will free roaming chickens go home at night?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by notsostupidafterall, Feb 28, 2009.

  1. notsostupidafterall

    notsostupidafterall Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 28, 2009
    Central Utah
    My husband is building a wonderful coop for about a 14-20birds. He also flys kites of roller pigeons. And raises horses. The new coop will have two sections, so that as the birds age, we can seperate out the older ones headed for our dinner table.

    Anyway, here is my question. We live on 20 acres, and would like the chickens to be able to have the run of the place during the day. But, we are very rural and near the mountains so predators are definitaly a problem. Do we need an enclosed run, or can we let them roam during the day and then lock then up at night. We are planning on slow training them to use the coop, keep them in the coop for a while, then a small area around the coop, and then let then have the run of the place.

    Also, will they lay their eggs all around the place, or will they go back into the coop to lay their eggs.

    I hope we can let them roam, for all the usual benefits to us and the property and the chickens, but if we need to, we will build a run. I don't think we are up to using a chicken tractor.

    thanks in advance.................Michele
  2. nzpouter

    nzpouter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 19, 2009
    new zealand
    they will go home as long as they know where home is. Some will lay outside, but most will lay in nest boxes you provided.

    What sort of predators do you have around you?
  3. Lollipop

    Lollipop Chillin' With My Peeps

    Good morning Notso!! I have a similar situation with 23 acres. Yes they will return to the roost they are used to at night. Once in a while they may decide a nice tree is a better choice, but they can be reprogrammed by keeping them in the pen for 2-3 days. Sometimes you may have rogues that are hard headed and like the tree no matter what.

    As for the egg laying, pen them long enough to get them used to laying in the nests provided and use a nest egg in each box. That will ensure their interrest in laying where they are supposed to.

    Predators are tough to predict. I recently moved my flock to my new/old digs in GA. Before I moved them I was in my own little 2 acre paradise and the city grew up around me. With all the developement predators moved though my chicken yard at an alarming rate. Even with all my birds in secure pens, predators found a way to keep the flock small. They always take your best birds. No pen is completely predator proof.

    In GA, I`m totally rural on the slope of Indian Grave Mountain. Since September I`ve lost 3 hens, a rooster, and 2 geese. This is getting to be a long post, so I`ll leave you with one thought. Overkill on security is not enough.
  4. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    First off, Happy to meet you! Glad you're here!! [​IMG] Hope you enjoy our company!! [​IMG] WELCOME to BYC!!!

    A run at the entry will be very, very useful. It's not a necessity, but there will be days, times and reasons why you will not want them running around loose, including when you know there's something stalking them. There'll be other times too. Including when they're younger and you keep them penned at the coop for a while, it totally reinforces the idea that THIS IS HOME, and they should come back to roost every night which will keep them safer from the critters that want chicken dinner too.

    Keeping them closed up in the coop every evening will be lots safer for them overnight, since that's when more preditors will be prowling, a lot of them will lay eggs in the morning and it's easier to keep them near till mid-morning in that pen will be lots easier with that pen/run there at their door.

    If you leave them closed up longer in the morning, especially at first, more will start and continue to lay in the coop, though if they're scattered later in the day, you'll still be hunting eggs across the landscape, it'll be like Easter every day, but that really is part of true free ranging. One problem with that is you'll have other critters hunting those eggs too if you miss too many and if/when they catch on.

    All this will work itself out though, and it sounds like you're going to have a great set up.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2009
  5. estpr13

    estpr13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 18, 2008
    Lexington, Ky
    Only feed them first thing in the morning when you let them out and in the coop or in the run at the end of the day. They will come to the coop for the food. If in the coop throw some scratch into the deep litter so they can stir it up.

    I sort of feel like range feeders are for penned chickens who have trouble foraging. If you do use a range feeder, don't put a whole lot of feed in it. Let it go empty about midday. This also helps to keep down preditors and vermin.

    If you tractor them you can put in all the feed you want. But when you move the tractor the spilled feed will attract vermin.
  6. notsostupidafterall

    notsostupidafterall Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 28, 2009
    Central Utah
    thanks for much, folks, for the info. what great people. I think I will encourage my husband to add a run to the coop........good idea. And we had never even considered having food out of the coop for them, wanting them to associate the coop with food. And, as for predators, we have racoons, skunks, coyotes and occasional mountain lions in late winter. Also feral cats and dogs, but my husband keeps a trap open all the time for cats, skunks, coons, and shoots the roaming dogs........unless we know the dog.......and then it is just usually time to send it home with a little BB gun as encouragement to stay somewhere else.[​IMG]:weee:woot:thumbsup
  7. futurefarmer08

    futurefarmer08 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 29, 2008
    near Sac. Ca

    I would be cautious about birds of prey. They can easily pick off a chicken, but I suppose that is going to happen, you just do the best you can to protect them. The city I work in has a park where people have dumped off Roosters. The flock is pretty big and I think some have disappeared...point being, they are in a predator rich area with little protection, strangers feed them, they find water, they are thriving. I love to watch my chickens run around the yard, when I am home. When I am not (because we have a lrge yard but we live in a residential area) they go back in their run. Sounds like yours should be fine... There is so much good info on this web-site and everyone is super nice. Even when I have dumb questions:confused: Sounds like you will have a nice set-up soon!
    Keep us posted! What kind of chickens are you going to have?
  8. notsostupidafterall

    notsostupidafterall Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 28, 2009
    Central Utah
    Thanks again for all the responses. As to breed of chicken, we thought we were decided until we found this website. Now we are back to trying to decide. We just want an EZ keeper breed, that will lay white eggs and be be a good layer as well as big enough to be a good meat bird. Everyone seems to love their breed (just like we think our horses are the absolute best) so we are having a little trouble deciding what breed to pick.[​IMG]
  9. tink

    tink Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 12, 2007
    upstate SC
    Hey Welcome...

    When you first get your chickens, keep them in the coop for a week or so. That way they will know it is home. Warning....they are addictive so build your coop to accomidate a few more than you think you need !!! ha ha ha

    Tink...ps sorry my spelling is terrible
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2009
  10. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Have a look here!!!! http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/dual.html This is the short list too!! It's the chart John Henderson made of the ones he and his family actually owned, but up near the top of the page, you will see the ICYouSee Handy Dandy Chicken Breed Chart that is a very complete list of most any breeds you can find. I haven't found anyone who can find real fault with what he's given as general traits, nature, and behaiviour. Of course there are some exceptions and individual differences, but on the whole, a pretty down to earth summary of chooks.

    You can probably narrow things down pretty quick from this. I'm a brown egg person, so I won't be much help to you other than this. Sussex are the only duel-purpose white egg layer I know of really,,, not sure though.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2009

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