I'm so nervous! I just opened their coop for the first time today, having finished constructing their run. We have ten feral barn cats that sit outside the coop and run every day and all night, waiting for a meal. I think they even take shifts. Today they laid outside with a fresh starling kill, satisfied perhaps but clearly wanting the dessert that was scratching on the other side of the wall. There are only twelve chickens so I can't justify letting them free range with those cats on the loose, even when they are full grown (the chickens are 9 weeks old today). Though my run is, I think, fairly sturdy... I am terrified of walking away and leaving them to the "circle of life". I hear a lot about adult chickens being fine with outdoor cats but then it almost always turns out that the farm cats are friendly. Mine are not. When we bought the farm, we found that someone had been feeding these cats and allowing them to breed uncontrollably in the barn. I captured all ten and had them spayed/neutered (nearly $400). Seven were female and six of them were pregnant. Given the alternative, I'm not complaining about the price. So now they're not breeding but they're still here and I feed them to keep them from running all over the neighborhood and heck, I paid for them, stay and kill the mice! Yesterday I found two dead voles. That's great. Today it was a starling. I hate starlings so that's fine too. But if they ever touch my chickens... Scrambles and Frittata eying this vast thing we call the sky. We have a wonderful fenced-in pasture that I hope to have sheep in one day. I would LOVE to let them free range in there and even in the yard for that matter but I have these darned cats. Hawks too, I'm sure. We found a coyote or fox skeleton in the barn so I know they're out there as well. There was a raccoon when we first moved in but it died from some neurological disease, right in our driveway. No one has come to take its place yet but it's only a matter of time... come winter I suppose. The neighbor on the other side of the field has a hunting dog. I once thought it never crossed the property line - until the crows or vultures dragged the dead raccoon to the field and I watched the neighbor's dog roll in it. Hm. So how many chickens does it take to make it worthwhile to free range? At what point do the losses equal the benefits? I'm only allowed 20 chickens on the property.