Free-Ranging the Chickens

We are so happy to have the chickens free-ranging in the barnyard.  They are extremely happy too!  I can see the difference in their demeanor when they are out – they love it!

There are a few drawbacks to this new scenario though.  First:

2Why is this a drawback?  Because my friend had her best layer drown in their goat’s water trough.  So it makes me very nervous that they have decided the sheep water trough is a good place to hang out.  Plus, soon they will have access to the cow water trough, which is bigger and much deeper.  Much easier to drown in.

To try to prevent drowning I have put a piece of welded wire, that was actually originally part of a dog crate, in the trough at a slant.  It fits just right and I am hoping that it is enough to help any bird that might fall in to get out.  I will do the same with the cow water trough.

2.5 3And here is the other downfall, remember that chicken that decided the sheep manger was a good nest?  Well she happened to be one of the 4 we recently sold so I thought that problem was over.  But today I noticed a RIR head into the sheep stall with purpose.  Sure enough, she was nesting in the manger.  The sheep seemed less than amused at their visitor and her location.

6Look in the back left of this photo, you can see Fiona at the manger and the hen’s tail sticking up: 4 Sure enough, after a bit, she started singing the “I laid and egg” song and I went over to investigate.

5.5 5I figure there isn’t much we can do about this, and at least we know where to look for the eggs and none of them are hiding them around the yard.  So we will just check in here when we collect eggs.

Despite the few, minor, downfalls of free-ranging the chickens, we are still very excited to keep this set-up for them.  The pros far outweigh the cons.  They are eating WAY less of their store-bought feed.  They are happier and thus healthier.  Their eggs are going to have higher nutritional value.  And the compost pile is turning into dirt before our eyes as the ladies (and gent) work on it each day.

5 thoughts on “Free-Ranging the Chickens

  1. You don’t have any problems with predators? We used to let our chickens free-range the back yard, but we have problems with hawks and a new farm dog that things they are fun to chase. He does not want to hurt them he just want to “play” with them. He is just too rough and we have lose two hens to him as well as the hens we lost to the hawks.

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    • So far no problems. The fence is 6 feet high and we have secured the bottom pretty well to prevent dig-ins. So that rules out the coyotes and foxes. Bobcats, bears, and mountain lions could still jump in but the farm dog is a deterrent to them. He also keeps away raccoons and martens and such. He has a very good track record of protecting the livestock, even treeing bears. So the only question we have is whether the dog is aware of aerial predators and whether they are deterred by him or not. We saw a great horned owl in a tree near the barnyard the other day and purposefully kept the chickens in their covered pen. I guess time will tell whether it will work to free range in the Rockies. We are hopeful!

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  2. Good idea to put the wire in the trough. My son just used that same solution, but his problem was his guard llama getting in the trough that is for his sheep, and getting their water all dirty.

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  3. Our free ranging chickens don’t tend to stick to any one weird place to lay their eggs for very long. Hopefully the hen will get bored with that spot in a few days and move on. Most of ours lay in the nest boxes, but we have three that just will not under any circumstances lay in a normal location.

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  4. I totally agree with you that, if the girls are happier, their eggs are better.

    That wire in the trough is a very clever solution and checking a couple of “best” laying spots doesn’t seem like a huge burden. Well done in creating such a great environment for your chooks.

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