Free Range Chickens and Egg Question? (Poultry - General)greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
Being kind of new, I have a REALLY stupid questions about free-range chickens. I love the idea of free-range chickens. It seems natural and would love to see all those chickens pecking around the yard, etc.; however, how the heck do you find the eggs and how do you know how long they have been there? Seems like you would have to go on a scavanger hunt everyday! Will they lay in a nesting box is available? Also, don't they destroy any plants or flowers you have? How do you keep track of all them to know who is laying and who's ready for the soup pot?
I have also heard of those who let them out for a while in the day time and pen them up at night in the coop. So do they just march in there at night or how do you get them in the coop?
Thanks a million for your responses!
-- KBall (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 20, 2001
Hi I have free range chickens and we have a pen for them. When it starts getting dusk they all start heading for the coop. I close the coop up at night because of predators. In the morning I let them out.I have 4 nesting boxes and thru out the day the girls just head back to there boxes to lay there eggs. I have found stray eggs in the yard before but not ver many. They do a pretty good job of laying there eggs in the nesting boxes. I hope this helps! In Christ Sarah in NC
-- Sarah from NC (Caswell995@cs.com), April 20, 2001.
Hi, KBall and welcome to the Countryside Forum.
I have had chickens for about 5 years and they are a real trip, let me tell you. I too, longed to see the little critters out in the yard scratching and pecking until I realized they have terrific appetites and will pretty much eat anything; especially those things that I didn't want them to eat like broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, etc. We solved that problem by enclosing a large portion of our back yard (we're on 3/4 of an acre) and dividing it into two parcels. We allow the chickens into one part and when that starts getting a little bare, we close that off and let them into the other part. In the Fall, we allow them into the garden and they take care of all the weeds plus fertilize as they go.
Don't worry about nightfall. As soon as it starts getting dark they will return to the chicken house to roast. Because we provide a house for them, they will lay only in the house. We use 5 gallon buckets lying on their sides and fill them with straw and/or shredded paper. I'm not sure what you will do if you don't provide them with a house with a secure door because of night time preditors.
Good luck and thanks for reading.
-- Dianne in Mass (email@example.com), April 20, 2001.
I only roast mine after I clean them LOL...I know it was a typo but I just had to say something...Thank god for spell check
-- grant (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 20, 2001.
They are a lot of fun to have around. They are creatures of habit so once you get them in a routine with their sleeping they will go right back in in the evening. Same with laying. Have the nesting boxes ready before they start laying and once they start you shouldn't have any problem. It always seems like one nesting box is the favorite one and they all want to lay in it. You'll hear the squacking and fussing when the eggs start coming. Forget having a garden with chickens free-ranging in it. They love to scratch in the dirt and will peck and eat anything they find to their liking. If it's well established you might get away with letting them roam around in the garden, but keep an eye on them as they can cause a lot of damage in a hurry. I've about given up on letting mine out to free-range. I never used to have a problem but the past 2-3 years I've lost all of my birds....about 50, to coyotes, eagles,rats, hawks, owls,cougars and bobcats. It seems once the predators find how easy it is to grab a free meal it gets harder and harder to keep them safe. I now have my chicken coop 50 ft from the house with a 6 ft fence topped by a hot wire. So far this has kept out the cougar and bobcat. I started over with a new batch of chickens, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. One of the biggest problems that I see many writing about on here is roaming dogs. Little Scruffy down the road might be the sweetest pooch, but once they get a chicken running all bets are off. One or two dogs can kill a mess of chickens in a hurry. I don't want to make it sound too negative. Enjoy your birds they will provide the best eggs and some pretty good entertainment also.
-- Kent in WA (email@example.com), April 20, 2001.
I also have chickens who run around the farm all day and go back to the coop at night, then I shut them in. They do great!! I have had a few hens hide a nest of eggs from me in other barns. I let them go and before long they come out with the cutest chicks!! They keep their babys away from the coop til they are a couple of weeks old, then at some time only known to them-they decide the babys can live in the coop with the rest of the gang. I have not had any luck forcing the hens to hatch their eggs in the nests I pick for them so this method works for me. I also have a fenced in garden, the hens haven't bothered to fly over the fence to check it out. I guess they have enough farmyard to hunt for food. Good Luck!!
-- cowgirl (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 20, 2001.
Hi, Grant. Darn-it! That fool spell checker doesn't always catch all my mistakes. Actually, I do clean mine before I roast them, too. You gave me a good chuckle.
Thanks for reading.
-- Dianne in Mass (email@example.com), April 20, 2001.
All the answers given so far are great. I'll get the additional questions not answered yet. When you get your chickens, you should keep them locked in the coop for a few days to a week so they get used to where they have to go. I have a small fenced in area so they are not locked totally up, then I "accidentally" leave the door open and they leave on their own. As time goes on, they move farther and farther away.
About finding the eggs and how long it has been there. As long as a hen hasn't set on the eggs, they are safe to eat. We had a discussion once about having eggs for a couple months with no problem although that was is cool storage, not the heat of summer.
You can check the vents to see who is laying and who isn't. Culling as necessary.
Mine ate some ornamental plants that I wouldn't have thought looked tasty. I'm planning on fencing it in next time.
Only complaint my husband has is chicken poop all over the place. Especially the driveway. Other then fencing, I havn't found anything that will discourage them from these places.
Good luck and welcome to the forum
-- Dee (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 20, 2001.
KBall, Everyone seems to romanticize about country living, sitting on the front porch watching the chickens pecking in the yard. Heath- gurus recommend free range chickens as apposed to the kind that spend their lives in a cage eating chemical ladened feed. But, I think you can have a free range chicken and still keep them safe inside a pen. I have! In an old issue of Mother Earth News around '85 or '86 there was a design of a particular type of chicken run called a chicken moat. I built one and I think that others that are considering chickens should also consider building one too. This Chicken Moat idea incidently, was the brain child of the quasi-famous writer Gene Gerue. IF you would like to see how I built my chicken moat, I have pictures of it on my website. Just go to the left of my homepage and click on "Our Ozark Lifestyle". I think that searching for eggs is only fun at Easter. The chickens will sometimes lay their eggs in the weirdest places and not be found for long periods of time. I do not or will not eat GREEN EGGS. I like the idea of collecting FRESH eggs from the nesting boxes every evening. This assures me the eggs are their freshest and it also lets me know if there is a change in the chickens by the drop in egg production. Chickens will destroy gardens. With the chicken moat my garden is safe. My garden is still being protected from insects and snails because the chicken moat circles the garden allow the chickens to patrol the 360 degree perimeter. I know my chickens are saft because of the two fences, one on the outside and one on the inside that protect them from a host of predators.....coyotes, raccoons, weasels, pets, etc. The fences are close enough together to keep the hawks from navigating down through them an making off with a hen or two in their clutches. The double fence also keeps deer from jumping into my garden and helping themselves to my tender vegetables. Anyway, Just check out this alternative and see for yourself that you can have free range chickens without the chicken poop everywhere. Sincerely, Ernest
-- http://communities.msn.com/livingoffthelandintheozarks (email@example.com), April 20, 2001.
Hi! Just a quick tip. If you want the chickens to free range but do not want eggs laid in the yard (mine did for a while) then let them out in late afternoon to range. They should lay their eggs by then in the coop nests and can be out a couple of hours until dusk when they will willingly head back to the coop. (If they are new to the coop I would let them stay in it a week so they know where "home" is) Hope this helps! ~ Brenda ~
-- Brenda (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 21, 2001.
Any adult birds new to me, and any babies feathered up and ready to go outside, are penned for 3 weeks. I also free feed, feed is always in the hoppers. This trains the birds to return ~ on their own ~ to the pens to roost at dusk. I then close the gates. Too many night time predators here to leave the birds loose at night.
I use large covered cat litter boxes. They sit on the ground of the pens, 5-6 per pen. I toss in Coastal hay and the hens rearrange them to their liking. Altho they free range during the day, my hens have always laid their eggs in their nest boxes. When I allow it, they also set on the eggs and hatch their chicks in the nest boxes.
-- ~Rogo (email@example.com), April 22, 2001.
Be sure to train them with the above advice to go into the coop at night. When we have a predator I keep them cooped for a week or so so that the stray dog starts hunting somewhere else. They will come daily to the chicken buffet once they find it. Keeping them cooped up seems to help. I still let them out to forage after a week or so and it seems to help. I also bought a Great Pyranees which works best for all but the occasionally sneaky stray dog. Yes, they do some damage to plants and flowers. Which ones depends on where the bugs are. They need to scratch to get to them I guess.
-- T. Crockett (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 23, 2001.