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When to open up the pen door.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by tatersgirl913, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. tatersgirl913

    tatersgirl913 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 5, 2011
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    We have a large (50x60') penned in area for our girls which is shaded and has their hen house in it. We started with 6 girls and after about 2 weeks of laying we started leaving the pen door open early morning (5:30-6am) and leaving it open till dusk. The girls roamed the yard and woods and consistently returned to the hen house to lay and in the evenings to roost.

    6 weeks ago we got 7 additional birds that were 6 weeks old and not laying. We have only been letting the "originals" out from 5 till dusk because we cannot let the door open b/c the other birds will get out. (The farmer we got them from said to keep them in until they start laying.) The egg quality is suffering as they are eating more feed than normal; the yolks aren't as dark yellow and the shells are thinner (they do get oyster shell). They can still "roam" in their pen but they have it, obviously, well scratched and there's little time for new growth/bugs to inhabit because they are there all the time.

    My question is do I need to keep the other birds in until they lay? After 6 weeks of "routine" do you think they instinctually know where to lay or do you think they will start laying outside the hen house? I want all my birds free ranging - that is why we bought our own to start with. Has anyone had a similar situation?

    thanks for reading and commenting.

    Danielle
     
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    I think 6 weeks is plenty of time for them to figure out that the coop and pen are home. I usually only keep mine locked in for the first week or so.
     
  3. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

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    I personally keep newbies penned in for about two weeks. That seems to give them a sense of where "home" is. Then I let them free range with the other chickens.

    The only thing I think is a bit risky is the younger birds that are smaller are easy targets for hawks and other predators, but I like to let them free range because, like you mentioned, the eggs taste better. I also feel that the chickens really love the freedom. They enjoy their lives more when they get to free range.

    I also have a nice big yard, surrounded by woods. My chickens just love it!

    So, I'd let them all out. [​IMG]
     
  4. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    How old are the younger birds now?

    6 weeks is plenty of time to recognize home - but based on their size, they may be predator magnets. By 10-12 weeks they seem to not be such a huge target.
     
  5. tatersgirl913

    tatersgirl913 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 5, 2011
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    They are 12 or 13 weeks old now.
     
  6. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Then I'd let them out. [​IMG]
     
  7. N&MSchroeder

    N&MSchroeder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you have had them for six weeks, let them out. They know where home is. When they start laying, there may be an egg or two laid outside, but they will figure out where the nest boxes are real fast. [​IMG]
     
  8. JodyJo

    JodyJo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:x2....let them out. I have 16 that are 18-20 weeks and 3 that are 8 weeks...they all free range now...LET EM GO!! [​IMG]
     
  9. tatersgirl913

    tatersgirl913 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 5, 2011
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    Thanks all! My husband and I will discuss tonight when he gets home. I'm going to suggest letting them out starting tomorrow based on what you all have said!
     

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