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is it safe for chickens to free range

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

My chickens live in a coop with a nice long run, and seem very happy, but every time i open the door they all scramble to try to get. I would love for them to be able to come out during the day time. I have five chickens and one rooster. My only problem would be the dogs near my house. could the chickens avoid them or not. Also there are woods near the coop. Would the chickens come back at night. I do not want them to get hurt. But i know they would be happy going out. 

post #2 of 13

Free range chickens need cover.  Places to hide from predation.  There is always risk involved in free ranging but it can be "safe" if you will.

 

I have always free ranged and have never lost a chicken.  I always anticipate loosing a chicken because it is bound to happen.  I have always provide safe places for them to hide and it seems to be working.  

 

Wish ya the best.  

I would never eat a cow's tongue.  Gross!  Give me an egg.
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I would never eat a cow's tongue.  Gross!  Give me an egg.
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post #3 of 13

Honestly, there is no way to guarantee 100% safety for your chickens, free ranging or not. The risk is higher when they are free ranging, of course, but you can help reduce that risk as Chick Charm said by providing plenty of cover for them. I have free ranged for years, and until this summer haven't had a problem for several years. But, we were on vacation, (my mom would let them out in the morning and lock them up at night) and our dog died earlier this summer so there was no human activity around, and no dog to protect them. It took the coyotes 13 days, though, to figure out that we weren't around. They took my rooster, a juvenile and several hens in one afternoon. Since we've been back, there have been no more problems. The chickens would come back to roost at night. They know that their coop is home. As far as being able to avoid the neighbors' dogs, I would say no. If the dogs come onto your property and your chickens can't get away fast enough, it would not end well for the chickens. Free ranging is a personal choice that only you can make. You are the only one who can decide if it's worth the risk to let them out where they are more vulnerable. I choose to free range, because I believe my chickens are healthier and happier when they can be out. There are no over crowding issues. I've never had to deal with lice and mites. I think the variety in diet makes for tastier eggs. Do I like it when I lose them? Absolutely not. But it is a choice that I have made. It helps me that I don't name them (well, one or two have names, but mostly for their appearance - like the grey one with the dark grey head and medium grey body. Her name is Pigeon because she's the same color as our barn pigeons), I don't make pets out of them, and I remind myself when one goes missing that this is the choice I've made for my birds. I don't believe there is a right or wrong answer to the "should I free range?" question. It's a matter of how much risk  you're willing to take. 

Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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post #4 of 13

Hello.  We have a small flock of mixed hens and one large rooster.  So far we have not lost any to predators BUT we have had an entire family of Coopers Hawks circling our yard daily.  So far they have not attempted to take any chickens but I think it's a matter of time.  We have taken all necessary precautions. We hung around 50 cds around the yard with fishing line.  I went to the dollar store and bought anything shiny/spinny and stuck in the ground or hung them in the trees. I also bought a fake owl and hawk and place them in different spots daily around the yard. We also let our 3 large dogs outside with the chickens every morning and every evening and they help chase anything away.  My last invention was to buy a cheap kite, again at the dollar store, paint it all black (to mimic a crow) and painted very large yellow eyes on it.  It's hanging off a pole on our back balcony and it flies around all day long.  The Coopers hawks are coming around less and less so I think the kite is really working well.  We also lock them up in their house every night.  We're in the middle of the woods and can hear coyote in the back and we occasionally see fox and raccoons. So far so good.  ps I should also mention our rooster is huge, and very friendly with us and our dogs. BUT if he sees a hawk or someone else's dog, he is very protective of his girls and he will defend them. 


Edited by chopmayer - 8/17/13 at 12:19pm
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

thanks for the replys they have really helped. I have got another question though, does the size of you rooster matter. Our rooster is a small one, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in attitude, when he hit about five months i had to hold him upside down by his feet (it did not hurt him) to make him stop attacking my grandfather. Will he still be a good gardian?

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

also i have got a quail/dove hunting dog, do any of you have experience with bird dogs and chickens

post #7 of 13
I have a bird dog but I use a electronic collar he learned the hard way not to bring them back to me, he has a very high prey drive took awhile but problem solved.
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by emilmc7 View Post

thanks for the replys they have really helped. I have got another question though, does the size of you rooster matter. Our rooster is a small one, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in attitude, when he hit about five months i had to hold him upside down by his feet (it did not hurt him) to make him stop attacking my grandfather. Will he still be a good gardian?

I suppose a larger rooster might be more intimidating to a predator, but a small one with attitude may be just as effective. The thing to remember is, your rooster may likely give his life for his hens. A rooster is no match for a coyote, fox, hawk, stray dog, raccoon, or any other larger predator. He very well could fight to the death. As far as the dog, we had a bird dog who was trained as a pup to leave the chickens alone. We never had a problem with him in the 10 years we had him. He was the flock guardian and always had to check out the new arrivals each spring. No matter what breed your dog is, you need to train, train, train and then train some more. Be consistent. 

Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

good cause he sure has some attitude walked in the coop today and he immediately ran up and started to circle me. i told him to stop that and he gave me a crazy look and walked away to go eat. Also is it possible to train a dog that is not a puppy, if so how can you do it. if i train not to kill the chickens will it still hunt the birds i want it to. 

post #10 of 13

I think it would be possible to train an adult dog, but it will take some work. I can only speak for our dog. He was taken to the chickens the day I brought him home at 8 weeks old and his training started right then. He left the chickens alone, but did hunt pheasants and ducks. So in our case, it worked. There are numerous threads on training your dog  - check the Predators and Pests section, and Managing Your Flock. The only thing I'm comfortable saying with certainty is that it will take lots of time, patience and consistency. 

Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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