How to Free Range?

by Martina Chance
(Bloomington, IN )

Question

How to Free Range? This spring I raised nine sweet little fluff balls into adult hens (and one loud rooster)and love them!

Within just a few months they have turned their 20 x 40 run into complete dirt! My chicken run/coop sets within our backyard 4’ fence that is nearly an acre.

I would like to let my chickens out in the evening, once I get home and can watch them, for a few hours to free range in our larger back yard.

My question is, will it be necessary for me to clip their wings before letting them out? If it is for just a few hours in the evening, will they return to their coop at bedtime?

If they should jump the 4’ fence, they would still be in the country with no nearby homes to bother, and I am not worried about predators while I am standing watch.

I’m mostly worried about them not coming back home, or knowing how to get back home should they fly over the 4’ outer fence.

I’m a “new” chicken pet owner and would like to give them more freedom but, I am afraid of them getting away from me and not coming back home.

Thank you for any advice you may have for me.

Answer:
This seems to be a very similar concern for many people. Keep in mind, that when you free range, there is always a risk that you could lose a bird.

That being said, with your set up and the way you described that you would let them out, I believe that it is highly unlikely.

Considering that these birds were raised in your coop and have been nesting there, they will naturally want to come back to it.

If you let them out for a little while at a time and watch them, you can also lure them back in with treats if you need to.

I believe that it is highly unlikely that your birds will fly over the fence unless they are an especially flighty breed. Chances are that even if they did that they would come back.

I say to start with small increments when you could keep watch and then to lengthen the time as you see fit. Good luck!

For more information on the benefits please check out our free range page.

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Do I still feed my free range chickens chicken food?
by: Katie

Do I still feed my free range chickens chicken food?: I have a small flock of 10 chickens which I coop only at night. My yard is fenced and about 3/4's of an acre.

Will my chickens be able to find enough food in my yard or do I need to continue to feed them chicken food from a bag? I give them at least one big treat at night, like fruit, veggies or yogurt.

I don't want to starve them and am therefore afraid to take away the bag food. Please help!

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