free range heartbreak

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ikemiker, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. ikemiker

    ikemiker Chirping

    Jul 5, 2016
    I really believe in the concept of free ranging my chickens, but so sad when I lose one.

    We have a beautiful 6 acre piece of land, about 1 acre of which is yard/meadow, the rest is forest surrounding us. The chickens (we have six adult hens right now) have a 10x16 run and 10x12 coop with lots of stumps and perches, and even two swings. But they HATE being in the coop/run. Whenever I walk by, the frantically crowd the door, wanting to get out. They peck at each other and quarrel.

    I only let them out on bright sunny days, and try to make sure I go outside with the dog frequently, but still, we lost two this year to a bobcat, right in broad daylight, right in the yard. Over the past three years, that brings the total lost to predators to 6.

    I go back and forth, saying that if they had their choice, they would take the risk, and that my sadness at losing one doesn't trump their right to a little freedom in the yard. My husband thinks it's not worth it, we should keep them in the coop, even though he doesn't really care for the chickens, and isn't involved with them.

    I guess I am looking for a little reassurance from others who free range that I am not just being a terrible or careless person. How do you cope with free ranging losses to predators?
    Chickassan likes this.
  2. Chickassan

    Chickassan Wattle Fondler

    You aren't terrible, iv'e seen those frantic faces wanting out of the run to eat bugs and grass.
    I'm not even going into the fights that happen if bugs and grass aren't in the plans that day it is awful.
    I can't tell you how I deal with predator losses, there have been none in three years but any losses although disheartening are part of this whole chicken journey.
    My birds are limited to an acre with much protective brush to hide under there is also a rooster for alarm calls. These are the reasons there have been no losses, we do have predators that come in the fenced acre iv'e seen them.
    That rooster just makes sure everybody else sees them too! :)
    Mimi’s 13 likes this.
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Crossing the Road

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I also free range, and have had horrible losses on occasion because of it. Right now my flock is out there, hopefully having a good time...
    A compromise to consider would be using electrified poultry netting ( or multi strand electric tape or rope, making a much larger, movable, safer perimeter. Raptors can still be a problem, but they only take one bird at a time, not whole flocks.
    Chickassan likes this.
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Many people on here do not agree, but IMO you need a year old rooster. Preferably a rooster that was raised in a flock that gets to free range. In my experience, a rooster can really decrease daytime predation, (does nothing for night).

    Also these are tips that help me, but you have to be able to live with the losses. But as my granddaughter (who is 8) says, it is part of the circle of life, and now we can get new chicks. I keep a flock of birds, not individual chicken pets. Birds come into and go out of my flock pretty regularly. I hatch or get chicks almost every year. I do not have really old birds. It is a different way of having a flock than many people on here want to do. To each his own.

    A couple of free ranging tips:
    • Do have a coop/run that you can go into 24/7 lock down when a predator hits, they will be back. If you go into lock down for several days, the predator will move on.
    • Do not let birds out on a routine such as every day at 7:00 am. Some days let them out early, sometimes afternoons, and sometimes not at all.
    • Do not let them out on windy days or real cloudy days - too much advantage to predators.
    • Do have a year old+ rooster, (not a cockerel) with some experience.
    • Do have traps if things get out of hand.
    Mrs K
  5. keesmom

    keesmom Crowing

    Jul 28, 2008
    Free ranging is great! Until it isn't. If you free range it's only a matter of time before a predator finds you. It may take years, or days. If you can't bear to lose even one you may want to keep your flock confined.

    For us, our best land predator deterrent was my old dog (my avatar). He never noticed hawks but as long as he was here we never lost a bird to foxes, coyotes, mink, weasels, fishers or raccoons either day or night.
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Look critically at how losses occurred and adapt. There multiple ways to deal with just about any problem related to chickens. One of my favorite approaches that is a compromise to free-ranging the chickens appear to agree with involves the use of a chicken tractor. You can either house them in it for protracted periods or have them go to it and back to coop by using a treat to entice them.
    Chickassan and BantyChooks like this.

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