after the door is locked.
     

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