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Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:24 pm
by JoseyJo
Hi, I have 3 chickens who have been housed in a permanent coop and run for the last year, with some free ranging - more in the winter when there aren't vegetables and children in the garden.
I have decided to change their housing to a chicken tractor - because the fixed run is entirely devoid of anything green to eat and with the warmer months coming I won't want them to range over the whole garden so would like them to have access to fresh grass when they're confined.
I have also bought some moveable fencing so I can still let them free range in certain parts of the garden... which leads to my question. If I move the tractor then let them free range will they be confused as to where to find their house at bed time?! I know from another coop move that chickens are creatures of habit - on that occasion despite the new house being at the opposite side of a run around 3 feet away, they all stood where the old house had been waiting for it to appear! :lol:
If I leave them in for 24hours each time I move the tractor - will that be enough for them to know where to return? Or will they get used to the idea that their house moves around the garden and look for it? (On the previous occasion it was a different house AND location).
I'm also unsure when the best time is to move the thing - when they're in the house part (will they find that frightening?) - when they're in the run (could be tricky as house and run are not attached) - or when they're out free ranging (easier for me but then they won't know where their house has gone! I might be able to tempt them into it with meal worms but I suppose that'll depend on how hungry they are at the time).
Any experiences - please help?!

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:41 pm
by diggernotdreamer
I had a partially sighted cockerel, we moved his house around a few times and he always managed to find it. I think they will get used to the idea that the house moves about and they have to find it. All my hens get fed twice a day, so when they get fed later on in the day, they gather round the gate to their run, they get let out into a meadow every day, but they seem to know what time it is and make their way back for tea, so I think what I am saying is, once you get them into a routine they just know what to do

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 8:18 am
by doofaloofa
feed the hens in the evening inside the area you want them to roost. The lure of food will overcome their nostalgia

Move the tractor when it suits you, but i wouldn't worry to much about upsetting them, they'll get used to it, especially if it happens regularly

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 1:16 pm
by JoseyJo
Great, thanks. Good to know they should get used to the new arrangement - and if I have to lure them in at first that's ok. I have always had food "on tap" in the past so only feeding am and pm sounds a good idea.

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 3:04 pm
by doofaloofa
IMO feeding in the PM is more efficient as the birds will be resting and not using the nutrition for activity but for egg production, and in the morning the hungry hens will be more effective foragers

a bit off topic but what the hay?

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 7:21 pm
by JoseyJo
Off topic is fine! When your birds have gone to bed do you remove uneaten food?

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 10:57 pm
by diggernotdreamer
you should never give hens more food than they can consume in about 5 or 10 minutes

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 8:19 am
by Odsox
diggernotdreamer wrote:you should never give hens more food than they can consume in about 5 or 10 minutes

I agree.
Chicken can only eat until their crops are full, then they stop.
A hens crop is about the size of your fist, so a good estimate of how much to feed is a closed fistful of food for each hen.

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 8:55 pm
by JoseyJo
Oh dear, I hate to admit I've had chickens for over 5 years and I didn't know not to leave food out all the time :oops:

Thanks for the advice - day 1 of the new arrangement worked really well. We moved the hen house while they were inside it first thing this morning, so instead of leading into their usual run it led into the new small mobile run. I was going to leave them a day to get used to their new home - but hated to see them confined to a small run on such a lovely day so I used the temporary fencing to enclose a larger area around them and let them out.

They didn't try to escape the netting (!) yet....spent a lovely day scratching and sunbathing, and I didn't feed them until this evening - I put the food in the run and they dutifully walked in. :icon_smile:

I'm just hoping if I rotate the area they are allowed on they won't decimate all greenery in sight. I think I might have to keep them cooped up some of the time though to prevent that.

Re: Combining chicken tractor and free range...question

Posted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 9:49 pm
by ina
JoseyJo wrote:Oh dear, I hate to admit I've had chickens for over 5 years and I didn't know not to leave food out all the time :oops:


It can also attract rats and other vermin... The main problem why the council, for example, is not at all keen on people keeping poultry in their gardens! And if anybody does see a rat, they'll blame it on you anyway.