Let chickens run free in the garden
People who keep hobby chickens can choose to let them run loose in the garden. Because chickens are real free-range animals that spend most of their time foraging for food, roaming chickens will usually enjoy themselves better than hens in the house. However, the garden must be adapted to roaming chickens. Avoiding dangerous situations and properly fencing the garden are important. It must also be taken into account that chickens can leave feces everywhere and destroy plants in the garden.
- Walk away
- Protection from predators
- Open water
- Poisonous plants
- Damage to plants
- Raising obligation
Chickens will usually stay close to where they are fed. Because chickens are real free-for-roaders, they will go out to forage. A chicken does not take boundaries into account. When chickens run free, it is therefore important to ensure that the entire garden is closed off so that the chickens cannot just leave. Chickens can go through dense bushes, but in some cases they cannot stop a fence with large holes either. In addition, most chickens can fly. Small chickens in particular can sometimes reach heights of about three meters. Therefore, make sure you have a sufficiently high boundary fence.
It is also possible to trim the chickens. This involves clipping the large feathers on the outside of the wings. If you do this with a wing, a chicken will no longer be able to keep its balance and therefore no longer be able to fly. If both wings are flipped short, the chicken will still be able to fly at low altitudes. After a period of molting, the feathers will usually grow back, so that the cutting must be repeated.
Protection from predators
A hutch can provide protection from predators. You can therefore choose to only let the chickens run free during the day and lock them up in a night pen at night. Chickens that are used to running free will protect themselves from predators. Many chickens naturally sleep in higher areas, such as in trees or high shrubs. This makes them difficult for predators to catch. In addition, free-roaming chickens can fly away if there is a threat. Finally, chickens, seeing no way to flee, will pretend to be dead and not be noticed by predators or birds of prey.
Chickens that are just running loose will still have to be protected against possible dangers such as open water and poisonous plants.
Chickens are ratites and, unlike water birds, cannot swim well. Chickens do not have webbed feet and the plumage of chickens is less waterproof than that of water birds. Chickens must therefore be prevented from ending up in open water, such as a pond in the garden. Open water is especially dangerous for small chicks. Chicks do not recognize water yet and will walk into it and drown. A pond in the garden is better suited for free-roaming chickens, and especially for free-roaming chicks.
Most chickens do not naturally eat plants that are poisonous to them. However, it can sometimes happen that inexperienced chickens start to eat poisonous plant species. If you catch chickens eating this, it is best to remove the plants. The following plant species are poisonous to chickens: bracken, henbane, buttercup, cow parsley, hedge vine, herik, Jacob’s ragwort, lily, privet, monkshood, hellebore, horsetail, foxglove, flax’s beak, wolf’s clover, arctic clover, clover clover and clover clovers.
Free roaming chickens can cause quite a nuisance. Not only your own plants and terrace are destroyed or dirty, neighbors can also be bothered by the chickens, for example because they regularly come on their property or because of vermin that come to the front. In addition, the chickens can attract insects.
Damage to plants
Chickens scratch the ground with their feet while foraging. This can expose the roots of plants, which can cause them to die. Smaller plants can be buried under the sand. Finally, chickens also eat some ornamental plants. Especially if there is a vegetable garden, it can be damaged by stray chickens. Grass also usually does not survive foraging behavior. On the other hand, chickens are also fond of many weeds, which makes weeding a redundant task when chickens are around. Those who like a tidy garden should only give the chickens a limited angle where they can forage. Preferably choose places with trees and shrubs that have been planted in the ground. Avoid patches of lawn or stone terraces. The latter will only get very dirty, while the chickens cannot do much with it.
Chickens do not have a fixed place for their faeces. Free roaming chickens will defecate throughout the garden. This can cause inconvenience. Usually the stool is dry and can be wiped up. Chickens also empty their appendix once a day, releasing wet faeces. This cannot be easily wiped up but will not be everywhere. Finally, the stool contains a lot of nitrogen. Not all plants can handle this. It is therefore better to throw chicken poo in the green container. It is also possible to collect the chicken poo and let it die. After a few months, it is diluted with compost and can be used to fertilize the garden.
Anyone who has chickens almost always has mice or sometimes even rats. The pests come to the chicken feed. The risk of a mouse infestation can be limited by not sprinkling too much food. Don’t give the chickens more than they can eat. In addition, use lockable containers to store the food.
Chickens attract insects. In the summer you often also find more flies near chickens. By keeping the chicken coop and run clean, the nuisance can be reduced. Because the faeces of stray chickens is more scattered, it is more difficult to clean up all this. In this case, the nuisance can be limited by hanging a good flycatcher.
If there is an outbreak of avian flu, an obligation to house can be imposed. This housing obligation is usually only mandatory for commercial poultry. However, it must be ensured that hobby chickens are shielded, so that they cannot come into direct contact with wild birds or the droppings of wild birds. For chickens this means that they must be placed in a pen or run. Letting loose in the garden is therefore not permitted during a declared housing obligation for poultry.