Will Chickens Run Away When Free-Ranging?

Raising chickens comes with so many benefits, from companionship to learning all about their behaviors to collecting their eggs daily.

So, it’s completely understandable for us chicken owners to be protective over our flock and keep a clear eye out while they are free-ranging in the backyard.

But will chickens really leave the yard if they are left unattended?

Here we go through normal chicken behavior that keeps them in the backyard and we cover the few reasons chickens will “run away” if they are left free-ranging.

Will Chickens Run Away When Free-Ranging

It’s a fair question to ask if you’re new to owning chickens: if chickens will run away if left free-ranging. But, the good news is it’s not in the chicken’s instinct to go exploring too far or run away from their home and flock. 

Chickens are social creatures, naturally grouping together and making friends within their flock. Once they get used to their environment they will consider their coop, run, and backyard their home.

So, in normal circumstances, chickens won’t venture out too far and certainly won’t run away, even if there is an open gate or low fences.

They may roam between 100 and 200 yards away from their coop though!

Still, there are a few circumstances where chickens will flee their environment and appear to have run away, particularly if they aren’t used to their new home yet! 

Why Chickens Will “Run Away” From Home

While it’s never the first thought of a chicken to run away from its home, there are instances where a chicken will leave their yard – and unfortunately, some circumstances where it may not make it back. 

However, most of the time the chickens running away from their home is a temporary measure in order to escape a predator, find food or build a nest to lay their eggs if there aren’t enough nesting boxes in the coop.

Further to this, chickens can’t fly very high, so if you’ve got a fence at least 4-6 feet high they will likely not be able to get over it!

Still, here are the few reasons your chickens would run away when left free-ranging in the backyard.

If They’re Not Used To Their Home Yet

One of the most common reasons chickens will run away or leave the yard is if they don’t consider their coop or space as their home yet.

It’s natural if you’ve just housed some new chickens for them to be a little apprehensive about their new home, after all, it’s a completely new environment they have to learn and get used to. 

It’s common for newly housed chickens to wander off, as they simply don’t consider the coop their safe haven yet. Usually, they will naturally stay with their flock, but occasionally a chicken will venture too far while foraging and in some cases will get lost. 

For this reason, it’s always recommended to supervise newly housed chickens when they are free-ranging. This also helps them build trust with you too, which will help your chickens like you in the long run.

Once your chickens are familiar with their environment they will hardly ever wander into unknown territory unless threatened, so allowing your chickens to free-range unsupervised at this point is entirely safe.

If They Were Frightened Or Feel Threatened

Chickens are very docile creatures by nature and they don’t have much in the way of defending themselves. This is why chickens usually take the approach to run away or hide when faced with predators or threats rather than fighting (unless they have to, as seen with a large snake for example!).

So, it’s entirely normal for your chickens to run away from your yard if there was a hawk, fox, or dog hanging around. 

Normally chickens won’t stay hidden or run away for long, and will usually come back within a few hours, but up to 24 hours at the very latest depending on the circumstance.

They Don’t Have An Available Food Source 

Although it seems like chickens will continuously eat whenever you come to provide them food, the average adult chicken only needs to eat 1-2 sittings a day, up to about half a cup of feed per day.

However, foraging is very normal behavior for chickens, and they will often dig holes to find insects, scour every corner of your yard, and can sometimes even be seen eating dirt or grass.

If your chickens haven’t eaten enough food from their regular feed, whether it’s layer pellets or a seed mix, then they are likely to do more foraging to fill them up. This can lead chickens to venture further out if they’re hungry, which sometimes can lead them out of your property. 

However, this generally won’t be for long, and if you provide your chickens with the adequate feed they shouldn’t do this very often if at all.

They May Consider Other Properties As Safe

If your chicken keeps going into your neighbor’s property then it’s likely that your chicken simply thinks it’s safe and probably wants to forage further! As annoying as this is for your neighbor, you can try a few techniques to keep your chickens in your backyard.

After all, it’s much harder to take care of your chickens if you don’t know where they go all day. Make sure they’ve always got adequate space, food, and nesting boxes available in their environment so they’re less likely to venture further than they need to.


So, although it’s a fair question to ask, chickens won’t generally run away if they are left free-ranging as they see their coop and backyard as their home. They know it’s where they get food, feel safe from predators, and can lay their eggs in comfort.

However, if your chickens are trying to escape a predator or perceived threat, aren’t used to their home yet, or are searching for more food then they can temporarily run away. Even so, it’s likely they will return on their own.

So, we can comfortably say that the chicken didn’t cross the road to run away while free-ranging!

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