Will they run away?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by AIR420, Apr 26, 2016.

  1. Yes - free-range those babies!

    5 vote(s)
  2. No - they are safer couped up.

    0 vote(s)
  1. AIR420

    AIR420 New Egg

    Apr 26, 2016
    Hello friends!!

    I am a first-time owner of chickens who is constantly referencing threads on this amazingly helpful site but have not posted until now. I read through a very similarly titled post but it was about baby chicks that had been hatched with their current owner and not adult hens that were not born with us.

    LOCATION: I live on a decently forested, secluded 4 acre lot on a south-facing hill in the north GA mountains. We are surrounded by trees, so we have both endless shade and great sun throughout the day. There are two other homes on our mountain, which are easily accessible via our shared driveway. Our lot is not fenced allowing for easy escape in all directions. At the base of the mountain, there is a lake home with free-range chickens and roosters who are also not fenced in. There is a road at the bottom of the hill with a range of normal to thick brush (much with thorns) between us and it. Across the road is a river that you can hear from our deck, which we imagine would entice the chickens to traverse through the thorns (or more conveniently take our driveway) to get across the road and to the water.

    HISTORY: We purchased 6 hens approx. 3 months ago when they were approx. 12 months old and, while they are still timid with us, they seem to be quite settled now. When we first got them, a few escaped and were a feat to catch. One got loose recently and seemed as if she didn't even notice the freedom. When I lured her close to the run entrance and tried to get a hold of her, she freaked out, shoved herself back into the run, and calmed down immediately. We have a friendly but hyper dog who will likely have to be leashed when outside until he gets used to them being loose; they seem to have gotten used to him being around their run.

    QUESTIONS: Should I remove the run fence or do you believe the chickens would be too tempted to roam far from home? What is the best way to control where they lay eggs (fake eggs, rocks, nesting boxes, etc.)? How long do they usually take to get into the habit of coming back to the coup at night? How long do they usually disappear for? Should I worry so much or is it no big deal? Will they separate from each other? Will my chickens leave us for the lakefront home in search of a better life/more friends? What else should we expect/prepare for in this transition period?

    I understand all chickens (and situations) are different, so I don't expect much, but am endlessly appreciative of help from someone who went through or knows of a similar situation and can provide some insight. I am more worried about their safety and being accountable for them than anything else and am grateful for everyone's time in responding.

    Thank you very much!!
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs I Wanna Be A Cowboy Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    All my chickens are free range, we have 40 acres. None of mine are tame, but all are curious and friendly. Mine like their large roomy shed and find it a nice sanctuary. All come in at night, some never go outside. All lay in it. Provide feed and water, and nice roosts and nestboxes and there's no reason they wouldn't come back.

    As long as your coop is safe and roomy your hens will think of it as their home. I wouldn't personally remove the run, just open the door daily. Occasionally predators will find you and you will be thankful to be able to confine them until you can deal with the issue.
  3. scrambled please

    scrambled please Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 30, 2010
    I'm on 10 acres, my chickens did go to the neighbors but only because they were lured over. They always came home to roost and once they started playing chicken games, she stopped feeding them. She was spreading beans to get them across the street.
    I once had a rooster show up but someone had dumped him and after a few months he joined my flock.
    I had a problem with some wanting to roost in a tree it wasn't a problem until a fox found them, it got everyone of them including the loan ranger rooster that showed up.
    I am now dealing with possibly a broody girl that I can't find, this is the third time I have had this happen and never had a predator get any of my missing laying hens, they just seem to show up with babies after three weeks, I put them in a little coop I have set up. Now a hawk may have gotten her but I don't think so, usually they don't bother my big birds.
    I forgot to lock the pen a few time at best nothing happened at worsed I lost all the hens. I never forget to lock them up now and if they go to roosting in trees I know I won't have them long.
    I still let them run around I give them very little purchased food but have plenty of water scattered around. Because they don't cost a lot to keep and keep bugs down and are happy, I have no problem, this isn't a business I enjoy happy animals and use the poop for my plants, they lay in the same places as long as I sneak the eggs.
  4. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Chicken Obsessed

    Hi. Welcome to BYC!

    I don't have all the answers but will share what worked for us.

    When we moved the pullets to their new abode, they stayed locked in for a while until they were settled. I had to make sure they knew how to get in and out of the coop, which included some pushing and shoving. They got it.

    When it came time for them to lay eggs, I had a golf ball in the box. When 1 started disappearing for hours, I was worried. I found her hiding a nest. She didn't respond to any of my calls while she was laying. SO I kept them locked in the run each day where the lay box was until after they laid their eggs, for 1 or 2 weeks. They will lay their eggs at the same place every time. They didn't all start laying at the same time, but after 1 got the hang of it the rest followed suit. Actually I could tell they checked out the golf ball but ignored it. They all 3 chose to lay in the same box (I hear that happens often). Not the one with the golf ball in it either.

    So ultimately when it came sundown they drifted in at different times. Some staying out longer than others, foraging. The bottom pecking order hen always headed in first(could be random). She was also the most skittish.

    I would say chickens don't know their boundaries but should come back to the coop at the end of the day. Also you can try a treat they really love and couple it with a loud call. Once they make the association they usually come running. For me I say "bok bok" in a loud (not yelling), goofy voice. I do it every time I bring treats. They know this now. And they don't all love the same treats. Some people say dried meal worms or whole black oil sunflower seeds.

    My 10 week old's got lose today and didn't notice the freedom either. Their safety is a concern. You have to decide if the risks at your location are worth the benefits of free ranging. Thorns don't seem to be as much of a deterrent as I would hope (we are in blackberry country). I am not familiar with what predators are in your area, but you might check out your state thread. Tree cover helps from aerial predators and the chickens are pretty good about not being caught in the open.

    Funny side note, when I had only 3 hens I could tell their voices apart when they called out after laying an egg.

    Good luck.
  5. TroyerGal

    TroyerGal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Well, i have a TON of chickens... 15 laying hens, 24 pullets, 3 roosters of different ages, around 50 meat birds and 12 ducks of different ages.
    they all free range all day long... we also have 8 acres in the country with a lot of woods and i haven't had any problems with them wandering away too far. they all pretty much stay in the same places each day. my hens usually lay in their coop or other cozy places they find- we don't really have a normal coop yet, but we hope to build one in the next few weeks,. :)
    oh yeah.. [​IMG]!!
  6. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Once they are 'homed' to the coop, you can leave the run door open. They will return periodically for food, water, to lay, and then in the evening they will go inside to roost. With free-ranging comes the risk of predation, so be prepared for a few losses here and there. Also, you may get a hen or two that decides to lay her eggs somewhere other than the nesting boxes in the coop. You will then need to keep the whole flock confined to the run to get her back in the habit of using the nest boxes. Do not dismantle the run. You will need from time to time, especially if a predator starts to treat your flock as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

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