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Acceptable loss rate for free range

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Organic Acres, Sep 10, 2013.

  1. Organic Acres

    Organic Acres Out Of The Brooder

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    My flock is "free range extreme", they have 270 feet by 180 feet, a little under half of this is a cultivated field and the rest is grass pasture with trees. Most of the time the flock is entirely on it's own without contact with humans.

    I started out with 9 green legged partridge hens and one rooster (this is an eastern european heritage breed, because I live in Poland).

    I added two white leghorn hens shortly after.

    then, across the course of three months, several of the green legs got sick and died, so when one of the hens went broody I collected some eggs from a neighbour and raised another 9 mixed breed hens. All of these 9 hens are still alive and are about 2 months old now, 3 of them are actually a broiler breed. (I put 6 eggs under the hen, only two hatched so I quickly rushed to the breeder and bought 7 one day old chicks, and placed them under mommy - she accepted them).

    however, in the meantime, one of my green legs roamed off (jumped the 9 foot fence to roam as usual and then never came back one day), and over the course of 3 or 4 months three of the green legs got taken by hawks, even though most of the time the flock hides under the trees to escape heat and predators.

    Setting aside the ones that got sick, I have thus lost 4 green leg hens over the course of 5 months. three to predators and 1 to roaming. This is not so bad, I can easily raise many more than this each year by having one of the broody hens raise a clutch of her eggs. I don't use a brooder, I let the hens raise the young themselves and it works very well.

    the question is, considering that these hens are pretty much wild and range over a large area on their own, is a loss rate of just under 1 hen per month normal and acceptable in an extreme free range condition?

    Note that only that one hen used to roam; the rest of them seem to know that they are safer staying on the property so they don't roam.

    I hope that this loss rate is normal (it's my first year with chickens), because I am not willing to confine them. the quality of the eggs would drop.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Most answers, including mine are subjective. Loss to predation is a valued selective pressure on my games since it seems to preferentially take out infirm. I generally loose a few to parasites as well. None are lost to becoming lost. Combined losses of about 10% annually is line that if crossed would cause upgrade of how birds are kept. I have been through some upgrades. Such losses are tolerable since recruitment / reproduction is sufficient to increase flock ten-fold relative to number of breeding hens if no losses or no culling is incurred. Most of the predator losses are of juveniles between 8 and 16 weeks of age while disease losses are for chicks less than 4 weeks. The majority of survivors which is usually pretty close to 80% of what is hatched either goes to pot or sold as layer pullets. Even though I have anywhere from 50 to 75 brood-fowl, currently only about 10 hens actually produce hatching which for last couple years this mean anywhere from 120 to 150 chicks are actually hatched. Chickens have a reproductive capacity that is sufficient to replace a lot of losses but you do not want those losses hitting hens, especially those you will be counting on to produce eggs next year. Protect breeders above anything else.

    I think you need to tighten up your system a little to get losses down a bit. Properly managed you should be able to harvest most of what you raise.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    I have 0 tolerance for loss to predators. I lose chickens occassionally. Right now my chickens cannot free range until the fox is taken care of.

    The fox got 8 of my young pullets, 2 hens and one cockeral; all of one neghbors and is presently working on wiping out another neighbor's flock
     
  4. Organic Acres

    Organic Acres Out Of The Brooder

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    "I think you need to tighten up your system a little to get losses down a bit. Properly managed you should be able to harvest most of what you raise."

    Centrarchid, do you have any suggestions? my flock gets locked in a secure coop at night and so foxes (which only come out at night in my area) don't have access, so it's only hawks that I have to worry about. My property is fully fenced with forestry fencing so dogs can't get in either.

    I looked at overhead netting, but to cover the area where my chickens range would cost thousands and thousands of dollars, which my wife was not willing to go for.

    I'm not really sure what other steps I can take?

    Enola, do you have foxes preying on your chickens during the day? If so, they must be pretty brazen. here in Poland there is a large fox population but I have never even seen one; they are very secretive and would never attempt a daylight robbery here.
     
  5. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Yes in the daytime. Everyone in the neighborhood shuts their chickens in at night. My neighbors insist foxes don't hunt in the daytime. The fox got mine while I was at work. I stopped turning them out as soon as I realized he was getting mine. I have all of my Araucanas up off of the ground in big wire cages. I want to get a LGD (Turkish Akbash) but may be moving back to Va this winter. It is hard to rent when you have a dog the size of a half grown elephant!
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    First, make no assumptions about fox activities as a function of the clock. They are most certainly active during the day unless persecuted. I am using a combination of vegetative cover, hawk-aggressive roosters, electrified fencing and dogs. Cover buys time, roosters deny snatch and grab by hawks, fencing slows although does not always stop predators and dogs are the big hammer that is slow but certain. Slow still means seconds.


    I am taking advantage of existing plant community and enhancing it through plantings. It will take several years to get what is desired. Birds need to stay where dogs can get to them, even when in maul of predator.

    Show some pictures of your place. Where in Poland are you?
     
  7. ken-t

    ken-t Out Of The Brooder

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    Any loss to predators is not good. I suggest getting some Turkeys and guinea fowl to run with them. I seriously drought they just wandered off. maybe got sick and died or something. how old were they? when they get into their 2nd year you will start to lose more and will lose more faster as time goes on.
     
  8. Baymule

    Baymule Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Organic Acres, do you have a good dog that would chase off the hawks and not hurt your chickens? I have a Great Pyrenees that watches over the flock. She keeps them safe from feral cats, opossums and raccoons. Dogs can come up to the back fence and she barks at them. I live in town on a small lot, but we have predators too. Here in the USA, we do not have the hundreds or thousands of years of breeding dogs to go with the herds and guard them from predators........so we have imported them! I just looked up the Polish Tatra and Sarplaninac, they are awesome dogs. perhaps you could get a Livestock Guard Dog to watch over your chickens and yard. Just make sure you have a GOOD fence that is high enough to keep the dog in. We had a 4 foot tall chain link fence and we added 2 more feet to make it 6 feet high.
     
  9. Baymule

    Baymule Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I found this about the Tatra. Livestock Guard Dogs generally don't bond with poultry like they do with sheep and goats. My chickens enjoy protection mainly because my GP protects "her" yard. When she figured out the chickens were "mine", she took greater interest in them and will rush to the rescue if they sound an alarm call when out in the yard.

    http://www.polishtatrasheepdog.ca/breed-history.php
     
  10. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    In my youth I kept 100 roosters in individual pens and 200 or more free range hens on 6 or 7 acres. It was a different world then and if the game warden was a friend he would stop by and tell you that there was a hawk sitting on the power line down the road. You just had to give him enough time to get out of hearing before you went after it.

    When the minimum wage was 40¢ -75¢ an hour a live possum fetched $2.00 and a few years later when the minimum was $2,00 or so, prime red fox pelts sold for 70 bucks and prime coon skins had advanced to $8 - $25. In other words it was more dangerous being a predator than it was to be a chicken. I would have spazed out with a 10% adult loss rate. However l culled and culled and culled some more. Mopey or sleepy looking chicks didn't see the next sunset.
     

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