Hey, folks. First off, I'm not worried about nighttime predators because my husband is a highly experienced carpenter who knows how to build and maintain a secure coop and run.
I have raised larger, dual-purpose hens before in the city with a nice fence all around the yard. Now I'm out in the country with no money or desire to build a fence, so I'm starting a free-range flock, which I would like to keep confined only while they roost at night and perhaps a few hours each morning until they're done laying, ideally. I got 10 female chicks. Landlady won't allow a rooster, sadly. I got Brown Leghorn, Ancona, EE, Hamburg, and Egyptian Fayoumis, all smaller LF breeds that seem wary, noisy, and flighty enough to escape, at least most of the time, the many coyotes we're liable to hear howling around here at all hours of the day any time of year. But what about hawks? In the 18 months that I've lived here, I've only seen a hawk on the property one time. For whatever reason, they're just not in the habit of coming around here, but I worry that chickens will attract them. Our area is mostly wooded, with some clearing, but we don't mow anything. Dense cover such as ferns, tall grasses, blackberry bushes, and big trees are never far away. Even though I got small breeds, all my girls should end up weighing at least 4 lbs when they are full grown (I wouldn't dare let them free-range until then). Are RT hawks really in the habit of taking prey that large?
And for the record, I am not looking for any sentiments such as, "ZOMG YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE LOSSES SO YOU SHOULD LOCK UP ALL YOUR HENS FOREVER." I know some losses are inevitable with free-ranging, but I'm not interested in keep chickens locked up in a run 24/7. That kills the joy of observing them in a natural setting, and their eggs taste hardly any better than store bought that way. I'm just trying to keep predator losses to a minimum. I don't mind raising up a few chicks from the feed store each spring. I'm wondering what I should do if I do see any hawks coming around. Do I need to worry, and if so, what should I do?
Here are a couple of pics of the coop we acquired via Craigslist so you can see what kind of environment we're working with. (Coop still needs to be leveled, door added, etc., while chicks are still brooding in the house. We're also going to add a lean-to expansion off the back of the coop for more roosting space and a secure run). Thanks in advance for any practical advice!
Edited by UrbanEnthusiast - 3/21/16 at 5:06pm