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Predator-safe free ranging in rural areas.

  1. earlybird10842
    Predator-Safe Free Ranging in Rural Areas​




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    Living in a rural neighborhood, it can seem like free-ranging your chickens is the ideal existence for your birds. . My chickens' feed consumption is lower if I free-range them, and they are happier than they are in their coop and run and pen, even though the pen should feel just like free-ranging.
    But then a predator comes along, and suddenly you are down a bird or two. How do you prevent this from happening?
    What I have found works best:

    1. Know your predators.

    Most of us have four or five specific types of predators that commonly lurk around our area. For example, I don't have a ton of smaller predators (Raccoons, ect.), in my specific neighborhood. Bears are one of the biggest threats. I know bears typically don't bother anyone in the summer, but in Fall, they need more food so they can go into hibernation, and they are hungry in Spring once they return from hibernation.
    So in order to minimize what threat I have from bears, I keep the chickens in their coop and run most of Fall and Spring. Summer is actually pretty safe in our neighborhood, because the large predators have plenty of food without having to raid chicken coops.
    Another example: Somebody told me that there was a cougar around, because deer were sleeping right in the front yard. I now know--if the deer are getting brave and coming closer to humans than they should, that means there is a cougar around. The deer know that cougars don't like getting that close to humans, so they stick around houses as much as possible.
    If your predators are nocturnal, free-ranging only during daylight hours--letting out the chickens late and putting them up early--is probably a good solution. Be sure you know the various wildlifes' habits, so you know when and how to let your birds free-range.

    2. Give your chickens boundaries.



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    Most chickens are very good at sensing exactly what parts of the yard they are not supposed to play in, and heading straight there each time they free-range. Those of you with gardens know this.
    Many of us with big yards have trouble keeping your chickens where they need to be. I have a nice big front areas and a smaller back area I am fine with having the chickens play with, but there are woods on all sides which the chickens wander into from time to time, and which are not very safe for them. I keep them out by
    -Chasing them out repeatedly and persistently.
    -If there is a path they are sticking to, block off the path
    -Call the chickens and distribute treats.
    Eventually, the chickens will get it that this is not a good area to play in.
    Additionally, keeping chickens together as a flock while free-ranging (Especially with a rooster!) is safer than individual chickens roaming around.

    3. Talk to the neighbors

    Both of our closest neighbors had chickens, and one fall, we lost five collectively to a fox or bear or both. If the neighbors have a predator problem, it is very likely it is time for the chickens to take a break from free-ranging. It doesn't even necessarily need to be an attack on the neighbors chickens; if their birdfeeder or trash is being invaded by animals, your birds should be kept in their coop or run for a while.

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  1. hedylaymore
    Thanks so much, Procyron. I will look into installing birdhouses suitable for swallows. All suggestions welcome!
  2. Procyron
    Not sure if this helps hedylaymore, but I have a couple tiny birdhouses around the property and a pair of swallows moved into one of them. They patrol above the yard like mini hang-gliders and chase off hawks. The hawks are actually terrified of them. Someone else in the neighborhood said they've experienced the same behavior from the barn swallows living in their yard. Unless this is just a fluke of our neighborhood, this could be a convenient solution to the hawk problem. A long shot I know, but I thought I'd share.
  3. hedylaymore
    Hawks are our biggest threat. We see them sitting in nearby tall pine trees just waiting for a chance to snag a chicken dinner. I'm still working on a solution. My chickens free range in our fenced garden, and I've strung twine in a crisscross pattern over it. I'm thinking of getting aviary netting and wondering if I can figure out a way to install it high enough so that a person with a tiller can walk under it. Also, we have an Eskimo spitz we don't trust around the hens, but she sits outside their secure fence and watches them. I think she is a hawk deterrent, but it's sort of like the fox guarding the hen house. I try to keep an eye out for the hens, and they are secured in their coop and run every night and when nobody's home. Any other ideas for protecting chickens?
  4. Mountain Peeps
    WONDERFUL article!!

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