Raising-Chickens.org Newsletter #12
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Thinking About Free-Range Chickens But Afraid To Let Them Out?
We want to get rid of that fear and replace it with some great information. Understanding the needs and habits of chickens can make keeping them and free-ranging them as simple as some people make it look, even if you’re new at this. One of the most important aspects of keeping chickens is a healthy diet and environment. How we house and care for our chickens can add to or take away from their health. The healthiest products from chickens and the most hassle free care will come with exercise, balanced diet, and a clean environment that keeps chickens safe but from feeling “cooped up”.
If you already have chickens and keep them locked up for fear they won’t come back or predators, you can allow them safe and supervised freedom with these simple steps. If you’re able to let them out safely every day or just once a week, the same steps will help train chickens to come back to the coop each evening, like clock-work. First, it’s important with a new flock they be allowed to learn where their new home is, especially if you’ve purchased point of lay or other mature chickens. Keeping them inside their chicken yard attached to the coop for a week or two will allow them to adjust and feel safe and comfortable.
Free-ranging will provide exercise and a more healthy and natural chicken life as long as no pesticides or other chemicals or predators are in the environment to harm them. So, the more free-range time, the better. Pet dogs should be leashed or kenneled if you’re not sure how they will react to chickens loose in their yard.
To begin letting your chickens out, wait until an hour or so before they usually go to roost for the night, so about 2 hours before sunset, and open the gate. Chickens are curious and will probably be happy to leave their pen. You might give them a little treat right outside the gate, to draw them out and help them stay close. Now your job is to relax and enjoy watching your chickens for the next hour. (This is actually a highly prized activity for many chicken keepers. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.) If you really don’t have an hour, a half hour will be fine. As daylight begins to fade their instincts tell chickens to return to their roosts. Make sure the gate or entrance to the coop stays open, so they don’t become confused and look for another place to roost. You may have a few happy stragglers unwilling to give up their new found freedom as soon as others, but with limited light they will soon head home to roost.
By starting this late in the day you have the benefit of not having to chase chickens to round them up again as you might in the morning or early afternoon. Chickens have a very strong instinct to return to their usual roosting site near sunset as long as it has been a safe place in the past.
If your schedule doesn’t often permit supervised freedom for your chickens, letting them out in this way, as often as possible will add to their health and happiness. If you plan to allow your chickens to free-range often, letting them out a little earlier each time, will help them find their way back to the coop easily, no matter how many hours they have been out.
It’s often not safe to allow chickens to free-range if no one’s home. It depends where you live. You may need to make sure stray dogs or other predators stay away, but chickens have been free-ranging around the world for thousands of years. Scratching through pastures, back yards, and open areas can provide excellent nutrients to chicken diet, like some vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace elements, that you can’t get from a sack of feed. Chickens always locked up in the same small yard will soon deplete the natural resources available. Training you chickens to come to a certain call for a special treat is another tool that can help you round up free ranging chickens, if the need arises. I offer mine black oil sunflower seeds that offer a great source of quality fat and protein, and they always come running.
Hope everyone has a wonderful Easter!
Got Chicken: New Auction Site catering to backyard chicken enthusiest. Raising-chickens.org has launched an auction site for the buying and selling of poultry and other domesticated birds.
If you are interested in or already have backyard chickens, our web site offers much needed information that may help you avoid or solve problems. We have a library of over 1000 questions and answers from people all over the world, plus articles, that can help you get started learning what you need to know.
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Your Guide to Everything Chicken Mel www.raising-chickens.org, 101 Preston Court, Macon, GA. 31210
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