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Free-range backyard tips?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by sbonsai, Sep 24, 2016.

  1. sbonsai

    sbonsai In the Brooder

    May 6, 2016
    I am thinking of trying to just let my 4 chickens and 3 silkies just free range in my backyard. I'd lock them up at night, and just let them roam during the day while I'm at work. We have a fairly big backyard, they don't seem to be doing much damage (I fence areas they shouldn't be in like the garden), and the area they use as a "home base" during the day is under some bushes so it becoming a dirt patch isn't that much of a concern to me. As far as predators, we have a hawk that frequents the area, then owls at night. They actually got attacked by a hawk last week, and retreated to their home base quickly as soon as they heard him. He finally gave up and left.

    I realize that I'm opening them up to more predator risk than other methods, but in exchange, seems like it's less long-term maintenance and happier chickens. Since this doesn't seem like its a popular option though, I can only assume I'm being naive about this. Anyone got any tips or articles that talk about this approach?

  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Crowing

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    They will need multiple areas to take cover under. And be fully aware of the risk you are taking. Be prepared to lose a few or all of them to predators. It is a good idea to have a run setup, just in case you ever need to confine them
  3. RRLaney

    RRLaney Songster

    May 1, 2016
    Round Rock, TX
    Well from experience, I think it's a good idea. We free range in our backyard with our 12 hens and we've never had any issues other than some of our grass getting ruined. They are so happy. We have hawks that fly around so I try to make sure our dog or I go out occasionally to make sure the hawks see that our hens aren't unprotected (especially since we don't have a rooster). We've never had any close calls. It's hot during the days so they often stay in the shade, under the trees, and under the coop which helps I think. We also hang corn and other veggies from the trees so it's extra incentive to stay underneath the tree cover during the day.
    They definitely eat all the watermelons off the vine in our yard so fence everything you don't want them to eat. Luckily we were smart enough to fence off our tomatoes and zucchini.
    Let me know if you have any other questions, we've been doing this for a little while now, all with trial and error, and everything's been going great!
  4. FoodFreedomNow

    FoodFreedomNow Songster

    You're right about risk, and if a hawk is already hanging around, the risk is definitely greater. I also free range mine during the daylight hours and have lost several to foxes and (mostly) hawks. Make sure your chickens have safe places to flee to. You can also try hawk deterrents like owl decoys, or get guardian animals, like a livestock guardian dog, donkey, or llama. Crows are rumored to deter hawks, and I think turkey vultures might be keeping them away now where I live. This thread (and there are many more) may be helpful: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/735405/how-to-deter-hawks.

    I think most people who free range their chickens are prepared to accept some losses. It doesn't mean you like it or that you just let it happen, but predators are wily, fast, and persistent and sometimes chickens get caught off guard.
  5. sbonsai

    sbonsai In the Brooder

    May 6, 2016
    Yeah, someone else mentioned getting an owl decoy, that'll be something I look into. I also do have a coop/run set up now that they are in every day. They just don't seem particularly happy while in it.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    2 people like this.
  7. owlflights

    owlflights Chirping

    Mar 15, 2015
    SE Iowa
    Be aware that silkies are more prone to predators than standard chickens. They can't see as well and aren't as alert to potential threats. But, even with all the risks, I think free ranging is incredibly worth it. It keeps them happy and you get to see them running around your yard. I don't know how big of an area your chickens would have but I like to keep multiple water sources around the yard so it's available everywhere, and if one runs out there's always a few more options.

  8. ocap

    ocap Crowing

    Jan 1, 2013
    Smithville, Missouri
  9. FoodFreedomNow

    FoodFreedomNow Songster

    Wow!! [​IMG]
  10. sbonsai

    sbonsai In the Brooder

    May 6, 2016
    I do have some cream legbars that are fairly flighty. The slightest noise and they run for the bushes. The Buffs are much less so, and the silkies are oblivious. I did see on the hawk thread that someone put raven decoys in their yard and that worked well. The reviews on the owl decoys along with the photo above don't bode well for it.

    I do plan on buying more free-range oriented chickens when and if I need to replace my stock.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016

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