What are the common preditors? Chicken raising is not something to rush into. Please do research and plan for them. You need to think of how many you want...And then double it becuase once you get hooked, There is no turning back...Its so addicting..I wanted 5...got 8...then 10... Lol BYC is home to thousands of chicken lovers who will help you along the way..
Welcome Mrmc i live in Maine and let mine run free range. yes you will lose some to preditors no matter what but they are happy otherwise and put themselves in at night..i go out and lock the door and let them out in the AM.
Get a roo !! And pack some heat. I carry a pump 16 gauge with me at all times. I was sitting in my golf cart one afternoon & I'm watching this bird circling above my chickens & all the sudden it dived down to snatch one of my hens & need I say more.
There is no way to keep them 100% safe - even those who don't free range lose chickens. But you can do some things to keep them safer. Make sure you have a coop that they can go into that you can shut at night. That will keep the critters that most commonly roam at night away from them (coons, possums, fox, skunk, coyote). Sometimes the "night" critters also come out during the day, but they're usuall a problem at night when they have lots of time to ponder upon how to get to those tasty morsels inside. During the day, hawks could be a problem. Make sure they have plenty of cover to run under - bushes, small sheds, even planks set across cement blocks will work. Stray dogs are a problem that's hard to prevent, but if they're free ranging, hopefully they can get away istead of being cornered like they would be in a pen. Not everyone can guard their chickens all day, and I'd be very careful about shooting anything that comes swooping out of they sky toward your birds. It's most likely a federally-protected-very-expensive-if-you-get-caught-shooting-it hawk or eagle. If you do shoot such a bird, don't announce it on a public forum or tell anyone that you've done so.
Get a puppy, raise him with the birds and teach him. My dog is a Lab Springer Spaniel mix. He gets along great with the girls and understands that they are "under his protection". He has chased the roos around a couple of times, but he has never done them harm. I free range, only in the evening after I'm home from work, and only in the fenced in area that my dog is allowed access to. It's working pretty good so far.
I just finished my chicken coop, and am awaiting my chicks. I have two dogs, 5yrs old, normally wouldn't hurt a fly.
I trained them NOT to attack my roommate's cats and I imagine I'll try the same with the chicks. Then we'll see
how free ranging goes.
Just joined up because I anticipate I'll have questions as I go about this chicken-raising hobby.
My chickens free range and they are very happy and healthy and it cuts down on the amount of store bought feed they need and their coop stays pretty clean except for right under their roosts they sleep on. We stick waterers around the yard so they can stop and get a drink if they want to and make sure they have some shade and a little cover so they can hide from predator birds. Dogs are our biggest predators here so our chickens have a special entrance ramp and chicken door that most dogs cannot get into. We also have our own chicken killing dog which stays on a run near the coop so the chickens can stay away from her, but she can scare off strange dogs and other predators. Most of our other predators are nighttime hunters such as coons, possums, and owls in my area, so the chickens get completely locked up at night for their safety. Once they are all roosting at night then my dog will also be off of her run at night to protect them. Also, if you have a garden you will need to protect it from the chickens or they peck holes in your veggies like any other bird. We use fencing for one garden and a motion detection sprinkler for our watermelon patch because they love to go peck holes in all my melons.
You also need to get them used to free ranging by starting off slow... one or two hours before dusk and make sure they all make it back in as it gets dark. Most of them will put themselves to bed. Then gradually increase their free range time. We have a high door with a ramp for our bigger chickens to let themselves out each morning and the lower door is blocked off when we have younger chicks in the coop. The young ones get to free range in the afternoon when we get home and we make sure they all make it safely back into the coop. Plan on losing some every now and then to stray dogs or various other predators... we even had a rooster run away once and we thought it had been stolen by a dog, but found it months later when we went to a neighbor's cattle pens where it had decided to live all alone. It stayed there with the cows in the woods for years even though we tried to catch it and bring it home... it was just happy being a wild roo lol. Also plan on wanting more each Spring! Every evening when my friend calls and asks what I am doing, I tell her I'm watching the chickens peck the ground and she laughs like I'm joking!
Raccoons are little devils. They crawl in, dig under, climb up, pull out. Since you're free-ranging the birds, they won't have any protection during the day, but during the night you should lock them up securely. My coop is made of chain-link fence pens, so we covered the top with chicken wire and tarps. The bottom foot of chain-link is reinforced with chicken wire, also. We put sliced milk jugs on the ends of the perches so the coons can't reach in and pull a chicken through the fence, which has happened before. Also, we put a lock on the door and usually lean a board or something across the bottom.