Afraid to free range - with good reason

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by High Altitude Chickens, Aug 8, 2010.

  1. High Altitude Chickens

    High Altitude Chickens Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 31, 2010
    I live in the mountains of Colorado and have a lot of fox in the area. I was outside today at 4 pm and let my 7 week old chicks out of their run to free range. We have very high grass, shrubs, tress, etc. in the yard and I was sitting on the ground. A fox came within 10 feet of me, I stood up and it ran off. It came back a few minutes later and I chased it off again and I put the chicks back in their run/coop. Also not a day after I put the chicks out into their new coop/run, something tried to dig under the fencing of the run. Thanks to all the advice, tips, pictures, etc. on this site, the animal did not get into the coop. The run and windows of the coop are all covered with 1/2" hardware cloth with a 3 foot apron around the entire run. The top of the run is also covered. So, how do free rangers do it? Do they just expect losses or do they live in areas with less predators? It was broad daylight and the fox were out. Also the other day I went into the house for 5 minutes to wash out their feeder and when I came back out a fox was right up against the run. I learned a lesson that day because I did not lock the run door when I went inside. If I was gone for one more minute, the fox could have gotten into the run and got my chicks! I now lock the door, even if I am only going to be away from the coop to fill food or water. So, should I not free range at all or do I stand up so I am more visible to the fox? Of course, I will never leave the chicks unattended.
  2. Amyh

    Amyh Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 11, 2010
    North Carolina
    Sounds to me like there are too many predators for free ranging in your area.

    My birds free range, but we have about 1/2 acre fenced for our dogs and although we have fox and coyotes, they can't get into the yard, so we can free range the birds inside the fenced area.

    Have you thought about getting a livestock dog? That may help deter any predators...
  3. Kittymomma

    Kittymomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2009
    Olympia, WA
    If you freerange you will have losses. You may even have them if you are standing ten feet away, I've seen plenty of threads where hawks have taken birds with their people standing right there. I do freerange and I have lost birds, every last one has been during daylight hours and most have been with someone home and door and/or windows open. Coyotes are my main problem though the neighbor got a new dog and I lost one bird to her (good neighbor, rehomed the new dog) as well.
  4. aprophet

    aprophet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2010
    chesapeake Va.
  5. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    Wow! Scary and very persistent. I think you are not going to have the option of free-ranging. Too bad because the chickens really enjoy it.

    When I had a hawk that decided my chickens were on the menu I had to stop free-ranging for a few weeks. My chickens were very upset with me because their run was small and they had gotten used to quite a bit of freedom. They promptly destroyed every green thing in the entire run and were left with a space that looked like a dust bowl. I started dumping my lawn clippings in the run when I mowed for the chickens to pick through and graze on. They loved it and it made the situation tolerable until they were able to be free-ranged again.
  6. joebryant

    joebryant Overrun With Chickens

    Quote:Whatever you decide to do about the foxes, I'm just glad when I see someone has replicated Fort Knox to keep the chickens safe until problems can be solved. GOOD LUCK!
  7. Oven Ready

    Oven Ready Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 9, 2010
    We expect, and can live with, losses due to snakes, lizards, hawks, owls and the more unexpected predators like our own catfish, who sometime suck a chick right off the bank of the pond, falling tamarind seeds and falling mango fruits. To be honest these guys are just doing what they need to do to survive and they are generally nice things to see now and again.

    The predators we don't put up with are dogs and cats, other peoples dogs or feral dogs have no business supplementing their diet at our expense, the same goes for cats. I'm afraid they tend to be treated with a 'corrective behaviour injection' (of lead).
    Neighbours dogs/cats get a warning with a slingshot, if they persist they get the corrective behaviour injection too.
    Some do come back after the slingshot / BB gun warnings, sort of a Darwinian weeding out thing I guess.

    Our chickens all go into the coop (or on top of the coop) by themselves at night, so we close the door for safety, but they spend all day out and about.

    The coop 'daytime' door has holes big enough for chickens to squeeze through and it's no problem for chicks - it gives them somewhere to run to in the event of a dog attack. Mothers with young chicks tend to stay close to the coop.

    There is something nice about free ranging that makes up for the losses, if you have enough chickens not to be wiped out in a single attack.
  8. breezy

    breezy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 7, 2009
    Sand Coulee MT
    I live in Arvada Colorado about 6 blocks from city hall and the police station. Not exactly a rural location. The fox population exploded this past 2 years here. I have fox in my yard frequently. I think the fox are doing so well because the coon population went down a lot after the distemper outbreak about 3 years ago. Animal control was picking up about 50 diseased coons a week for most of one summer and the outbreak spread thru the whole state. Since then we have seen far fewer coons in this area and a lot more fox. There is less competition for food. Try going to one of the local garden stores and buying cougar pee. Yeah I know it sounds funky but you can put it in a spray bottle and "mark" your yard with it. I sprayed a couple of trees at the base and along a fence line. It helped alot in keeping the fox out of my yard. We havent seen one now for a few weeks. A nice sized dog helps too. My 96 pound dobie/boxer mix is pretty good at keeping predators away ( local cats coons and fox) out of the yard while ignoring the chickens. Good Luck
  9. mommyofthreewithchicks

    mommyofthreewithchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 25, 2010
    I too believe that I have too many predators to let my chickens free range as I had hoped. The biggest threat right now is my dog Cleo. I should have known better as she is a bird dog but before chickens she slept 22 hours a day- now she can be found trying to figure out a way in 22 hours a day.
  10. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    [​IMG] The fox in your area are hungry and evidently habituated to humans. Short of killing them there is no way to safely free range your chickens. Once a few have been shot, they may get the message and start avoiding your place as long as people are present. Your well constructed pen and coop are your best protection. Understand that a fox is not beyond jumping on top of your pen and attempting to enter through the wire cover. OT to comment on what Breezy wrote. The fox population around here also exploded after a rabies outbreak killed off most of the coons.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2010

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