I'm new to this thread (and to BYC) but have a quick question. How many in Western WA (I'm in the Gig Harbor area) successfully free range their flocks (without fencing) during the day? I hope to free range during the day (sometimes we'll be home, sometimes not) by using a chicken door, and they'll be locked in the coop at night. So my concern is about daytime predators.
We'll have a rooster, and our dogs will be outside during the day, but they're in a large fenced run on the opposite side of the house from where the chickens will be, so not loose. But they will bark up a storm if any other animals come onto the property, hopefully scaring them off or deterring them altogether. We also have several neighborhood dogs on invisible fences nearby (another deterrent), and our property is 5 acres of mainly woods, so tons of cover from hawks.
I would love some realistic advice. I've never seen any predator on our property other than a hawk (who was being mercilessly attacked by 2 crows mid-air), but we've heard coyotes far off in the distance. Never found any scat or other evidence of wildlife (every day when we're home we let our dogs run loose through the woods, so they mark their territory all over the place and I think that keeps them away). Our immediate neighbors keep their trash outside and have never had any animal lay a finger on it (tells me the neighborhood dogs also deter the bears and raccoons). We have another neighbor adjacent to us who has some old sheep and a single rooster, who are out ranging all day, and has not reported any problems.
All that being said, perhaps no predators have come because we never served up a chicken buffet on a silver platter before. I'm sure the chickens will attract interest, but given all of the above can I make an educated guess that we may have an ok chance at successfully free ranging the birds?
I'm open to adding electric field fencing around a large area, possibly even creating smaller areas that we move every week. This would be my plan B. And then plan C would be a fully enclosed run.
So, my friendly locals, thoughts? Successes and failures? Am I being overly optimistic and setting myself up for a chicken massacre?
PS - another option I'm open to is putting our own dogs on an invisible fence so that they're out mingling with the chickens all day, but won't know if this is feasible until we see how they behave. For all we know, our dogs may want to eat the chickens too, lol. But it's something we'll explore with caution if our dogs show potential of becoming LGD's.