Even if you provide your chickens with a chicken coop "extroadinaire" and an adjoining spacious outside pen, their preference will always be out roaming free in your yard and garden. So much garden to explore, bugs and worms to forage, dirt baths to indulge in, and plain ol' sunshine and breeze to enjoy.
I encourage you to let your chickens out to roam and free-range in your yard and garden, mind you with a watchful eye. It is important that you protect your chickens while they are outside of their pen, and on the "flip side," you are aware of the necessity of protecting your flower and vegetable gardens from your chickens, too.
If you let your chickens out in your yard and garden, be aware of possible predators such as dogs, coyotes, raccoons. Never let your chickens out to roam at night, only day time. Make sure your yard and garden is free of any glass, nails, and sharp objects which could possibly cut or puncture a chicken's foot. Punctures in a chicken's foot, has enormous consequences, and can lead to infection and bumblefoot. Use common sense to eliminate anything in your yard and garden which could potentially harm your chickens.
If you have a prize-winning garden, or an incredible green thumb growing organic vegetables, you should take precautions to keep them protected from your chickens. Chickens love home-grown vegetables, and will be in your vegetable garden, if not protected with a surrounding fence or netting. Our beloved hens will jump a foot or so to eat a lush cluster of grapes in our vineyard. We net our vineyard to dissuade wild birds, as well as own chickens. Chickens know where the good eats are, rest assured.
In your flower gardens, chickens are more likely to wallow in dirt baths at the base of shrubs, rather than eat actual plants. They are foraging for bugs, worm, small lizards more so than your flowers. Dirt baths for chickens are a form of cleansing their feathers, cooling themselves in the moist soil, and general relaxation.
Chickens if roaming outside, naturally head for their coop at dusk to perch on their roost at night. If it is not dusk, and you need to coax your chickens back into their coop and outside pen, try training them to herd.
Herding works with a small flock of chickens, not usually a large one. Herding chickens is a bit like "herding cats." When you first get your chickens, start training them at a young age to herd as soon as possible, especially if you are going to let them out to roam. I have never had a rooster, so I don't know if this method works for them, too.
My technique for herding chickens, is to gently walk behind them, patting or clapping my hands together, using my left or right arm out to steer them. It works. If you have a small flock, once you get the leaders heading towards your coop, the others fall into place. Gently clap walking slowly behind them, and they will march back to the coop.
Chickens love to be in your yard and garden. They love to have the freedom to roam and explore, but don't have to be out in your yard and garden all the time. Let them out, when you have time to keep an eye on them, and when you have time to be in your yard and garden.
Please share if you let your chickens out in your yard and garden at times. Please comment on any method you use to herd your chickens.