Coastal Northern California . . . to free range or not?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by bkbkbk, Nov 12, 2011.

  1. bkbkbk

    bkbkbk Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 12, 2011
    I have 6 6-8 mo old chickens (2 barred rock, 1 black sex link, 1 buff orp, 1 blue andalusian, 1 Rhode Island Red). All but RIR are laying. THe blue Andalusian by far is the smallest, but completely mature.

    We are well-isolated from coons, opossum, coyote, lions/bobcats, and other terrestrial predators.

    But I have two concerns:

    Five foot high fence. We have a busy road behind us. If they go over the backside of the fence, they could end up in traffic. Bad. Over the frontside, they are trapped in the yard (6' fence) and I don't think my 16yr old cat will bother them.

    I have trimmed all of the tree branches up to 5' so they can't use branches as a ladder to get to the top of the fence. Their wings are clipped, and I will reclip when the molt. No roosters. No bantams. Thoughts?

    Hawks. For sure we have Cooper's Hawks and Red Tails in the area, and I do see them pass by over the yard from time to time. How real is the threat, with no rooster?

    Up until now they have been in a nice coop with a small, covered yard. I would really like to free range them some days in the fenced enclosure (but not covered) described above. Is it safe?

    bk
     
  2. bkbkbk

    bkbkbk Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 12, 2011
    BTW, just to be clear, I am only planning to free range daylight. They will be locked in the coop overnight.
     
  3. cisca-n-max

    cisca-n-max Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 9, 2011
    Im in santa cruz. My chickens here free range inside my garden that has an 8 foot deer fence. When I first got them they would all find little holes in the bottom of it and get out all the time... and I would be chasing them around the neighborhood like crazy. After a few months they got over that though and prefer to stay in the garden with me. The main area where they stay is in the orchard, and my garden is surrounded by redwoods, so theres no risk from the hawks. We have TONS of hawks around here though... so if you want your girls to free range I would definitely take into account if you think that they will be able to swoop down. Good luck!
     
  4. TheSpiceGirls

    TheSpiceGirls Overrun With Chickens

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    Bay Area, CA
    I'm in the Bay Area. Mine live in a predator protected run most of the time and then I let them out to free range only when I'm out there with them. Anywhere from 20-60 minutes each day typically. Some days, not at all. And in the summer when I'm out gardening, they may be out there with me most of the day.

    My only advice, is not to get them used to a routine. I was letting mine out at the same time each day and then they come to expect it. Mix up your routine w/ them.

    They can definitely fly over a 5' fence. But if your back yard has enough to keep them occupied, they shouldn't be interested and will stay put.
     
  5. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    My chickens "free range" inside about 3/4 acre of pasture with a 5 foot fence. They do not have clipped wings and have never shown the slightest inclination to want to even attempt to go over. I don't think it has even occured to them to try since there is plenty of foraging available to them. So I suspect that with clipped wings you won't have a problem with yours unless there is absolutely nothing in your yard and something very attractive other side of the fence! [​IMG]
     
  6. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    If you have hawks in the area you are not predator-proof. Sooner or later they will get wind of your chickens. It took two years for us but the hawk is laser-focused on my girls. It got a crow that was nosing around our chicken yard a few weeks and the bloody feathers all over the ground were a sobering reminder as to why I only let my chickens free- range when I can monitor them.

    Mine (even the big girls like the BO) will easily flap up to and over a 4-ft fence; I don't know if another foot would discourage them.

    If you're thinking of leaving them outside while you're at work all day I think you could be playing chicken roulette. It's a tough decision as they love to be out and about but I choose to err on the side of caution. They only come out when I'm there to scare the hawk away.

    Too bad we can't train our cats to go after hawks.
     
  7. bkbkbk

    bkbkbk Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 12, 2011
    This is all very helpful. I have several firs and other trees in and around the run. Just how much open space does a hawk need to dive down and make a kill? The entire area is only about 100' x 12'.

    Is there any way to keep a hawk out? Twine overhead in the open areas? Perhaps a risk of the hawk getting tangled though.

    Anyway to test whether the hawk will try? A decoy duck or something left in the open?
     
  8. TheSpiceGirls

    TheSpiceGirls Overrun With Chickens

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    Bay Area, CA
    Short of making it totally predator proof, I don't think you can totally keep the hawks out. Fishing line strung all over your yard can be a deterrent but you'd have to cover the whole yard.

    And no, a hawk is not going to go for a decoy duck. They have AMAZING eyesight and will be able to spot a rubber duck from miles away.

    Can you or would you consider getting a rooster? They can be a big detent to hawks. Although, it's no guarantee. Some dogs can also be a great protector but again, it's not a guarantee.
     
  9. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    We have several tall oaks that create a canopy over the chicken yard which does prevent the hawk from a surprise swoop attack. He has to perch on one of the branches first which gives us a good view of him. But, of course, that means we have to be out there with the chickens to see him. When they free-range on the open lawn there is no cover at all for them and I particularly worry about them there.

    Hawks don't seem to give up, either. It's not like they have anything else to do other than hunt for meals so they check back often to see if chicken is on the menu.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2011
  10. BlazeJester

    BlazeJester Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My chickens free ranged in my backyard for two years. No coop. They slept in a naked tree every night, no problem. This was in Atlanta, GA.

    Admittedly, we had the stupidest red-tailed hawk on the face of the planet (he ran into the french doors once). However, he was very bold. He came after the chickens once when I was standing outside not 5 feet away in a BRIGHT red bathrobe. We almost lost one to him too.

    Our barred rocks are very, very attentive and run for cover at the slightest sign of overhead flight. They quickly learned to hide in the bushes that the hawk couldn't get through. We also had a bamboo grove, which they liked to hang around in. They are large fowl, so eventually got too big for the hawk to be a concern.

    My girls right now tend to stay near the landscaping bushes. They're not barred rocks, but alert and responsive all the same.

    My uncle lives in rural NC and uses netting over his entire run area. It mostly keeps the hawks out, but he's got all kinds of predators to fend against so if it's not one it's another.
     

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