How to Keep Free Range Chickens In Your Yard

how-to-keep-free-range-chickens-in-your-yard

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If you’re new to keeping free range chickens in your backyard, then you may be wondering how to stop them from traveling too far away! Thankfully, there are more than a few ways you can keep your birds close to roost.

Keeping free range chickens in your yard is as easy as setting up a firm perimeter, keeping your birds fed and watered, and being wary of local predators. In many ways, chickens won’t want to roam too far away.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at a few humane ways you can keep your free range chickens within your yard boundaries.

Can You Keep Free Range Chickens Close to Their Coop?

Yes – in fact, as you’ll read in our guide to raising backyard chickens, these birds really do enjoy home comforts. That means they will normally want to keep their coop in sight.

If you are setting up a backyard coop and roaming area for your chickens, it makes sense to set up an area that’s around 100 to 300 yards large. This is often the recommended maximum space for chickens to roam in before they will naturally head back home.

It’s important to remember that free range chickens should be allowed to explore the world! It’s safe to introduce them to wider and wider boundaries, however, a truly ‘free range’ chicken is one that doesn’t feel restricted. 

Free range chickens are happy, get plenty of exercise, and experience less stress than those in permanent coops. However, free range chickens need careful management.

In addition, there may be a handful of issues that are holding you back from opening things up completely free range to your birds. You may have neighbors, wide boundaries, or may even have an extremely small yard or garden to begin with. On the other side of this, you may have a large garden and may be worried about how far your chickens will go.

Luckily, keeping free range chickens in your yard is as simple as carefully planning their ‘playground’!

How to Keep Free Range Chickens In Your Yard – Things to Consider

One of the best ways to avoid free range birds from going awry is to house their coop as far away from boundary lines as you can. Keep their home close to yours – it’s unlikely a free range chicken will want to wander more than 300 yards away.

Do also make sure you have a strong perimeter. There are many different types of chicken fencing you can set up that prevent birds from escaping, as unlikely as it is that hens and roosters will break away. Focus on height, or making your fencing difficult to get over – as well as impenetrable to the odd peck or two!

Do also take time to train your chickens. Yes, it’s entirely possible to get your birds accustomed to certain calls and whistles! Try and use these when it’s time for your chickens to head to bed, or when fresh food is available. They will soon flock to you!

Chickens are fiercely clever and will therefore look for different sources of food, such as insects, if they feel their existing feed is of poor quality – or, in fact, if there’s little to peck at. That’s also why it’s a good idea to make sure your chickens have plenty of space and plenty of opportunity to peck around. A fickle chicken may choose to ‘fly the roost’ if they think they can get tastier morsels elsewhere in the local area.

There are also ways you can physically restrain chickens from leaving their home zones, though these are debatable with regard to cruelty – such as clipping of wings. For the happiest of free range chickens, give them plenty of space, but establish boundaries early on.

Do also make sure to give your birds plenty of space – and that you know how long to leave backyard chickens alone for.

Being Predator Wary

Of course, it’s key to ensure that your chickens feel safe in their home zone as much as physically possible. If predators invade their personal space – perhaps even raiding the coop – scared birds will choose to escape by any means necessary, and will run away terrified. This is, naturally, the last thing you want to do to your birds!

Therefore, you not only need to be wary of local chicken predators, but also protect against their potential for invasion. In some areas, you may find that raccoons, coyotes and wild (or even neighborhood) cats decide to sample your chickens as a tasty treat. Unfortunately, chickens often won’t be able to put up a big fight against powerful predators.

So, start by keeping the ground and vegetation low and short. The taller the grass, the more spaces predators will have to hide. Avoid giving local critters any opportunities to stalk your chickens. It’s also wise to try and keep predator attractants, such as feed and trash, close to boundaries where they are likely to intrude.

Once again, fences and perimeters are must-haves. Beyond this, you may even wish to set up a guard animal – such as a dog – which is unlikely to attack your home birds, but which will scare away smaller predators. Of course, depending on the size of predators in your neighborhood, this may not be a viable option.

Create a Home Your Chickens Will Love

The golden rule to keeping free range chickens in your yard is to ensure that they have a warm, friendly space where they can feel safe and loved. That means changing their bedding daily, ensuring their coop is clean, and feeding them on high quality corn and feed. Keep their water fresh and clean, too.

Protecting chickens against predators can be difficult. However, as stated, there are ways you can prevent them from causing chaos.

Otherwise, your chickens are unlikely to leave home – look after them well, and they won’t want to explore beyond a wide boundary!

About author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.

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