End of free range? Feeling down...

Maria G

In the Brooder
Feb 1, 2015
I am feeling a bit down now, as I have lost 3 young chicks (6 weeks) over the last 10 days. Snatched in the middle of the day while people and dogs were in and out of the garden. They were alone 5-10 minutes max when it happened, the last time max 2 minutes. I found some feathers for the first two, and the last chicken we found gutted and with a missing head in some bushes. I suspect it was a weasel (marten) or cat. I have seen badgers and fox in our garden too, but only at dusk/dawn.

We live in a suburban area (in Norway) with houses, cars and people close by, though there is a little strip of forest in our back garden next to the train tracks.

My plan was to free range the chicks, so I planned to build only a small run. But now it seems like I have to build a predator proof run where the chickens have to be all the time. This can only be built in the back of the chicken house, which is dark, damp an depressing. To make it nice, I will have to extend it a lot, which is very expensive, or build a new chicken house in a different location.

We have enjoyed the older chickens so much when they free range around us. Is there any hope that the problem is only for the smaller chicks? The 12 week olds have not been touched so far. I am ok with keeping the smaller chicks cooped up until they reach a certain size, and not let the older ones out unless there is somebody home. Right now I can't even go inside to powder my nose without losing a chick!

Is there any hope for my free range dream?
Lost 6 of my laying hens due to dog attack.The just started to lay rapidly again ,and one night i forgot the coop open,and they were gone. :(
Luckily my 2 broodies were not in that coop so they survived.
Maria, could you perhaps build the run in a better part of the property and connect it to the coop via a tunnel? Do an internet search for "chicken tunnel" to see what I mean. You may have to cover it to prevent snow from building up in it during winter though.
That is not a bad idea at all! I can tunnel them out to the nicer areas and build the run there. Then I can build a coop there later if I win the lottery.

I am letting the big ones free range today, and I have tied my dog to a tree to keep guard. Still hoping it is an animal that will only go for the baby chickens...

Have you considered an aerial predator? I don't know what is native to your area, but near me at this time of year it is not uncommon for hawks to take small chicks. They are a threat all year really but especially now when they have young to feed. A sudden daytime attack could very well be a bird of prey. Was there a tree with a limb good for perching located above the spot you found the carcass?
Complete disaster!

All 6 taken at 2pm today. Grandma heard strange grunting noises outside, all chickens gone. Found one with a wrung neck behind the outhouse, no trace of the others. We have looked everywhere. There were people in the house and checking on them regularly.

I am just so incredibly sad now. Only two small chicks left (I kept them locked up since I thought the predator only went for the smaller ones).

It guess it is a fox, badger or marten - doesn't fit the pattern of a cat, bird or dog.

I lost my complete flock this winter too, when I didn't close the door properly. I am seriously considering giving up this hobby now. Doesn't seem to be any point if they can't free range and socialise with us. And I doubt I will be able to construct a run that is strong enough to withstand attacks without paying a fortune.

Still hoping to find someone hiding in the garden... Don't know what to do with the last two chicks and the 7 eggs in the incubator. Just want to go home from work and mope.

Don't know what to tell the kids either....
I have had 2 taken in the past week by a marten. It's the end of free range for my girls unless someone is right with them, and I am sad about that.
So sorry! It's the downside of having chickens, and we've all been there. Build better, and just go on. When I've got an active predator situation, my birds are on lockdown until either the critter is dead, or if it's a raptor, until he moves on. I found that feeding anything outside of my coop and run really brought in the raccoons and possums, so I stopped doing that. Set out live traps at night next to your run, and bury the raccoons and possums you catch there. Mary
That's horrible news. I'm so sorry for you and your kids. I suppose the easiest thing to do is rehome the remaining chicks. I know some people can just pull the plug on an incubator. With kids that's probably less of an option for you. Perhaps hatch them out and sell them.

If you decide to keep them, brood them in the house and that will buy you some time to fortify your setup. Do you have photos of your coop? Post them and maybe others can help you brainstorm ideas for an inexpensive but secure run.
I believe it is very possible that your predator problem is only for small chicks. But without knowing the real predator, it's just an educated guess. But the fact that your older hens are still alive after all this time makes me think it is possible to free range full grown birds.

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