How to Keep Free-Range Chickens from Running Off: Tips and Tricks.
I have found that free ranging my flock is the best way to keep them happy and healthy. However, the downside of free ranging is that chickens can wander off if they are not properly trained. In this article, I will share my experience of how I keep my free range chickens from running off.
Coop and Run Training
When it comes to free-ranging your chickens, proper training is essential to ensure that they stay safe and secure. Coop and run training is a great way to ease your flock into free-ranging while minimizing the risk of them running off.
Coop training involves keeping your chickens inside their coop for a week after you bring them home. This helps them get used to their new surroundings and feel comfortable in their new home. During this time, make sure that their coop is clean, well-ventilated, and stocked with plenty of food and water.
After a week of coop training, it’s time to move on to run training. Attach a small run to the coop and let your chickens out for another week. This gives them a chance to explore their surroundings while staying close to their home base. Make sure that the run is secure and provides plenty of shade and shelter.
By the end of the second week, your chickens should be comfortable with their coop and run and ready to start free-ranging. However, it’s important to supervise them closely during the first few weeks of free-ranging to prevent them from wandering too far.
Fenced Yard Training
After two weeks of coop and run training, it’s time to let your flock out to free-range in a larger space. For many chicken owners, this means a fenced yard that provides a secure area for their chickens to roam around.
My fenced yard is a 5-foot chain link fence that surrounds my property. This fence not only provides a safe space for my chickens but also keeps predators out, such as foxes and coyotes.
However, it’s important to supervise your flock closely during the first few weeks of free-ranging in the yard. This allows you to ensure that they don’t try to escape through any gaps in the fence or explore areas that may be dangerous for them.
During this time, I supervise my flock 100% of the time when they are free-ranging. I keep a hose with a jet spray in my hand to deter them from going too close to the fence. If any of them try to jump up on the fence to roost, I shoot them with the jet hose and tell them “no.” This helps them understand that the fence is a boundary that they should not cross.
It may take some time to train your flock to stay within the fenced yard, but consistency is key. For the first few weeks, I make sure to keep treats and fresh water available in the yard to encourage my chickens to stay close to home.
By the end of the first month of free-ranging in the fenced yard, my flock has usually learned to stay within the confines of the fence. At this point, I can leave them unsupervised while they free-range during the day.
Using a Jet Spray Hose
Using a Jet Spray Hose is an effective way to train chickens not to jump on the fence. The hose provides a gentle yet firm reminder that the fence is not a place to perch or roost. I have found that this training method works best when used consistently over a period of several weeks.
At first, my chickens were curious about the hose and would sometimes try to peck at the water stream. However, I persisted with the training and continued to use the hose to spray any chickens that got too close to the fence. Over time, the chickens began to associate the jet spray with the fence and would move away from it when they saw the hose.
Whenever a chicken attempted to jump on the fence, I would aim the hose at them and firmly say “NO”. This combination of verbal and physical cues helped the chickens understand that the fence was not a place to be. It took some time and patience, but eventually, my chickens learned not to jump on the fence.
Consistent training is crucial when it comes to free-ranging chickens. The key to success is to maintain a routine that you stick to every day. This means making sure that you keep a watchful eye on your flock during the first few weeks of free ranging, and being consistent with the use of the training tools that you have chosen.
Whether you are using a jet spray hose, treats, or other training methods, it’s essential to stay consistent. You may find that some chickens are more stubborn than others and take longer to train, so it’s important to be patient and persistent with your efforts.
Training should not stop once your chickens have learned the rules. You need to continue to reinforce the training regularly to ensure that they don’t forget and start trying to escape again. Make sure to also adjust your training methods as needed.
It’s important to remember that training is an ongoing process, and it may take several months to achieve the desired results. But with patience and dedication, you can successfully train your free-range chickens to stay within their designated area, giving them a safe and secure environment to thrive in.
Establishing a regular feeding time is a critical aspect of training free range chickens to return to their coop or fenced area. I’ve found that feeding my flock right before dark is the best time to do so. This way, they associate the time with heading back to their safe space to roost for the night. It’s crucial to stick to the schedule consistently, so they learn to rely on it as part of their daily routine.
I make sure to provide plenty of food, so they are well-fed and satisfied when they head back to their coop or fenced area. When they hear the sound of food being placed in their feeding area, they quickly learn that it’s time to head back home. This helps to prevent them from wandering too far and getting lost or in danger.
Additionally, providing treats is another way to encourage chickens to come back to their coop or fenced area. I often leave some treats out for them to find throughout the day, such as leftover fruits or vegetables. This not only keeps them happy and healthy but also reinforces the idea that their safe space is where they can find food and comfort.
Chickens’ Natural Behavior
Chickens have certain instincts that drive their behavior, and one of them is foraging. In their natural habitat, chickens will spend most of their time searching for food and water. When you keep chickens in a coop or fenced area, you can mimic their natural behavior by providing them with ample food and water sources. By doing so, you’ll be able to train them to stay close to their designated area.
In my experience, I’ve found that chickens are more likely to stay close to their food and water source when they have access to it regularly. I make sure to fill their feeder and waterer every day, and they know that they can find food and water in the fenced yard. Even when they are out free-ranging, they tend to stay within a certain radius of their food source.
Another factor that plays a role in a chicken’s natural behavior is their innate desire to stay safe from predators. By providing them with a secure fenced area, you are offering them protection from potential threats. Chickens instinctively know that their coop or fenced area is a safe place, so they are less likely to wander too far away.
Attention and Treats
When it comes to training free range chickens, attention and treats are essential tools in encouraging them to stay close to their coop or fenced area. As social creatures, chickens crave attention and will respond positively to it. Spending time with your chickens and giving them attention will help them feel comfortable and safe in their environment, and they will be more likely to stick around.
In addition to attention, treats can also be used to reinforce good behavior. Whenever my chickens return to their coop or fenced area, I make sure to reward them with treats like mealworms. This positive reinforcement creates a sense of association between good behavior and positive outcomes, which encourages them to repeat the behavior in the future.
It’s important to note that while treats can be effective, they should not be the only method of training. Consistency and reinforcement of rules are still crucial in teaching your chickens to stay within their designated area. Treats can be a helpful addition to the training process, but they should be used in moderation and in combination with other training techniques.
Free ranging chickens can be a rewarding experience, but it’s essential to train them properly to avoid them wandering off. Using a combination of coop and run training, a fenced yard, jet spray hose, constant training, feeding time, and attention and treats can help keep your chickens happy and close to their home. Remember that training free range chickens takes time and patience, but it’s worth the effort for a healthy and happy flock