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At what age/size can I leave my chicks unattended?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by JumpingRightIn, Oct 13, 2012.

  1. JumpingRightIn

    JumpingRightIn In the Brooder

    Oct 10, 2012
    Hello everyone! I have 11 happy little chicks that will be turning 5 weeks old tomorrow. They are left in a very large dog cage outside during the day with lots of room for them to roam and scratch in the dirt. It has kept them safe from predatory birds and random cats and dogs who might make their way onto the property. At night we bring them in the house, but this week we'll be transitioning them to their new coop to sleep in. Anyway, for the past couple of weeks I've been letting them roam the property freely as long as I'm sitting near them. They LOVE it and no one has been lost yet, thankfully. One time recently a dove(!!) did try to pick one of the chicks up, but it was not strong enough and I was right there to yell at it and scare it away. A couple of cats have come by to check the chicks out, too, but I've always shooed them away in time. When they are grown we will be letting them have free range of our fenced-in 1 acre yard. I would love to let them roam freely all day now, but I obviously can't stay there all day supervising them.

    At what age/size do you think it would be reasonably safe for me to let them roam unsupervised during the day? Their main predators in this area will be stray cats and overhead birds. Thanks in advance for any advice you can share!

  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    [​IMG] I'm betting that 'dove' was a sharpshin or Cooper's hawk - doves don't eat chicks. Unsupervised free ranging leads to occasional predation. It's just a fact. Eventually a predator will get some of your chickens if you allow unsupervised free ranging. It is a fact of keeping free range birds. You must weigh the pros and cons.
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    What makes above particularly relavent is flock is made up of juveniles / chicks only with no appreciable protection beyond your presence. Adults, especially a rooster, would give "doves" pause about visiting but other detourants I would also have in place before having young or even adult birds free-ranging without supervision. More cover and / or dog. I can be a little looser in that regard because of some of my birds are very capable flyers but with most breeds predators will eventually promote risk of loosing entire flock pretty quick.
  4. If free free ranging is important to you, I would suggest waiting until they are full grown. Plus having a rooster would help. My chickens are all pets and the loss of even one would be painful, so they are all housed in protected runs.
  5. nurse_turtle

    nurse_turtle Songster

    May 28, 2011
    Foothills of NC
    You have to weigh risks and benefits of free ranging. I choose to free range my flock from about 9 am until they return for bed at dusk. I understand the chances of predation and I choose to accept this fact because I believe the flock is happier and healthier being able to do chicken things as opposed to being penned up and only able to see the yard all day and want so badly to roam around in it. I start letting my young ones out of the run at about 6 weeks old.
  6. Johnboy78

    Johnboy78 Chirping

    May 16, 2011
    Mine started free ranging at about 10-11 weeks.
    Mine are really back yard chickens in a suburban yard about 100 x 100.
    Multiple trees and shrubs.
    Hawks are predominant predators here and mine got swooped within first two weeks.
    They scattered, hid and froze for nearly an hour.

    They have a lot of cover and I haven't lost one yet.
    A neighbor a few blocks away with a more open yard has lost several.

    As far as you protecting them...probably not.
    Hawks have not been deterred by my presence or my dogs.
    One swooped so close I heard the rush of air under it's wings.
    Given enough safe areas though mine have been pretty good at watching out for themselves.
    Just my own experience, first flock and eighteen months old.
  7. JumpingRightIn

    JumpingRightIn In the Brooder

    Oct 10, 2012
    Thank you to everyone for the advice! I have already accepted the fact that I will probably lose a couple, just because that goes hand in hand with free-ranging. They have a couple of giant bushes that they stay near and duck under whenever they're spooked. So far so good. I'll probably still supervise them while they're roaming, at least for a few more weeks until they're bigger. Then I'll probably let them go for longer and longer stretches unattended until I'm comfortable that they'll be alright. I know that we want them to be free-ranging when they're adults, I'm just wondering if it would be worth it to build them a run so that they're more protected while they're still not full-sized?

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