When to "kick them out of the house"?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Chris623, Aug 8, 2009.

  1. Chris623

    Chris623 Songster

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    My "girls" are coming up on their 6 week birthday. They have their nice new coop and what I consider a nice sized run to play in during the day. It isn't crowded yet. But as they grow larger it will become more crowded. I plan on free ranging these "girls", but live in the woods with a lot of Owls and Red-tailed Hawks about. [​IMG] At 6 weeks, they are pretty easy pickins' for such predators. I'd like to wait until they are pretty big before letting them out into the big wide world. I've never kept chickens before and don't know when it will be safe to "kick them out of the house". (I realize Owls and Hawks can kill a full-sized chicken, but I'm just thinking the chickens would be larger and stronger and could stand a chance of running or dodging if they were attacked.) Any suggestions?
     
  2. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

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    My Coop
    My hens have access to their yard from their run which is covered. We do have a Red Tailed hawk around. When they see it they head for their run. When they were younger I had a smaller yard for them and put netting over it. How many chickens do you have?
     
  3. Chris623

    Chris623 Songster

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    I have 23. Mix of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Black Star and one "packing peanut" of unknown "brand". [​IMG]

    My "girls" have a 7' x 23' covered run. I'm just a little chicken (is that a bad choice of words?) to let them out too soon. I'm reasonably sure they'll come home to roost. They were put in their coop at a little over 3 weeks of age and have had access to the run for the past two weeks. They put themselves up the first night they were allowed in the run and have done so every night since.
     
  4. Chris623

    Chris623 Songster

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    So no suggestions as to what would be a safe age to "turn 'em loose"?
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    As far as hawks and owls go, there is no safe age. You will always be taking a risk. I do understand your desire to free range them, but it purely depends on your risk tolerance level.

    What is the brooding season in your location for hawks and owls? When are they looking to keep their hawk and owl chicks fed? You might wait until they have left their nests and the juveniles are on their own to let your chicks out to improve your odds a little. The hungry juveniles will be looking for easy meals on their own so this may not help that much, but I think it will help your odds a little. At least the experienced hunters will not be hunting that much.

    They will grow a lot between now and about 16 weeks age. Keeping them in after that probably won't help that much as far as size increase.

    Good luck!
     
  6. juliect

    juliect Songster

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    I have read to not let them free range until six months of age...when they develop a bit more sense [​IMG]

    My SS & EEs are almost 4 months old & I let them out an hour or two before sunset, when I can be with them. When it comes time to roost I still have to guide them back to the coop & show them the open door (they seem to forget where the door is).

    Last week, even with me in the yard, a Cooper's Hawk attacked them. Thankfully he lost his grip on my EE and she survived with only a few lost feathers. But now they have the instinct to hide when a large bird flies over....now if they could just remember where the door is [​IMG]

    So my suggestion would be to let them outside in short time segments...when you can be there to be their momma hen.
     
  7. Marlinchaser

    Marlinchaser Songster

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    There is no SAFE time to let them out, I have chicks freeranging (with mom of course), so she keeps them close to cover, but once mom decides to go back to being hen and no longer watching over chicks they are on thier own. So at 6-8 weeks they are on thier own. Maybe they do better because the learned from a hen how to avoid trouble. I also have Guineas that scream bloody murder if anything appears in the sky(hawk/helicopter/airplane) you know all those things that may swoop down and grab them.
    We have a lot of helicopters, and havent lost a bird to them yet. [​IMG]
     
  8. La Banan

    La Banan Songster

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    Hi! I have two chicks that are almost six weeks old. They were hatched by a hen so she protects them. Our gang gets out everyday about 7:30 am until they head themselves home before dusk. The mother hen (probably not the bio-ma but she thinks she is) watches them carefully still. We have hawks, eagles, foxes etc... They are all very alert. We go outside when we hear them kick up a fuss. They all, including chicks, know to run for cover and do so. We know that we might lose some to predators and we are willing to take that chance. They seem to love their free-wheeling lives and we enjoy seeing them ranging around the property. It is definitely more worrisome since the mean rooster went to freezer camp but also more enjoyable for all. One thing worth noticing is that if you buy heritage breeds they really still have their predator radar on high. We bought the originals last year as day olds and kept them in for about six weeks I guess. With the two that hatched in the coop we brought one in for a couple of days because it was lagging behind and needed a boost. Mama never blinked when we brought it out again - just carried on as if it hadn't left.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2009
  9. juliect

    juliect Songster

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    I agree...the best way to raise chicks is with a hen. Now that my flock is started, any future additions will consist of fertilized eggs & a broody hen. The hens I owned in the past made raising chicks look easy...but its a LOT of work!
     
  10. figsonwheels

    figsonwheels In the Brooder

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    We let our 12 day old chicks out for supervised PE every evening for about 2 hours while the big girls are free ranging. They stay pretty close to their pen while the big girls roam 20-30 feet away. The big girls have been free ranging this way every evening since they were 16 weeks, but we're always there. I don't think we'll ever let any of them out alone as they tend to wander in the neighbor's yard and we even found one in the road.

    Our open air coop & run is 18x8 for the 12 big girls, so they have plenty of space. We'll add 6 or 8 more feet to make a 24 or 26x8 coop and run when we integrate all the chickens in a few months.
     

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