Hi all - I've been reading and lurking for a while as I plan my little urban homestead. I think I'm ready to start chickens - just 3-6 birds for eggs for now. I know I've heard mention here and there of containment methods but haven't really answered my question yet. I have about 1/2 acre to devote to my chickens with a mix of shade and sun. I have some mulberry trees and will soon be planting more shrubs and grasses, chickweed, etc. I like the compost pile feed idea (scraps from a restaurant), supplemented with commercial feed until I'm sure I know what I'm doing I'll have 3 or 4 paddocks for daytime rotation, all fanning out from the same coop/nesting area. I'm not too worried about predators because of scattered tall pecan and oak trees and my 6 foot privacy fence.
So my question is: with this much free range area, and not too many birds competing with each other, will they still be inclined to fly over that 6 foot fence into the neighbors' yards? My city is chicken friendly but we do have ordinances about noise and restricting their wandering. If so, any opinions about clipping their wings?
Thanks in advance for any wisdom and advice, Susan in Greensboro,NC
Chickens don't really like to fly. They only do it to evade something chasing them (and then not that well, because dogs and foxes chase and catch them all the time), or to get up to a perch for the night. A six-foot fence, while not impossible for them to get over, is not something they will be very inclined to try. Especially if their attention is on scratching up good things in the dirt.
If you have a really skittish one that is always flapping up to land on something, you might clip its feathers, but I don't think you will have to.
How likely the chickens are to fly on to or over a fence varies a bit based on breeds. It also depends on the personality of the individual birds. Having said that generally the bigger, heavier breeds stay closer to the ground as you would expect.
Way back when I was in 4H we had all kind of breeds. The little Polish rooster liked to hang out on the porch roof. The standard size Buff Cochin couldn't be bothered to go any higher than the nest boxes and sometimes laid in the space underneath them.
Thanks guys - sounds like just about everything else in nature, the answer is - well depends - lol
Your answers also led to the discovery of some past threads I hadn't seen before so my conclusion is, I'm going to create a small yard with top net for the chicks for 3-6 months and then let them rotate through the other paddocks. This will allow my city-slicker cat and two old dogs to get used to the idea too.
I free ranged some chickens enclosed in a yard with a six foot fence and the only time they all ever jumped the fence was to avoid a dog who got in. I can think of one or two other times where one hen is over the fence for whatever reason and I find her out there trying to get back in. Luckily in my situation a hen over the fence does not mean certain death for her.
I was reluctant to clip the wing of a free ranging bird in a city lot because being able to jump the fence was what saved them from a dog. My heavier set hen did not make it over the fence and was taken by the dog. My old neighbor would open up his pen in the evenings and his chickens would fly all over the block pretty much, but always returned to their coop. So Jessica is right that breed makes all the difference.
Choose heavy breed birds and they'll only go over a fence if they are very determined, which with that much space they usually won't be. Also, if one or two do hop a fence but the rest stay home those strays generally won't go far.