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Will chickens run away if you let them loose to free-range?

If you’re planning to let your go chickens free range around your garden or land and there’s potential for them to wander, letting them free for the first time can be a worry. But should you worry about letting your chickens out of the run and will they run away if they do?

In short no, chickens won’t run away if you let them out of their enclosure unless they’re frightened or not used to their surroundings. Providing new chickens have time to get used to their coop and run they will stay close by for safety when they’re first set free.

Although chickens won’t run away, they can sometimes wander off as they scratch and graze for food. Read on to find out more about how to deal with this and how to get the chickens used to their coop before you let them loose for the first time.


Getting chickens used to their run and coop

Getting chickens used to their coop and run area is an important step to complete before you let them go free-range.

When you get new chickens at any age they will stay inside the run area for a number of days before being released. This is so they get used to the coop being home and a place of safety in case of danger.

Once the chickens are used to their new home, they can be let out of the run to graze and scratch within your land or garden boundaries.

How long you keep chickens penned in for is really up to you and depending on the birds themselves.

Some chickens are more flighty and nervous than others so they may take longer to get used to their new home, in this case, they might feel safer being enclosed and easily able to get to the coop.

We’ve found that ex-battery rescue hens are particularly nervous about leaving the coop at first, especially because they’re used to being indoors, but given time and as they start to enjoy grazing they grow in confidence.

Birds which are young and may have had previous experience of being free-range before you got them tend to be much more eager to get out and about.

When we get new hens we usually keep them in the run area for around three days before letting them free.

Image of chickens taking a walk on grass

Letting chickens out of the run for the fist time

When you let your chickens out for the first time it’s a good idea to let them out for a short amount of time at first so they can get used to the surroundings a bit at a time.

The best way to do this is by letting them out an hour or two before dusk, so they’ll be naturally be ready to go back to the coop to roost as soon as the light starts to drop.

You will probably find that your chickens stay very close to the coop and are a bit wary when they first venture out, which is good because they should happily go back into roost when they need to.

If your chickens need a bit of coaxing back into the coop a handful of food or a few treats should do the trick.

Getting new chickens used to a call or whistle and treating them when they call back is a good way to get your chickens back to the coop when you need to. If you do have any issues with getting them back to roost you might find the following post useful:

7 ways to get chickens back into the coop to roost at night


Situations which can cause chickens to run away

Although chickens do like a good wander, they will not run away as such unless they feel that they’re threatened or in danger.

If chickens do come up against any dangers such as a predator, they tend to run for the nearest shelter possible such as the coop or nearby bushes and shrubs.

Chickens can sometimes get stuck in hedges if they’ve panicked and got themselves wedged in a small space.


Will chickens try to escape?

Chickens are good escape artists and some tend to spend their time trying getting into an area where they shouldn’t be, especially if they think there’s something tasty on the other side.

Our chickens have a large expanse of land to graze on but we don’t always let them in the garden, instead of being happy with what they’ve got, they spend all day trying to get into the garden and the flower beds.

Chickens naturally like to be free to wander and graze, so if they get a taste of freedom they’ll want more and when you keep them in the run they’ll want to get out.

If there’s a problem with a coop and run such as red mites or vermin, this can lead to them trying to escape because they don’t feel comfortable.


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I hope you’ve found this post helpful, the key to chicken keeping is that they all have unique personalities and often react in the opposite way that you’d expect, you will quickly get used to their ways and they will get used to yours!

You might also find the following posts helpful:

7 tips on how to get chickens to like you

How to get chickens to follow you


Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.