If you have space, allowing chickens to free-range in some form is the best thing you can do to keep your chickens happy and for them to produce the best quality eggs.
If you’re planning on letting your chickens free-range for the first time it can be easy to worry and assume that they’ll just run away and you’ll never see them again. But is this actually the case?
As chicken owners with access to open space, we’ve experienced many hens and roosters free-ranging for the first time and in 99% of the time, they’ve done the opposite of what we’ve expected!
When chickens are allowed to roam in a large space they will generally stay within view of their coop. This is so that they can quickly retreat to safety if faced with danger such as a predator. Chickens will usually come closer to the coop as the light starts to drop in preparation for roosting.
Read on to find out more about roaming chickens and how you can let them go for the first time without worry of them running away.
Letting chickens free-range for the first time
When you get new chickens that you’re planning to let free-range for the first time, it’s important that they have some time getting used to their surroundings before they’re let free.
The best way to do this is by keeping the chickens confined to their coop and run for around three days while they get used to their home.
Chickens will quickly understand that this is a place of safety and even the most flighty chicken will come back to the coop when they need to.
The best way to let chickens free range for the first time is to let them out at the end of the day.
When I say the end of the day, the best time is around about an hour before dusk which is when chickens would usually take themselves into the coop to roost.
This allows the chickens to have a taste of their new free-range life and will prepare them and you for how things will be going forward.
Because the chickens will be in night-time mode they will stay close and be wary of their new surroundings and you’ll probably find that they’ll easily run back into the run after a short amount of time.
You might even find that some of your hens don’t even want to come out on the first try and this is fine, they will come out when they’re ready. The best approach here is to allow the chickens to walk out of the run themselves rather than picking them up, because this could frighten them.
Is it safe to let chickens roam?
When you let chickens free-range it can be worrying because you can’t be with them all of the time to keep them safe from potential dangers.
How safe it is to let your chickens free-range really depends on where you live because predators vary across the world, along with other risks like roads and people.
It is safe to let your chickens roam if there’s no risk of them being taken by predators. In most cases, chickens will have the sense to stay away from busy roads and machines and in signs of danger, they will run back to the coop.
Many predators tend to come out at night, although it’s best not to rely on this always being the case because an opportunist or hungry fox has the potential to take a chicken in the day time.
Foxes are less likely to come out in the day if there’s a lot going on in the area, so if people and even pet dogs are around there is less chance of attack.
Cockerels are also good at spotting dangers along with alerting and rounding up hens.
If chickens can free-range close to a road, they generally won’t go near it unless there’s something appealing on the other side (I feel a joke coming on here!).
We free-range our chickens in an open space with a busy road and lots of tractors running through and they don’t go anywhere near it because they’re too busy grazing in the grass and soil.
Although they could go onto the road at any time they never do and luckily we’ve never lost a chicken in this way.
Chickens are more intelligent than many people think and are good at keeping out of danger most of the time. The benefits of free-ranging and allowing chickens to do what they enjoy best generally outweighs any potential dangers they may face.
Will chickens come home at night?
Chickens are creatures of routine and they also instinctively know when it’s time to go in to roost for the night.
Chickens will return to the safety of the coop every evening at dusk (just before it goes dark) to roost for the night. It’s a good idea to get into a routine of feeding just before this time to encourage the hens to come back to the coop area before dark so they’re nearby and ready to go in.
Find out more about this topic via the link below with tips on how to get your chickens used to coming back at the end of the day, along with how to deal with any potential issues.
This article was first published on October 29, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets.
FAQ’s about free-range chickens
Chickens can free-free range during daylight hours and once they get used to their surroundings and their coop. Keeping chickens inside the run and coop area for around three days to one week is enough time for them to know their new home and where to return to once let out.
Even with unlimited space chickens won’t wander too far from the coop and they will generally keep it in view as they graze. Chickens like to keep the coop in view in case they need to retreat in signs of danger.
If chickens have the space to roam and are used to being free-range ideally they should be let out every day. Even if this time is limited to an hour it will help to keep them happy and prevent them from getting bored.
I hope this post has helped you to find out more about roaming chickens, you might also find the following posts helpful:
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on October 29, 2020.
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.
This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 29, 2020.