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Do Free-Range Chickens Get Lost?

If you’re thinking about keeping chickens and/or allowing them to free-range in a space where they can wander off, it’s only natural to worry about them getting lost, but do chickens even get lost?

We keep our flock on common land which is an open space where chickens have the potential to wander as far as they want, so we’ve learned how they behave in this situation over time.

Free-range chickens typically have a strong homing instinct and usually return to their coop at dusk. However, they can occasionally wander off or become disoriented, especially in unfamiliar or expansive environments. It’s essential to provide clear landmarks and monitor new or young chickens to ensure they find their way back.

Read on to find out more about the situations where chickens can get lost and disorientated, how to prevent them from getting lost and how to find them again if it happens.

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Factors Which Can Lead to Chickens Getting Lost

There are certain factors that can greatly increase the risk of a chicken getting lost which, which include:

1. Not Enough Time Getting Used to Surroundings

When you get a new flock or if new chickens are introduced to an existing flock, it’s important to get them used to their surroundings before they’re let out to free-range.

This article was first published on March 11, 2021 by Pentagon-Pets.

If a chicken isn’t given a chance to properly get used to their surroundings this can lead to them getting lost or not being able to find their way back to the coop.

2. Predator Attack

A predator attack or frightening events such as being chased by a fox or dog can cause chickens to scatter and become disorientated and in some cases, this can lead to them getting lost.

Chickens will naturally flee for cover to the closest shelter, so if they panic they can become wedged in hedges or get trapped somewhere they wouldn’t normally go.

3. Snow and Bad Weather

The only time we’ve lost our chickens is in winter and during snowy weather, this is because the snow covers up the ground and makes everything look different.

For a chicken, snow can be very confusing and prevent them from finding their way back to the coop at roosting time.

You can find out more about chickens in snow in the article via the link below:

Do chickens like snow? The full facts

Ex battery hen in the snow

How to Prevent Chickens From Getting Lost

1. Get Chickens Used to Their New Surroundings

New chickens should be kept inside their run for a period of time (from three days up to a week depending on how flighty they are) before they’re let out to free-range.

It’s also a good idea to let them out before sundown for the first time so they don’t wander far from the coop.

Chickens generally don’t wander too far from safety, so Providing they’re used to their surroundings you shouldn’t have any problems with them getting lost when you first release them to free-range.

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on March 11, 2021.

By holding them back in the beginning they will quickly learn where home is and how to get back to their coop when they need to (for laying, drinking and roosting).

2. Keep Chickens Safe From Predators

When you have free-range chickens, keeping them safe from predators can be tricky because it’s not always possible to keep predators out of certain boundaries.

Luckily most major predators tend to come out at night time, but there are some hungry opportunists who could attack at any time of the day. The more quiet and isolated an area is the more risk.

It’s important to make sure chickens have access to retreat to safety, protect boundaries where possible and to make sure they’re not out past dark.

3. Prevent Confusion in Bad Weather

If it’s snowing or stormy, then it’s a good idea to keep your chickens inside the run until the weather passes, even if it’s for a few days.

The chances of chickens becoming disorientated in bad weather is high and you don’t want to be out looking for them in bad conditions either.

How to Find a Lost Chicken

Finding a lost chicken is easier if you know the places they could be in the first place, if panicked, a chicken will head for shelter to the nearest possible place at the time.

If it’s dark or becoming dark a chicken will stay where it is because they can’t see, and although not ideal, if they stay still it can be easier to find them.

These are the best places to look to start with:

  • Wedged in hedges (sometimes higher than you’d expect if they’ve been frightened.
  • Underneath the chicken coop (if there’s enough space).
  • Underneath vehicles and inside wheel arches.
  • Underneath or in bushes or shrubs.
  • Trapped inside a shed, garage or outhouse.
  • Underneath garden furniture, toys or play equipment.

Chickens are also good at going to places they shouldn’t and will often find a way to get inside a neighbouring boundary, but on unknown land, they’re not so good at finding their way back. So it’s worth checking with your neighbours to see if it’s trapped within their boundaries.

This one is a real long-shot, but if you have a dog that’s good for sniffing things out (but that doesn’t attack chickens) they might be able to find them for you.

When we lost our chickens in the snow our terrier found them all in the hedgerows and one was even wedged in the wheel arch of a car, so without him, I don’t think we would have found that one until the next day!

Chickens Disapearring All Day

If you have free-range chickens and they can range out of site, don’t worry too much because they should know their way back and chances are they’re not far away.

Chickens like to find sheltered or sunny spots to dustbathe and relax in and in poorer weather they tend to head for shelter or under bushes, hedges or garden furniture.

We don’t see some of our chickens for parts of the day, they just have their favourite places to wander and graze and then they come running back up the road later in the afternoon.

If they do go out of sight, it’s important to do a headcount to make sure they’re all back before dark so they don’t get lost once it becomes dark.

Chickens are very good at establishing a routine and so you’ll probably find that they come closer to the coop an hour or two before dusk.

Having a call or whistle that they can recognize is a good way to call them back if you need to.

You Might Also Like

I hope this post has helped you to find out more about chickens getting lost, you might also like the following articles too:

Will chickens run away if you let them lose to free range

How far will chickens wander from the coop

10 Best Books for Keeping and Raising Chickens

Do Chickens Like Snow? The Full Facts

Keeping Chickens Safe Around Water

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Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on March 11, 2021.

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