Free-range chickens? predators?


8 Years
Sep 4, 2011
I have a half acre fenced in for chickens. Can I let them free range all day and
lock them up in their coop at night? I have a 6' fence in most of the yard, but
at one part in the yard it's only about 3'. Will they get out? Can I train them
to stay in the yard? Will cats or hawks kill them?

P.S. My yard is completely coyote proofed because I have dwarf goats. However,
cats and small critters can get in.
I have free ranged my chickens since last year without even a fence. They are much happier free ranging. The only time I have lost birds was when then were locked in their run. 2 big dogs forced their way through a solid wood gate into a totally enclosed pen and killed 12 out of 15 chickens one morning before I let them out. The gate had 2 locks on it. If I had let them out earlier I don't think as many would have been killed. I would let them out, but it has to be your decision. If you have flower beds close by you can forget about having flowers. I dont know if you can train chickens to stay in a yard, but I do know mine wander farther when I have a rooster. But not real far. A lot depends on what breeds you have. Some breeds are better flyers (like game chickens and bantam breeds). If their roost is in the coop they will go there in the late evening and you can shut them in for the night.
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hawks can be an issue, you should find out really what kind of predators are in your area, as well as how high your chickens can fly, you might need to add a little heighht, and you can add a strand of electric wire as extra precaution..My hen can fly 15 feet straight up..astonishing. Some may advocate clipping wings but I won't take away that advantage to avoid a predator. If hawks are an issue, they need some cover, cats usually don't molest full grown chickens, feral ones will. 3 feet is not high enough to keep chickens in.
I don't know how well a dwarf goat will fare against coyote, esp more than one, so good luck there.
Hawks, cats, bob-cats, just about anything. I've had coyotes, bobcats, etc come up during the day and snatch chickens right outa the coop. ~ Aspen
A 1/2 acre yard should work very nice. Just leave the coop door open and they'll go in and out as they desire; particularly if you feed and water in the coop. They shouldn't get out, but if they do you can always clip one wing.
I have cats all over the place, they are not going to get mine at least, they are usually afraid of peck to the head is all it takes, I would watch any baby chicks though.
I have hawks galore, and so far no casualties...but that doesn't mean it won't happen. I live in the country with coyotes, fox, skunk, hawks, eagles loses as of yet. But again, that doesn't mean it won't one day. Mine free range all day, I have over 300 acres...they don't venture very far from the coop and protection.

Good luck training them to stay off the yard, it won't happen! LOL
My chickens free range all over. We have 10 acres, but they usually stick to the area around thier coop, and hang out in the barn. I've had them out since about May, and have lost one rooster. Pretty sure fox or coyote... Anyway, I lock them in the run at about 6:00 pm now since the loss happened about 7-7:30pm, and I close up and the coop at about 9-10:00, earlier if it's cool enough outside. We placed litte a couple "panic rooms" around outside of the run, in the open pasture, so they would have cover from arial attacks. (just 4x4, and 6x6 frames with chicken wire and plywood set on cinder blocks). So far so good. I have a 6ft high fence around our run, but have several hens that can fly out with no trouble,
they're usually out of the run by the time I go out to release them for the day. (I let them out of the coop about 7:00am, but I leave them in the run till about 8:30 or 9:00 so it's lighter out and less chance of predators still hanging around.) Like I said, I'm just being optimistic. Anyway, I don't want to clip wings because I don't want to hinder thier ability to escape predators in anyway, so I guess I'll either have to make the run higher or, cover the whole run...not likely. I'll just keep my fingers crossed
and be looking for a good LGD in the mean time. But 3ft, wont be high enough to keep them in, and neither will 6 ft if they really want out, but hopefully they'll stay where you want them too. Mine still don't go too far from the coop and barn.

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