Poultry Breeders: Can Your Chicks be Taught How to Free-Range?Print
7 out of 10 poultry farmers believe that raising free-range chickens is the best option. What’s your take on this?
It doesn’t matter which side of the debate you’re on. Poultry farmers might never agree whether free-ranging chicken is a good strategy or not. But one thing’s for sure, it definitely produces a happier and healthier flock.
However, one of the major reasons why people hesitate to free-range their birds is the fear of losing them. These abandonment issues are pretty serious as your feathered friends can get into all sorts of trouble when they roam about.
So how do you teach this feather-head to come home?
It’s pretty simple! You have to start inculcating good free-ranging habits in the flock from an early age. This involves patient training sessions and lots of coaxing on your part. Let’s look at the different steps you can take to raise obedient free-rangers:
1. Follow the Leader
Did you know? Baby chicks imprint on humans too.
If you are raising baby hatchlings then they’ll consider you as their adoptive parent. This means that they’ll instinctively follow you around and be attracted to your voice. You can use this characteristic for your own benefit by leading the herd to the chicken coop whenever you want.
2. Good Habits
You might already know that one of the biggest hurdles of free-ranging is getting the flock back in the coop. That’s especially true for the older ones that love to loiter around.
How do you overcome this obstacle? Initially, you’ll be the one luring them in with your voice. But as they grow older they’ll automatically become accustomed the coop. All you have to do is train them to return to the chicken coop by nightfall. A few trips back and forth and a set routine will help set them straight in no time.
3. Treats and Baits
What if your chicks don’t imprint on you? What if they don’t listen to your calls?
In this case, you’ve got to use the classic ruse of baiting them inside. You can use a trail of treats leading to the barn. But that might cause a lot of chicken fights and squabbles. So we suggest that you manually draw them in through a step by step progression inside the coop.
Here is how to do this:
- Step 1: Call your flock in by throwing treats on the ground.
- Step 2: Gradually move them closer to the coop.
- Step 3: The next time you round up the flock, you should be at the barn door.
- Step 4: In a few days, time start putting the treats inside the chicken coop.
- Step 5: Your chickens will willingly come inside to get the food.
On the whole, this little trick makes them acknowledge that food is where the coop is. So you won’t find them lingering on the grounds for too many hours.
In a nutshell, if you’re planning to raise free-range chickens then the younger the better. Not only will they be attached to you but they’ll know their way about your barnyard. This will eliminate the chances of handling misbehaving birds and runaways.
Thinking about Breeding Chickens?
Your baby chicks can’t be let out and about from day one. They require extra care and strict supervision before they can flap their wings about. In the early stages, it’s better to raise them in a playpen like Little Fields Farm’s chick surrounds and brooder rings.