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?