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Do I have to let them run free?

(15 Posts)
Stropzilla Thu 01-Nov-12 12:01:04

I've been trying to find some info on chickens online, but every site I come across assumes I'm going to let them run free. This isn't really practical as all my neighbours have cats that would rip them to bits, and my garden isn't 100% secure. I'm looking at an enclosure that is about 6ft x 2.5 and 4ft high. The house is accessed up a ramp to be kept on paving. I assume I would need to let them out of there occassionally and am happy to get a seperate run to put on the grass. Would that be OK for 3 - 4 hens? And how the heck do I get them out of the house and under the run?!? I can see me chasing the beggars all round our scrubland garden!

What do I do with them in winter? Will they be OK there all year round?

Stropzilla Thu 01-Nov-12 12:07:52

Ours will be something like this, but not this exact one.

Stropzilla Thu 01-Nov-12 12:08:01

djelibeybi Thu 01-Nov-12 12:15:55

To get them to go in the run, just throw some food in. They will all try to get to it first.

They will be fine in winter, their feathers provide excellent insulation.

They will scratch up all the grass/scrubland in the run within a day or two. If you move the run around the garden frequently, they will clear all the weeds, slugs and snails for you and fertilise it as well.

MoreBeta Thu 01-Nov-12 12:23:06

The run you describe is very small even for 2-3 chickens so I agree you will definitley have to move it every day. They are fantastic garden weeders and moss rakers on a lawn so they work for a living and enjoy it too. They wil eat your soft plants first though so take care what you allow them access to.

I do let the chickens we have 'run free' by wrapping a long roll of 4ft high garden wire round trees but still allowing access back to their coop, food and water. That way they scratch under the trees, get shelter from sun and rain and can move around and flap their wings.

Cats do stalk around our garden but I find 4 ft high wire is tall enough to dissuade them. I lock the chickens up securely at night.

Stropzilla Thu 01-Nov-12 12:37:07

Oh I forgot, the coop would be placed maybe 3ft from the back door, Someone mentioned that might be too close?

Stropzilla Thu 01-Nov-12 12:42:34

Sorry I think I was a bit vague about my dimensions. The ones i gave are on a run attached to the coop, we will ALSO be getting a seperate run to go on the grass.

Pixel Thu 01-Nov-12 13:50:55

Morebeta have you clipped their wings? I think mine would probably leap over 4ft wire in no time, never mind the cats getting in. We have a roof on our run which is high enough for me to stand up in comfortably (I'm 5'2") and I looked out of the window the other day to see one of the girls launch herself into the air and hit the roof! I haven't clipped their wings yet though.

Stopzilla mine have been in their run all the time as like you I don't think it is practical to let them out in the garden. We are renting and would have to replace the side gate, plus it wouldn't look good when we get inspected to have great craters everywhere! (I had no idea they would dig so much, it's like the great escape. Dh has offered to build them a little vaulting horse grin). However I too was thinking about getting a separate moveable run so they could go on the grass occasionally but not something that would take up loads of space when not in use. I was wondering about getting one of these as not too expensive and folds flat. I'd have to put some netting over the top but they would only be in there when we are around.

Stropzilla Thu 01-Nov-12 13:53:28

That looks like a great idea, Pixel! I think a little vault would be just the thing! I had no idea we would need to get so much, I'm looking at pellets, mash, grit, mite powder and all that stuff. This has really turned into my husbands project, but I'm still doing all the fact finding!

Pixel Thu 01-Nov-12 14:14:35

I've got this mite spray and just spray some in all the little nooks and crannies and under the newspaper whenever I clean out the coop. So far touch wood we haven't had a mite problem, plus it smells of lavender so makes me feel like I've left it all fresh for the girls blush.
3 ft is quite close to your door but as long as they are kept clean I don't see why it should matter. Ours are at the end of the garden but because of the way the houses are staggered round the close, and the fact that the neighbours have an extension, they are actually quite close to the neighbour's back door and they haven't reported any problems (and they would have since they were a bit dubious when I said we were getting chooks). I'm very hot on keeping them clean so there are no smells though as I don't want to fall out with anybody.

Stropzilla Thu 01-Nov-12 14:58:54

Ok we're looking at just getting 2 hens, with a view to getting a larger coop if we want more. We may also be getting this run for some daytime freedom, what do you think?

Pixel Thu 01-Nov-12 17:43:24

Looks nice smile. Where do you get them in and out? Do you have to hold the lid up while you try and grab a chook or is there an easier way? I suppose they will all follow you for food but I've only let mine out once and they weren't even interested in their favourite mealworms so I had fun getting them all back. I've chickened out of letting them out since (see what I did there? grin)
I was going to have two but when I turned up at the farm with my basket the farmer persuaded me that three would be better in case something happens to one, so three it was!

EdsRedeemingQualities Thu 01-Nov-12 17:53:35

You would probably be alright with the cats tbh - it's foxes you have to watch.

We have a large area at the end of the garden where ours used to free range, till a fox came one bright morning and killed three out of four.

There was no way to stop them coming in, as it's walled all the way round (about 6ft) and a lot of trees by the walls so no electric fencing.

So I shut the poor last chicken in the shed for a week while I built a huge covered run adjoining it, and then I cut a hole in the side of the shed, with a flap, and a long ladder and we got some more.

They've been in the shed and run ever since. It's boring, I know, and I feel so sorry for them, because I know how happy they were outside in the sunshine with green things to eat and trees to hide behind (like I couldn't see them smile)

but they would be dead if they were still out.

The run is about 7ft tall, sloping roof with corrugated steel, a small section that gets rained on, the rest of it is dry and dusty even in the winter.

It's about 5 metres long and 2.5 wide. It doesn't need cleaning out, the mess they make just self-composts into the dust.

That's just how we've done it. There are different gardens though and different ways towards having happy chickies.

Good luck smile

MoreBeta Thu 01-Nov-12 21:00:20

Pixel - no we dont clip their wings. They dont fly.

One hen can climb trees though and she got up there and sort of fell off a branch over the garden wall. She is half blind and was walking about on the road. Luckily a neighbour came and told me she was out.

Stropzilla Sun 04-Nov-12 20:15:10

Hi thanks for all your posts! It's exiting planning what we're going to do. We think we may save a bit more and get a bigger coop so if we get hit with chicken-itis we can get more without replacing the coop.

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