If you want happy, healthy chickens, turning to a free-range approach is great for almost all breeds of chickens.
However, will chickens run away if you keep them free range?
Chickens aren’t likely to run away if you allow them outside their enclosure unless they’re startled. As they explore, they’re likely to stay nearby rather than attempt to escape. However, you’ll have to take care, so your chickens don’t get lost in their wandering.
Keep reading if you’re interested in giving your birds more room outside the chicken coop!
We’ll look at what you need to know about free-range chicken care.
Will Chickens Run Away If You Free Range?
In all likelihood, your chickens won’t make a break for it if they are outside of their enclosure.
However, remember chickens are skittish birds who easily startle.
If something like a loud noise frightens them, they may move to flee.
This is just part of their nature as prey animals.
When the average chicken is startled, they will likely flee closer to their coop if possible.
In some cases, though, they may flee and have trouble finding their way home, especially if a predator ran them off.
The bigger concern, in general, is your chickens wandering and getting lost.
Still, they aren’t likely to wander far from home.
You’ll likely notice new chickens cause more problems wandering off during free-range periods.
To avoid this, you’ll want to give your new chickens and baby chicks time to adjust and grow accustomed to their home before trusting them to return.
Will Backyard Chickens Fly Away?
As birds, you may worry your grown-up chickens have the strength to fly away with their wings.
Odds are, your bird isn’t going to fly away.
While chickens can fly very short distances if their wings are unclipped, they aren’t going to take to the sky the same way the robin on your lawn does.
Their limited powers of flight are sometimes useful in navigating obstacles.
Learn more about why chickens have wings but don’t fly in our article.
If you’re keeping your chickens contained by chicken wire or another obstacle, this can pose a problem.
Some chickens may be more interested in attempting to make it past these obstacles than others, depending on the breed of chicken’s behavior and personality.
How Do You Train Chickens to Stay in Your Yard?
Training your chickens to stay in your yard while they free range is a great way to help reduce their chances of wandering off and getting lost or injured.
Before you allow them to free-range roam, you’ll want to start by ensuring they’re familiar with their home.
This means introducing baby chicks or even new adult chickens to the coop and letting them settle in first.
It can take a couple of days up to a week for a chicken to fully recognize their coop as home.
These prey animals are naturally curious as well.
So, help keep them in your yard by keeping their attention.
This can include spreading feed or healthy snacks closer to the coop to keep them busy and less likely to wander.
In the meantime, or even as a failsafe, don’t be afraid to use fencing like chicken wire.
This can help give your chickens plenty of open space to roam but stop them before they might find themselves lost or in harm’s way.
Electric fencing works too, but it’s often overkill on a chicken farm.
Just in case they wander out of sight, teach your pet chickens to come to your call as well.
Choose a sound your chicken will recognize as a call to do this.
Give them food every time you do the call.
If you pair the noise with food, it’ll encourage your chickens to come to you.
Over time, they should respond to the call even if you don’t have a handful of food nearby.
You’ll need to be consistent to see results.
Another good tip is to ensure the nesting or communal nesting boxes are all set up in the coop.
They will always want to come back home to lay their chicken eggs in a safe place.
How Many Hours Should a Chicken Free Range?
The answer to this question can vary depending on each chicken keeper’s situation.
Some farmers with plenty of space and little concern their chickens can escape or wander off might allow them to wander for a good portion of the day.
Many farmers opt for only a few hours a day, though.
For one, limiting the time chickens roam free-range can reduce the chance they have to wander off.
In addition, if you keep backyard chickens and have neighbors, limiting free-range hours can help keep your chicken from using their wandering time to snack on a neighbor’s vegetable garden and help avoid neighborly conflict.
Related: How far will chickens roam?
What to Do If a Chicken Goes Missing
Once in a while, a chicken is bound to wander off.
In those situations, knowing what to do to get your free-range chickens back is crucial.
First, you’ll want to look carefully around the immediate area.
While a chicken may have wandered off if they were startled, they also might have found a hiding spot to stick to.
Use a flashlight if it’s the end of the night and they haven’t returned to the coop.
It increases visibility, and the light will reflect off your chicken’s eyes, helping them stand out more.
Next, you’ll want to look around for any signs of where your chicken might have disappeared to.
This doesn’t just mean looking around for a struggle in case a predator came through but any signs of where they went, like a hole in a fence.
If all else fails, turn to your community.
Social media sites like Facebook often have lost pet groups, and you’ll be able to get help from some of your neighbors in keeping an eye out for your bird.
Finally, don’t write off the idea that your chicken won’t find its way home.
Free-range chickens can wander off and find their way back when hungry or tired.
As such, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for them at home too.
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