Can chickens free range in forested area?

Posted by: cherylmagill

Can chickens free range in forested area? - 03/28/12 07:02 PM

I live in WA State way out in the country in a forested area. We got a big 10 x 10 shed from Lowe's that is being set up in a couple of days that we are going to convert to a coop. We are getting our chicks from McMurray's in May and I wondered how old they need to be when we can safely put them in the coop.

Also we are surrounded by tall evergreens with deer, owl, eagle, hawks, racoons, coyotes, etc., all living on our property. Is it still possible that our chicks can free range at some point, or is that just asking for trouble? We live on close to 5 acres, but all of it is dense forest except for about an acre that our house is on.

Would appreciate any advice.
Posted by: Candycat

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 03/28/12 10:07 PM

Things to consider w/ your property fenced so that a roaming dog is kept OUT/AWAY from your flock? If not, then you'd be wise to fence an area that's secure & then maybe let them free-range when you can be out w/them. Nothing worse than a dog getting into a flock...awful sight to see. Better to protect your investment at the "get-go!" If all of your flock is raised together, they will likely get along ok. Ducks & geese can be will learn this as you raise them as they splash water everywhere yet they like to be warm & cozy, too. smile Have fun w/them. They are such a joy to watch grow.
Posted by: cherylmagill

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 03/28/12 10:13 PM

Thank you so much for your answer! No property is not fenced--too many trees.

Hey, husband just came in the office and asked me to ask you why all the coops seem to be up off of the ground. Do you know?
Posted by: Candycat

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 03/29/12 11:26 AM

I have my suspicions as to why but I don't know the factual reason. Here's what I suspect. It's drier off the ground and perhaps it's to keep predators from crawling/digging underneath to get to them. Someone w/more knowledge will likely respond to your husband's question. Mine live in one of those fiberglass greenhouses that sit on the ground and they've been fine in there for 2 years now. No one's burrowed under to get them and it's dry inside despite sitting on the ground. We keep some hay in the back for them to kick/scratch around in. They've made a few dustbeds in it, digging down into the dirt.
Posted by: Wieslaw

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 03/30/12 03:05 AM

why all the coops seem to be up off of the ground

Most probably to prevent rats from building nests under the floor.
Posted by: Rog

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 03/30/12 03:33 PM

Some with a small outdoor pen built on are up off the ground to simply add more area to the pen that the birds can have dirt or grass to use.
Posted by: Fowled Out

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 04/25/12 07:10 PM

Chicks need to be feathered out, usually six weeks, before they can take the cool night weather. If you put the chicks in the coop make sure you have a heat lamp for them to get under when it's too cold for them. What I learned was first week of age they need 95 degrees, 2nd week 90 degrees, 3rd week 85 degrees and so on til they are all feathered out.
I wouldn't suggest free ranging in your area if you are not fenced. Coyotes, hawks and all the rest of those predators you listed will pick those chickens off slowly but surely. I would make them an outside fenced run with maybe some type of netting to keep eagles and hawks out, and make sure you lock that coop up tight at night when they go to roost.
Otherwise, invest in a livestock guardian dog and train it properly. My pyrennes is four years old and once she was grown she has done a very good job at cutting my losses from free ranging. She even chased those flock killing neighbor dogs away.
Posted by: JoeG

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 06/15/12 07:07 AM

I built mine off the ground because I didn't want a run, so I figued if I could not let them free range for some reason they could still get out and have some space/fresh air.

If your property is all forest and there are a lot of preadtors I would be careful, you may be better off building a large secure run.

Mine free range and they go into the woods, we have all of the same Preadtors as you but around my house is open and they don't go to far into the woods just the edge.

I have two Rottweilers that do a good job of keeping unwanted guest from coming to close to my home. and they love my chickens.
Posted by: JoeG

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 06/15/12 07:23 AM

Here is some pic's of my coop, there have been changes but you will see the raised part and how close it is to the woods.
Posted by: Norman

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 09/02/12 04:31 PM

Yes you can free range them, the more free the better as it hardens them up as stags and young pullets. IMHO
Posted by: Uno

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 09/12/12 09:50 PM

Free range means they're free for every passing varmint too.

I live in a forested area, which means that predators get very close to my coop and birds since they do not have to leave cover to do so. THey feel quite secure lurking around, not exposed out in the open. If you free range in wooded area, be aware that you will have some losses. That's just the way it goes. Everyone loses chickens to predators of one kind or another. But heavy woods means bigger predators are more securely might have bigger problems.

My chicken yard is not made of chicken wire, but heavy gage fencing with chicken wire overhead. The bottom 18 inches of the pen is 2x6 boards, solid. This pen keeps out coyotes and raccoons sometimes. IT will not keep out bears. Bears pretty much destroy anything they decide to destroy.

What I'm trying to say is that free range or not, your birds are vulnerable and having them in bush makes them easier for some predators to get to. Lock them up at night and watch the sky. If you let them out one day and you hear/see hawks overhead the next day, do not let them out. Mine have about two days in a row outside the pen before flying hunters show up. Good luck!
Posted by: Josh

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 09/18/12 06:41 AM

My suggestion would be to not free range but to build a large run & cover it with netting. Guard dogs work wonderfully in a free range situation but only if they are present and they generally require a lot of space (30-40 acres may not be enough for some) & if they get bored they tend to roam & aquire new territories leaving your flock unprotected. Not all do but a vast majority especially when they are young. & if you don't have any experience with the guard breeds they can be difficult to "train". They think diferently than most dogs.
I would cover the run to keep out the flying predators & remember that coons & opossums & such will climb over a fence. It would be ok to let the flock out of the run on the occasion that you are home & will be able to keep an eye on them
Posted by: CJR

Re: Can chickens free range in forested area? - 09/18/12 08:46 AM

If you have no protection, you may be lucky for a long time, even if it is for a few years, (and you think it IS safe)the word about "free lunch" will reach predators--or a chance encounter, will start the losses. I have NO birds to feed to a predator! GOOD LUCK, CJR