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Chickens: ranging too far

Chickens in the veggie garden

These guys, the White Rock Cornish X meat birds, have free-ranged too far, making it to the edge of the veggie garden in the big field. Luckily, although it looks good in the photo, this all-lettuce mesclun is done, cut at least twice and now too full of damaged and crowded, stretched leaves to make harvesting for market worthwhile. So, the chickens are actually putting it to good use. But  of course, they won’t stop here.

So far, they’ve been completely free to roam during the day. I count and shut ’em in out of harm’s way at night, and pop open the door soon after sunrise. If they found farm life dull, they could hit the road and head to town, just like that. Instead, they tend to wander further from home bit by bit.

I’ve been watching their circle of foraging territory gradually expand away from the chickenhouse. A few advance scouts lead the way, sometimes alone, or in twos or threes. Eventually, over a couple of days, more follow. It’s fun to watch the process, and they seem to appreciate the freedom (since they use it), but it’s still three weeks to Processing Day, and they’ll keep on exploring right into the garden. Time for some fencing action…

(In front, pieces of old hose and water pipe are being sorted out on a clear patch of ground.)



  1. Make sure you never have a batch of chickens get into a tomato patch. They are really good at sampling one little peck from every ripe tomato. That can be just a wee bit frustrating as you can imagine.

  2. Hee hee! They look like such happy chickens, especially the one with the big gobful of lettuce.
    I’ve been growing a patch of cut and come again lettuce in a fenced off bit of the garden and the chickens don’t know it’s there. I gave them a handful yesterday and I swear the look on the face of the dominant hen said “Alright. Where did THAT come from. You didn’t have it on you when you came out of the house and suddenly there it is. You’re hiding it.” This morning I’m watching the dominant breaking away from the group and scouting the far corners of the garden looking for it….
    Very clever animals are chickens!

  3. We regularly have the neighbors chickens and ducks wander in to our garden but  so far they have not managed to find the vegi patch just the booming population on snails and slugs.

  4. My free rangers will range amazingly far and wide. In fact, this year was my first attempt at raising the Cornish Crosses. I was so worried they would succumb to all the terrible problems you read about (water belly, broken legs, heart attacks, lazy non-free rangers, etc). In the end, I needed to worry about them actually putting on weight! They ranged far and wide and I needed to chase them back home, they foraged for more of their feed than they ate from their feeders, and never made the gains they were supposed to. (see Cornish Crosses still not fat enough:
    However, in the end, they were the best tasting birds I’ve ever grown on the farm.

  5. mark marino

    great photo !  those pesky chickens always seem to find their way to the best delicacies in the garden –

  6. leonard

    I just discovered a great natural repellent for bugs. It contains cayenne pepper and paraffin wax to help the spray stick to the plants. It works great as a bug repellent and deer repellent. I have been using it in my vegetable garden and it keeps insects and rabbits from eating all my plants. I found the spray at a site called
    Maybe this will keep the chickens out of the veggies!

  7. You might also try Surround WP.  It’s an inexpensive, organic-certified kaolin clay that you spray onto plants that repels insects, deer, etc.  You reapply after a heavy rain and wash the leaves prior to eating the food.  Check it out.
    Hope it helps.  I like visiting your site.  You are getting a lot done on just two acres.

  8. Jill

    I’ve been looking all over the web for someone who lets their meat birds free range.  We don’t have time and materials for a tractor but we have a great spot in the barn that we could use as a coop and then we’d like to let the cornishx birds out to range around the farm as the laying hens do (they have their own coop.)  Will the cornish go back to their coop on their own or do they usually need help?  Will they be wanting some short roosts???

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