Free Range-looking for advice

Trying2keepitReal

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Right now I have 7 chickens that I keep in a covered run year round. Lots of space 250 sq ft and plenty of dirt/wood chips/etc to bathe in. Getting 9 chicks this spring and hopefully will have a round or two hatched at home so I would love to have the whole flock free range together. IF needed I can make a combined run with both coops. Looking for advice on free ranging...how to transition my current flock from confinement to freedom, best way to integrate the new ones, etc. we have 3 acres total for them to roam. We have a tree line around 3/4 of those acres but no fences at all. The area where the driveway is open as well as about 50 ft along the back side. Will the chickens cross through the tree line to the road/neighbors? How far do they travel honestly. We have a barn that they will be able to go in and out of, lots of trees to hide under, a couple garden beds to dig up and plenty of apple, crab apple and cherry trees to find treats under. We don't really have any snakes (I don't think anyway) that would be a predator. We have had woodchucks in the past but haven't had any for a couple years. We do have red hawks that fly in the area, but have enough older tree canopies for hiding. I don't want to turn them loose to be someone's feast but I wouldn't mind trying free ranging either. I guess I am on the fence.
 

NH Homesteader

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My neighbors are pretty close but there’s woods between us. Our chickens never visited them, but on a few occasions their rooster visited us (after our chickens were gone so it didn’t matter much, my dogs just chased him off!)

I hated free ranging, mostly because of the poop, lol, but I’m also not a fan of birds running at me every time I walk outside 😂we had issues with foxes, a fisher, and neighborhood dogs killing our chickens when they free ranged. We have hawks and eagles but they never got any birds. They didn’t travel very far, our ducks wandered farther away than our chickens ever did.
 

tortoise

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How far do they travel? Depends on what they want. Mine stay within 50 yards or so, but everything they wanted was close and we have hawks and eagles that circle. We had predator issues with free range, but the final straw was they would scratch out my gardens and ruin my landscaping. I love seeing chickens in the yard and having hens run over for treats when they see me. But I couldn't deal with fixing their garden/landscaping mayhem every day. Easier to fence chickens than to fence everything else.

I have a different bunch of chickens now that get out of their run sometimes, but stay close to home. They hide and scratch under pine trees about 30 feet from their coop.
 

flowerbug

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small chicken tractor for habit and some protection and movable fencing for some protection and control when you want to move them to a new location. they can raze an area too much if left too long. rotate and watch your diversity. use them to clear a garden space of weeds and bugs then move them to some other spot and plant away. that's about all i know from reading and have never done it. :)
 

CrealCritter

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My wife had a free range flock last year, a roo and 6 hens. They liked to cross the road and visit our neighbors. The roo would wake them up at sunrise. My neighbor still laughs about it 😂.

Eagles picked them off one by one and all she had left was one hen. Which is in with the laying hens now in a fenced yard.

It was sure was fun watching them but there is too much wild life around here for free range chickens, plus eagles are cool.

Jesus is Lord and Christ 🙏❤️🇺🇸
 

farmerjan

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I ran free range layers for a couple of years. I wound up losing 122 one year to the D@#ned bald eagle... would watch the sorry SOB come down and get one and carry it off nearly everyday. They had night roosting space and all the nest boxes were inside, but the moveable trailers were not big enough for them to stay in all day. I would let them out early, then later, then for 3-4 hours before dark... I would sit up there and chased off the eagle a couple times... but it always came back. I like free range birds but the predators are just too much. We had an occasional fox come during the day... and they got locked up every night because of raccoons and possums... Had a hawk attack and kill and sit and eat the meat birds here at the new house..... and they didn't go more than 20 ft from the greenhouse shelter.... Trees will give the hawks places to sit and then launch an attack. If you are out in the yard with them then it is okay... but not to just let them go all the time.....
If you value the chickens at all... or even just the fact that replacements are $10 a piece or more.... then allowing just total free ranging will just be a crap shoot as to how soon a predator comes to get themselves a free meal.
 

Hinotori

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Mine get let out sometime past 10 am in summer because too many coyotes before then. Usually I try and let the large fowl out some all year, but predators stop it sometimes.

My rooster is a very good watch bird, but stubborn hens don't listen or listen fast enough sometimes.

They are mad right now because we've had hawks hanging around for weeks so they don't get out at all. Had a hawk try for one when I let them out for about 30 minutes last week. Rooster got them under cover and stood in front of them screaming hawk warning. I made it in time to see the tail of it as it took back off.

Pen is netted, in part to keep the hawks out and part to keep the chickens in as they can and will fly over the 6 foot fence.

Silkies do no free range. They can't see predators coming. I have a big fenced courtyard that all 5 pens open into. I alternate which ones get out. The silkies think it's great free range.
 

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