Chickens going outside, feral cats on the prowl


8 Years
Apr 19, 2012
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.
Truly, once they're full grown, the cats won't hurt them. I've got neighbors with cats, so I know, BUT you are right as far as now--the young pullets are easy prey.

I would put a top on their chicken run too if I were you and was worried about those cats.....

Take care,
There's a top on it! It's chicken wire at the moment, supported with some wooden beams and I will lay a tarp over a portion for temporary protection from the elements and whatever... I would love to have some plastic sheeting of some sort though.

Scrambles and Frittata eying this vast thing we call the sky.

That picture is just too cute! I love watching chickens explore their world....they are such inquisitive creatures! I could sit and watch them all day !
MiF Thanks for sharing that pic, I needed a smile!
I have an old cat 11 years old but he is still VERY spry as he always was...outside cat when he wants to be..a huge hunter.(Hes 15 fat lbs too.).
He can catch and kill anything He sits literally for hours without moving to get a mouse,Its just is their nature to why they kill the mice birds etc..never seen one go for someting bigger .
.However he doesnt seem at all interested in my chickens which are are 8 or 9 weeks old.
Frankly i think he has fields to hunt in and mice around the house birds outside so why bother breaking into a chicken pen with chickens as tall as you are?

There are easier prey
If your ferral cats ever came across a rooster before i bet they are wary of chickens too. Might be why my guy Babycakes is totallly ingnoring them and doesnt even walk their direction in my front yard.I am sure neighbors have roos .Your cats are probably intersted and WISH they could get one but do they seem to be trying to find a way in? or just curious?
KNowng cats they are sitting waiting for one to get loose to chase but probabl y wont look for a way in.That said I think i would put something heavier over the pen like chicen wire at least as lots of things will climb in to eat a chicken Wild animals and some Dogs will kill a chicken in a minute
My mastiff is pretty interested and likes to chase them around the perimeter of the run if i dont get her inside soon enough asshes warmed not to go over there. .
Dont know about free ranging yours though ever.
I would like to do it too but i know it spells disaster for them.Shame but true as i live in a rural area..
Hawks seem to gather above my yard when i even have my chihuahuas out in there covered run. Chickens may be too tempting loose if you do not like in a larger town.. or a big city pretty free of hawks.
Do you have a tractor coop? or pen?sort of an alternative to the regular stationary coop and pen Sort of confined free range
..At least they can move in new grass and get bugs. in new areas I move mine daily and they love a new spot. In seconds they start to peck at the earth frantically for the new treats..
Our cats kill small bunnies, easy, and they will stake out the local woodchuck mound too. I don't know if they've tried to make off with a young'un or not but I wouldn't put it past them to try. They hunt like a pride of lions. Many of them are siblings and they will share their kill as well, while they lay and frolic in the sun. It's a lot like the Lion King in my back yard, really. They also like to kill toads. They only ever eat half of what they kill though. I wish they'd eat more because you really have to watch where you step. There's nothing like heading out to the coop in the morning to find a tangled mess of blood, guts and feathers on the ground to start your day and your adrenaline.

I would like to get a sturdier roof on the run someday. Right now, I'm relying on the fact that the run is inside the pasture fence, to keep out bigger animals. The cats slip right in of course. I suppose a small fox could as well therefore but most dogs should be thwarted - I would think. Lately, there has been a bear sighted in the area too (I swear they put it on the news every night - a new location) and once he/she was in a coop. I figure there's no sense in worrying about that though because if they want in, they'll get in regardless of my security.
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