Free range and something to ponder

pushindirt(z8 OR)September 5, 2008

Okay, this is actually 2 questions.

1. Free range.

We have always had our hens (15) penned. A very large pen, but still penned up. I would like to let them free range but concerned how far they wander from the coop.

We have 6 acres and are 150' from the road. How far do they wander from the pen. Should I be concerned I may have to round them up at night?

2. Something to ponder.

We had a hen get cut and infected. My wife decided to take her to the vet. This ended up a $45 bill. My neighbor, in his wisdom, commented. "goodness gracious, it's a $3 chicken".

Doesn't there seem to be some wisdom in that?. Is it feasible to pay $45 for every chicken that gets sick?

Honestly, it's not good money sense.




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greenmulberry(5-Iowa City)

For question #1. If you do not want to them to wander far, then only let them out a few hours before evening. Usually they will not have much time to go too far before they put themselves to bed.

For question #2. It depends on how much you want to spend. On another forum I go to someone just spent several hundred to have a screw surgically removed from a chicken. My chickens are mostly livestock to me, so I would not spend much for vet care. I would not let them suffer though, so if I had one that had a major injury requiring a fix at the vet, I would probably put them down myself. But to some people, their love for their chickens as companion animals means that they would spend great gobs of money to make them better. That's OK too. Just depends on how you look at it.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 4:47PM
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We have only 7 hens, and they free range from dawn to about 4:30 in the afternoon. We have 9 acres, and are about the same distance from the road as you. They keep to the barn area and our backyard pretty much. Occasionally they will chase a bug into the orchard, but hurry back to familiar ground. I have no trouble getting them back into the coop because I have trained them that treats come in a blue metal plate, and when I "ping" on the plate, they follow me right into the barn and go into their coop. It is really easy to teach hens about treats--saltine crackers, cooked rice, leftover pasta, stale bread, almost anything will do.
I don't know about the vet bill for chickens. I know we have spent a lot on our calico cat, but then she owns us, we don't own her! For chickens, I think we would try to heal a wound or cure a disease, using the best methods we know, and if that doesn't work, we would start a chicken graveyard.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 5:07PM
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I'll answer question #1. We have 100 acres and the chickens free range from dawn until dusk. They rarely go beyond 150' from their coops. Each one knows which coop is her own (we have three), and in the evening, they head inside. There is no rounding up, just locking up for protection from predators.

Once, when we went away for a weekend, we had a friend come to care for the animals. Despite instructions, we received a phone call saying that he couldn't round up the chickens to go in their coop that evening. I said to wait half an hour until the sun went down and to have a beer on the porch in the meantime. No more phone calls :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 7:55PM
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We let our chickens free range also and have 58 acres. Once in a great while, some will wander pretty far if raspberries are in season, etc. but they always come home at dusk without any coaxing at all.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 7:16AM
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ours are always inside their coop by dark. As soon as it starts to get dark they all gather by the coop door,,then one by one they go in for the night to roost...just a natural instinct for protection,so I'm sure yours would do the same..I even have a flemish giant rabbit who goes inside with the goats by nightfall!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 9:37AM
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pushindirt(z8 OR)

Thanks for the info.
So it seems they just naturally run for the safety at night (is it because they're chicken? :-) )
Sometime when I go out to shut the pen, I have to chase a few that are still in the yard when it's dark.
Those two might give me problems?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 11:50AM
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there are always a few exceptions! some like to stay out and roost in trees!! good luck!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 12:16PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

#1--If your chickens truly free range, with no fences or tons of acreage, then expect to basically have some wild chickens that live at your place, with the smart ones surviving the inevitable predators, roadkills & neighbors' taking them out when they get into their garden one too many times. Most people I know have suffered a swift 100% loss of their flocks by allowing them to roam free--depends on where you live. My birds roam our backyard during the day, and at night go to roost in the coop & run, and we simply close the door at night and open it again in the morning. If your coop is the best place to roost, and the chickens know that's where the evening food & water is, they'll be a LOT more likely to put themselves away at dusk.

#2--Depends on how you regard your chickens: as simple livestock that is easily replaced, or as close companions/pets.

Also, ONLY $45?! Ha, ha...that's chicken feed! *apologies for the horrible pun* :) I've spent way more than that, I shudder to admit. But I regard my chickens as pets and close companions, as other people would a dog or cat. I know people who wouldn't hesitate to take their four footed friend to the vet, but look at me as if I were crazy for doing the same thing and say, "It's just a chicken!"

So there ya go. :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 6:46PM
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My nutty hens won't all come back, preferring to hang close to the coop in the trees or on top of the coop itself. I have to then go out well after dark with a flashlight and grab them when they're not suspecting. Or......leave them be and find them the next morning at the door of their coop wanting in to be fed. I laughed at Velvet Sparrow's answer because it's so true. The smart ones go back to their coop.

My daughter's hens, however, reliably returned to the coop to be shut in at nightfall. Go figure. Maybe I've bred mine so tight the family tree is a straight line.

As for what I'd spend? Only once did I have to seek vet help for a rooster, my fav and the alpha of the harem. I suspected he had infective synovitis and basically even my vet (who has a large animal practise) said they don't treat chickens, lol. But, he is a wonderful and kind guy and mixed up the appropriate antibiotic into syringes for me to treat him myself. BTW, he made a great recovery. But no, I treat mine kindly and respectfully, but they're food production livestock and other than exceptional circumstances are treated as such. But, everyone has to find out their own comfort level on that issue and act accordingly and if they're more pets than property, then should be treated as such.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 7:31PM
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pushindirt(z8 OR)

Okay everyone.
Last night was a fiasco.
They are the stupidest animals on this planet.
I decided to let them out yesterday afternoon. Big mistake.
They scattered light mice. Some of them making it way down to the road. After much herding and a rise in blood pressure,, I decided to just let them go.
Then as dusk set in, none of them returned to the coop. I had to chase down everyone of them with my home-made noose, pick them up and haul them back to the pen. I was out until 10pm.
They will never leave that fence again as long as they live.
For anyone considering free-range.
Maybe if they're babies and used to it, it might work.
whew.... anybody want to come to my place for chicken soup?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 9:24AM
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I understand the discourage and rage when things like this happen! we've all been there! But did you make sure that you kept them confined at your place,in their run and coop for at least 2 or 3 weeks? They need to feel complete security and satisfaction with their home and nesting area to come back at nightfall,,it's just common sense.
How long have you actually had your hens? seems strange to me that they would all run off and not come back unless they're afraid of something in their run,or perhaps you?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 10:25PM
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You have my sympathy (although the thought of someone chasing chickens at 10 pm with a noose IS slightly humerous, but only if you aren't the one doing it.)
Have your chickens formed a flock? Do they hang out together and have a pecking order? If so, try free-ranging three or four near dusk, while the rest are left in the coop. If they get the idea of re-joining the flock, they won't wander as far and will probably return to the coop on their own. Note the probably. As you said, these are not the brightest animals on earth! However, bless you for trying.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 7:57AM
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What kind of chickens are they? I've had delewares and cochins that don't range more than twenty feet out of the coop and RIR's that would range a quarter mile away but still come back at night.
The worst of the bunch, in my opinion, is any type of leghorn. I've had a few different leghorn verieties and they are all flighty. The worst by far are the white commercial types.
I finally had to go on a killing spree to get rid of hens that weren't coming in at night. Almost everything that died was a leghorn and of the birds that lived, only two were leghorns.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2008 at 7:07PM
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mary_d_ia(z4/5 IA)

My chickens have always been free range. We have just over 9 acres and they generally don't go beyond the yard (2 acres). Mine are Americana and in the eve they go into their "home"-an old hog barn. Once in a while I will have one that doesn't go in-usually because it's low chicken-in pecking order. I usually count mine before I close the door. If I'm short one I will look in the usual places and if I don't find it after a while she stays out for the night. The rebel is usually at the door wanting to get in in the morning. I am all for free range, they are great bug control for our yard. Our hens are egg layers so we have had them for several years.

I haven't spent a lot of money for a sick or injured hen. Have called the vet and gone to the farm store for antibiotic powder but that's it. I do my best at doctoring and let nature take it course. good luck! mary d

    Bookmark   September 13, 2008 at 9:56PM
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I agree with Mary above and Greenmulberry. Just my opinion. I really care for my chickens and love watching them. Many even have names. I would never let one suffer but I don't think I would take one to the vet, either. I would probably treat as best I could or put them out of their misery. My chickens have a large run and do follow me around in anticipation of treats. They are not, however, as social as some people's chickens are. I guess it might be different if they were. Sorry to hear of your "free range" experience. It sounds so lovely but I know my chickens wouldn't survive the day out here with our dogs and the neighbor dogs. That would be just my luck, too. Lori

    Bookmark   September 14, 2008 at 3:45AM
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