backyard forage area, and eagles

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by calamityjane, Jul 25, 2008.

  1. calamityjane

    calamityjane Hatching

    Jul 25, 2008
    questions from an absolute newbie.
    i don't even have chickens yet, but i think i'm going to get a few. i love fresh, REAL eggs.

    so. my main question is, how large of an area (per chicken) do i need to provide for forage, if i DON'T want it to become a pecked bare "run" in other words, if i want the area to maintain a healthy, green ecosystem? i'm just wondering if i fence off half the (med-lg) yard and let a half dozen chickies roam "free" will they decimate it?

    but, here's some other questions too...

    what about bushes? we have a large area of berry bushes, will they like scrabbling around under them? we have a lot of eagles here. if the chickies are have access to bushes, do you think they'll be able to more or less stay clear of winged predators? i don't mind losing one now and then, but i don't want to just be an eagle feeding station.
    any recommended breeds for being predator savvy?
    am i being too naive thinking i can let them roam?
    i know there'll be a lot of differing opinions on this one.....

    now just a few basics:

    height of chicken wire to keep them contained?

    size for the door into the coop (their door)?

    min height off the floor for perches ?

    do they need a waterer in the coop, or is one outside enough?

    thanks for taking the time to help a greenhorn!
  2. shaylee

    shaylee In the Brooder

    Jun 4, 2008
    Hamilton, Il
    I have 5 foot wire, some chickens still get over it. We, my darling hubby and I watched one climb over the fence. Also, height depends on the size and type of chicken. When in doubt, clip their wings, but expect the occasional smart alec to climb on over.

    My door is a standard doggy door size. My large brahma gets thru it fine. Again depends on size of chickens I guess.

    Water in the shade, but I would keep one in the coop as well. I have 2 five gallon homemades inside the coop and one watering pan outside in the shade.

    Bushes and trees are a plus to keep chickens a safe area to go when predators are on the prowl. I have eagles, hawks, owls, and other large flyers here. Havent lost a bird yet to them. My chickens have a large tree to get under and can get into their house anytime.

    I fenced in an area and let it grow for 2 weeks without mowing or anything. The grass got pretty tall and they have a lot of green still out there. They also have a worn area for dusting and sunning. I have quite a few chickens, I imagine 6-12 wouldnt do much harm. A rooster is good at warning the girls about trouble. (he also is a mouse killer in the coop) Hope any of this helps.
  3. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    I suggest you build at least a small roofed run attached to your coop, even if you want to free range. There are always times when it's handy to have a safe place to keep your chickens.

    For free ranging, I would stay away from breeds with crests or muffs that obscure their eyes or be prepared to trim them regularly. I think the lighter or flightier breeds can be a little more successful at free ranging long term, but plenty of people free range heavy breeds.

    Do you have any idea how large your yard area is in feet or acres?
  4. calamityjane

    calamityjane Hatching

    Jul 25, 2008
    hey, thanks for the quick responses!
    i think the portion of the yard that i would put them in is something like 30 by 40....
    i was definitely planning a roofed run attached to coop, because it rains a LOT here.
    if they have a dirt run for scratching and "dusting" will they leave vegetation in the rest of the yard just nibbled and not destroyed?

    here's my thoughts so far based on what i've been reading:
    for 6 hens
    4 by 4 by 4 ft coop
    4 by 8 ft enclosed, roofed run
    apx 30 by 40 ft of yard to roam, lots of berry bushes, ferns and weeds
    with free access back and forth most of the time

    whadya think?

    man, you gotta love the internet for stuff like this!
  5. RoyalHillsLLC

    RoyalHillsLLC Songster

    Mar 5, 2007
    NW Louisiana-Vivian
    If it's only 30 x 40 it won't take them long to get it down to dirt.
    I have a pen that's about 20 x 40 I think. I free range on my yard a large percentage of the time but their pen was down to dirt in just a few weeks with only a half dozen or so birds.
  6. kodiakchicken

    kodiakchicken Songster

    Apr 18, 2008
    Kodiak, Alaska
    I've only had mine outside conistently for about 3 weeks, but with yard to roam and lots of bushes I would think they will do okay. Mine pick their favorite spots and the other areas they venture to more for chasing buggies than anything else.

    Your coop sounds a bit small for 6 birds, but it might be okay if it will only be used as their bedroom. It helps to see a full-grown bird, like at a fair or something, because if you start building while they are little you will never believe how big they can actually get - particularly large breeds.

    We have bald eagles around here, including a pair that nest in the woods next door to our house. When I have my girls out I keep my ears open. Bald eagles usually start "talking" to each other when they start circling. I've had them get pretty low and then fly back up when I or one of the dogs steps out. The girls have learned to watch out for them somewhat.

    By accident we discovered a great little "escape" for the birds away from predators. A friend gave us a big pile of shrimp net and we strung it out over the frame of an old lawn swing to let it dry. The chickens (and ducks) aboslutely love getting under there and hanging out! It provides safety on all side, not just overhead and a minimum amount of shade. You could use anything for the frame - including building an A frame out of 2x2's, an old swingset, etc.
  7. New2Peeps

    New2Peeps Songster

    May 11, 2008
    Quote:I just got my first chickens in 20 years and built a little 3x3x4 coop for them with a 4x8 run. The coop is only for sleeping--- and egg laying whenever that starts up [​IMG] I keep them locked in the run with the pop door to the coop open when I am at work, but after work and weekends they have a 25 x 50 area fenced off with 4 ft chicken wire to "free range" in. They could have the whole 7 acres but would be instant snacks I am afraid. They do have lots of cover and their favorite place is under a bush. I got Easter Egger pullet chicks because I wanted birds that were a bit smaller and all different colors--I wanted 3 but got 4 just in case I ended up with a rooster--I think they are all gals though, so I may have to rehome one if the quarters are too cramped. Will just have to wait and see. I can say that they are very very wary birds--flighty and skittish. They keep an eye toward the sky and are aware of every strange noise. I had to laugh today when a butterfly flew by and they all dove under the bushes [​IMG] They are not afraid of people as they were handled daily as chicks, but just not cuddlers like some folks have. They will hop in my lap at dusk---thinking I am a good roost I imagine. And they have not made a dent in the vegetation over the last couple of weeks--but they are only 8 weeks old so I may have to enlarge the "free-range" area as they mature.

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