Chicken Question

So in a couple weeks our chickens are coming. Wolf has been busy building the coop — pictures when he’s done — and readying the yard for the four layers we’re getting. We decided not to get chicks because we live in too small a trailer to be able to house chicks and two cats.

This is my question: Will the chickens come back at the end of the day? By this I mean, I plan on free ranging them, allowing them to go where ever they want. But how do I round them up at the end of the day? Will they come back on their own?

Also, how do I keep them from running away when they first get here? Keep them in the coop for a month like I do with the cats so they know it’s home?

Lots of questions!

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15 Responses to Chicken Question

  1. jayedee says:

    i must have really stupid chickens! free ranging just doesn’t work for them. when they were on their own, they laid eggs everywhere! we’d find huge piles of eggs and have no idea how old they were. now we kind of do a modified free range………when i’m out doing my chores, i let them out for a couple of hours and then back into the pen they go. i’ve no idea if they’re happier, but i sure am. i would think if you keep yours confined for a week or so, they will learn where their food is and return easily.

  2. Phelan says:

    You will need to keep them confined for at least 1 week. Feed them in the same area at the same every day. They will come back for feed and shelter at night. You can not keep them from running away. You need to put out boxes (nesting boxs under a roof of some sort) out away from the house. This should help encourage them to lay in those boxes rather then in trees and tall grasses. If your hen comes up missing, she could be dead or brooding somewhere. Free ranging birds can be dangerous, and you might have a hard time finding eggs. Good luck!

  3. Howling Hill says:

    If free ranging isn’t the ideal, what is?

  4. erikka says:

    Hi HH –

    It sounds like you may need to do some research on free ranging your chickens before you go releasing them to the wilds of NH :) Free range does mean they are not cooped up in a building, but it doesn’t have to mean they are not contained in a safe area. Phelan had good advice for the first week and the nesting boxes. I’d also suggest a small enclosure for them to hang out in. If you have a big enough yard, you can move this enclosure, letting them get new patches of ground, new dirt, and you get free compost all over. If your yard is small, you’d have to do some shoveling or something…all that chicken poop build up in one place might not be good.

  5. Howling Hill says:


    Wolf is building a small coop, big enough for 4 chickens. It’ll have 4 nesting boxes in it. A fence around the coop is a good idea though.

    He wants to build a chicken tractor also but I’m not convinced a tractor is a good idea.

  6. erikka says:

    and ps. i would like to mail order chicks some day and want to find a reputable, caring hatchery from which to do so. any recommendations? where’d you get yours?

  7. erikka says:

    why no tractor?

  8. Howling Hill says:

    Erikka: The woman whom we buy our eggs from ordered the chickens for us. To be honest, I never asked her what hatchery they came from.

    As for recommendations, I would ask Neophyte and Farm Mom (in my blog roll as “A homesteading neophyte” and “Children in the corn”)

    The reason I don’t like the idea of a tractor is it seems so confining to me. I know it’ll be moved around but I still feel like the chickens should be able to walk around and flap their wings which I don’t think they can do adequately in a tractor.

    But I understand the reason for them. It’s just something I haven’t reconciled yet. I’m getting there.

  9. jayedee says:

    i don’t want you to think my girls are too confined. they do have a nice big yard to peck and scratch in. it’s just fenced, is all. we’re working on largish runs 6 x 25 feet so i can sparate by breeds as well. my main flock (and largest pen) are welsummers. i also have partridge cochins, denizlis, crested polish, buckeyes, americanas, and standard cochins. i’m waiting on a few turkens (i don’t know why lol)
    i DO use tractors, but more for transitioning young birds from the house to the main enclosures.

    i bet you’ll find that only one of your 4 nest boxes ever gets used. they all seem to like to lay in one. its funny to see one chase another off the nest so she can climb in and lay her own daily offering!

  10. Howling Hill says:

    jaydee: maybe my idea of a tractor is “wrong.” What I envision is a three sided rectangular box about 2 feet high and maybe 6 feet long by 2 feet wide. Anything bigger seems unwieldy.

    Do you have pictures of your tractor? What are its dimensions?

  11. Wolf says:

    I’d like to clarify – there are only 2 nest boxes. I didn’t think we would need more with only 4 chickens.

  12. Phelan says:

    Your best bet is to let them roam around with you during the day in a large yard, and lock them up tight at night. How we are set up is with a dog run attached to the coop. They have access to the outside world at night, and before I get out there. I let them out into a larger yard, about a 1/2 acre. It doesn’t comepletly contain them, if they want out they fly over the fences. But they do come back. When we did free range, we would lose girls to all kids of predators, or they wouldn’t come back for a month, and when they did, I had a whole bunch of new chicks.

    As for birds try Sand Hill preservation.

  13. erikka says:

    a chicken tractor is to drag the coop around, not for the chickens to be confined in :) that’s why I said the whole, I’m not sure how big your yard is comment. if you have a small yard, there’s no need for a huge tractor. you could probably make a mobile coop home. if you have a big yard/fields, a tractor helps move the coop around so you can give the chickens new areas to be in and new areas to fertilize. it is not bad for them in anyway and they’re not confined in doors at all.

  14. erikka says:

    they have the coop to go in at night or to lay during the day, whatever, and a fenced area out side that they go eat and play all day in. then, when they cleared that area enough, you move them to a new one. then they are not over cropping grass or putting too many chicken chemicals into one area.

  15. Howling Hill says:

    Erikka: we own an acre though most of it is hillside and wooded. Only a small portion is cleared.

    I talked to Doreen today about how to accumulate the chickens to a new environment. She said to keep the chickens in the cage until nightfall then put them into the coop and leave them there for a couple days, after which they should know where their house and food are and will come back on their own.

    We don’t have much grass here. The front yard is covered in alpine strawberries which I prefer over grass. Not only is it much easier to take care of, but the strawberries attract the local fowl and chipmunks. And I *heart* chipmunks.

    We don’t use any chemicals here. Well, a couple times a year Wolf uses 409 on the stove and tub, and once in a great while I use bleach.

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