HomeRaising ChickensCan Chickens Find Their Way Home?

    Can Chickens Find Their Way Home?

    Chickens are curious animals and they can be quite the escape artists. They’ll fly or jump over the fencing and wander off to wherever the day takes them. Or maybe you’re thinking about free-ranging your chickens? In that case, you want to ensure they all return home safe and sound each night. Can chickens find their way back home? And how do they do that?

    Let’s find out.

    Can chickens find their way home?

    Yes. Chickens can wander off or escape, but they usually return at dusk, when they go to bed. They’re smarter than we give them credit for; they’ll remember where they came from and come back to roost when it’s getting dark.

    roosting chickens at dusk

    There is only one ‘but’: your chickens had to be long enough in the coop to recognize it as their home. They have to associate the place where they roost with food and shelter. So it won’t work with newly purchased chickens. This is why you should always keep new adult chickens inside an enclosed run for a couple of days before letting them free range. Chicks can free range on their own as from 8 weeks old, if weather conditions are ‘normal’.

    How can chickens find their way home?

    Like in migratory birds, domesticated chickens also have a magnetic compass to find their way back home. They use the earth magnetic field to orientate. Several studies has been done to prove the existence of this magnetic compass in domesticated chickens. Which proves the important role of this mechanism in a birds daily navigational task.

    How far do chickens roam?

    Not very far. Most chickens won’t go further than 200 yards of their coop, especially if there is plenty to eat and drink in the area. But chicken owners with large land have seen their chickens use up the entire space, especially during winter, when there are less bugs to find.

    On the other hand, chickens are prey animals and always keep their guard up so they won’t wander off to where they don’t feel safe. As long as they feel secured and safe, they’ll use up the entire area for free ranging.

    Reasons why your chicken is not returning home

    Like all pets, you don’t immedialty need to worry when your chickens isn’t returning home. The reason why could be quite innocent, but it can also be a sign of sickness or a predator attack. If you are worried, search the surrounding area of the chicken coop first. It’s not unusual for a chicken to hide in a less obvious place, but close to the coop.

    If she can’t be found in the proximity of the coop, alert the neighbors to keep an eye open. And try and look for her yourself, however this won’t be easy. There are several reasons why your chicken isn’t returning home, we’ll address the most common.


    When your chicken is wounded or injured, chances are she’s not able to return home.

    Predator attack

    Chickens free range or wander off as they please, and it’s nothing to worry about if you have the space for it. But be aware that chickens are much safer inside the run, even in the daytime. Many daytime predators are a treat for your flock, like the neighbor’s dog, snakes, or birds of prey. Free ranging your chickens has its benefits, but is not safer for you beloved birds.


    If your hens frequently free range, chances are, they’ll lay their eggs everywhere. And when one hen gets broody while free ranging, she’ll stay on the eggs no matter what. She won’t join the rest of the flock at dusk to return to the coop, but sits on the eggs until they hatch or, if the eggs aren’t fertilized, until the broodyness stops. You can try and find her, if you know where the hens lay their eggs. But otherwise, it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack. Just be patient, she’ll return some day.


    Chickens are curious animals and can wander off when looking for food. But they return home at dusk to roost. Chickens use the magnetic field of the earth to find their way back home, like migratory birds. If your chicken isn’t returning home after a day of free ranging, there are several problems that may have occurred like, broodyness, a predator attack or an injury.



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