My original plan was to let my chickens free-range during the days so they could eat weeds and bugs off my property. I've read that free-ranging chickens will find enough food that you really don't even need to feed them in the summer months. I'm not ready to test that one yet, but I did try a little free ranging this weekend.
On Saturday, I opened up the gate while I went in to get them fresh water, and by the time I got back with the water, they were all out in the yard scratching and pecking and making happy little chicken noises. I let that go on for a few hours while I played outside with the girls.
On Sunday I left them out for a few hours again. Actually I left them out twice Sunday, for a few hours the first time and just about 20 minutes the second time. The second time was a fluke. They used to never try to leave even with the gate open. But now they know what it's like out there, and they leave whenever they can.
I liked seeing the chickens roam about on their own. They mostly stayed right near the coop, foraging in the high weeds for bugs and making the occasional foray into the garden. I still only do it when I am outside with them, though, because some of our neighbors don't feel the need to control their dogs, and just let them roam about in other people's yards.
Lexi got out of the yard at one point Sunday and had a good chase with the chickens. She was within about 4 inches of a Buff Orpington dinner at one point right before I caught her. If a small puppy can be that fast and aggressive toward the chickens, I hate to think what would happen if full grown dogs came into our yard with the chickens out. So I still leave them "ccoped" up when I'm not right there watching and still keep them full of 20% grower/starter and cracked corn.