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Free Ranging?

post #1 of 4
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I have a small flock of 7 (6 hens and a roo). They have a covered run that is 10x20 but they LOVE to come out and peck around the yard...which isn't a big deal EXCEPT we have hawks out the ying yang where I live.

 

Free rangers- how do you do it with out driving yourself nuts thinking about something coming along and killing your chickens? I lost two hens last Summer to raccoons, and since then I am terrified to let them just wander around on their own.

 

I mean, surely 100 years ago farmers didn't chicken-sit their flock outside...they just let them out and that was that. Right?

post #2 of 4

Chicken keeping in the "old days" was similar to now, some people let them out, a lot of people kept them in a coop and run because chickens were an asset.  My great aunt and my grandma both kept their birds in a large coop/run because they had no interest in feeding their good laying hens to the local wildlife.  So yes, loosing birds to predators comes with the territory when free ranging.  When I had my first flocks about 25 years ago I free ranged.  It wasn't long before the local coyote population discovered my birds and started wiping them out.  That was the end of my free ranging days.  Now my birds have access to about an acre of well fenced pasture, I also have a couple of very good farm dogs who run off critters.  I haven't lost a bird to a predator since those early years using that system.  Otherwise I'd have been wiped out by roaming dogs and coyotes long ago.  As far as hawks, you never know.  I've never had a hawk attack despite having many of them around, other people have nothing but trouble with them. 

wife to long suffering husband who has built more miles of fence, barns, coops and enclosures then one man should have to, two teenage boys, current flock of 13 assorted hens, 1 big red roo and a list of other assorted farm animals. 
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wife to long suffering husband who has built more miles of fence, barns, coops and enclosures then one man should have to, two teenage boys, current flock of 13 assorted hens, 1 big red roo and a list of other assorted farm animals. 
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post #3 of 4
For hawks it helps to provide cover, we have a few old trucks mine go under, shrubs and trees help too. We occasionally get a predator, a Fox, a coyote took 10 birds one year before my husband finally got a shot at him. We also have a few donkey and goats the birds share a shed and pasture with, so those help to cut down loses too. In the old days there was other farm animals around and usually a few outside dogs to watch over the livestock.
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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post #4 of 4

I like mine to get out and peck about, but the chance of loss is real. I live in a rural ranch and have all the predators except a neighbor's dog.

 

These are the tricks I use to reduce the loss:

 

In the free range space, there needs to be natural cover, such as bushes or man made cover such as pallets up on block. Prey need to be able to hide. Some chicken feathers blend in much better to the surroundings than others. Currently I am breeding for this, matching the SD prairie.

 

A rooster that is over a year old. When you walk within sight of your set up, the rooster should be the first one to see you. If not, you need a different rooster. He needs to be more than a year old, as younger roosters are only thinking of one thing, and have no idea of true flock duties.

 

Do not let your birds out on a schedule, let them out early some days, late others. Some days not at all.

 

Do not let them out if it is a real dark cloudy day, or a day of high wind, both will give advantage to the predators.

 

If you or rather when you get hit, Leave everything in lock up for several days or even weeks. Eventually your predators will move on if the tasty, fast and easy food is locked up.

 

Train your birds to come to a can of feed shaken, so that you can round them up and lock them up quickly and easily.

 

Mrs K


Edited by Mrs. K - 2/27/16 at 9:30am
Western South Dakota Rancher
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Western South Dakota Rancher
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