Free Range, Roosterless, and Aerial Predators

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Juise, Mar 4, 2011.

  1. Juise

    Juise Songster

    Mar 4, 2011
    We're getting our chicks next week and will be starting to get things set up outside as the weather warms. We have about 300 feet of fencing that will be enclosing a large, sparsely wooded area and old, roomy horse barn that we're converting to our coop. I'm not entirely clear at this point if free range means they are not enclosed at all? In any case, it's a large area full of trees and as far as I can figure, not really coverable with spending serious dough... which I don't have.

    I was thinking along the lines of my 4 cats, who go in and out at their leisure. There is some risk involved, but we have a couple hundred acres of protected county forest connected to our property and I believe that it is right that they should have their freedom. Then I read someone's blog post -

    I can relate to it so much and of course I am going to be terrible crushes when I lose a chicken. We're only getting 6 right now, and my 3 year old daughter has been picking names for weeks. We can't get a rooster.

    I guess what I am wondering is... how often does it happen? I'm realizing that while I take the risk for my cats and hope to #@%* nothing happens to them, that we're really not talking about the same risk factor here. The chickens will be in a lot more danger and far more defenseless than the cats are, won't they?

    I'm feeling so torn between feeling that letting them go is the right thing to do, and feeling almost sick with worry for chickens that I don't even have yet.

  2. Pinky

    Pinky Songster

    Nov 15, 2008
    South GA
    It happens when you least expect it. Provide as much cover and hiding places for them as you can.
  3. sawmane1

    sawmane1 Songster

    Feb 22, 2011
    Mcminnville, Oregon
    what is your reson for no rooster? Mine protects our flock verry well. but any ways with tree coverage most birds of prey will be no problem.
  4. Juise

    Juise Songster

    Mar 4, 2011
    Well, a few reasons.

    Probably the number one reason is that we are vegans of 8 years and will be starting to add eggs to our diet when our own birds start laying them... I'm not real comfortable with the idea of killing fertilized eggs. Yes, I know if you collect them every day the chick is only barely starting its development, but this is not something I am comfortable with.

    Secondly, I have two little girls, 3 years and 7 months, and I'm not too keen on having an aggressive rooster after them. All my family's roosters were the terror of my youth! I'm not sure if there are certain kinds that you can handle a lot and raise with love that will be sweet as can be to people and still aggressively protective against predators...? Okay, they don't have to be sweet as can be, just not ornery, mean little buggers. [​IMG]

    And lastly, while it is legal here, I don't think my neighbors would be too happy with us. I'm not really sure, and seeing as many of them have dogs, I'm not really sure I believe a rooster is more disruptive.. thoughts there?

    Can you neuter a rooster and still have a protective temperament? [​IMG]
  5. Juise

    Juise Songster

    Mar 4, 2011
    The tree coverage comment just clicked in. Really? I have taken a few pictures of where we're going to be putting the chickens, but seeing as I just joined yesterday I don't think I'm allowed to post pictures. XP I was going to make a blog post about it, though, so maybe when I do I can link back to it from here and see if it's adequate tree cover. Thanks!
  6. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    Only 6 hens could be very comfortably kept in a tractor, a bottomless portable pen that can be moved to fresh ground as needed. Some tractors have safe quarters for chickens to sleep in overnight, other folks move their birds to a coop after dark. A tractor gives your hens the best of both worlds, they have protection from predators but access to fresh greenstuff.

    It's up to each chicken keeper to decide how to balance the amount of liberty with the amount of protection they wish to give their hens. I think that roosters are good for sounding the alarm, but are no guarantee of protection. A capon (neutered rooster) would probably be even less help.
  7. Juise

    Juise Songster

    Mar 4, 2011
    We have a barn that we'll be using to secure them in nights, but I would love to have a smaller, mobile coop for using in the gardens. We're going to have to figure out how we can put one together for cheap as free. We've got plenty of junk, er.. potential... to work with in the garage and storage barn. [​IMG]

    I am trying to figure out how best to balance their protection and freedom, which was why I was trying to get a general idea about what the risk actually is. It's hard to figure out how much protection you need when you've not done this before, I'm afraid of taking what I may think is a reasonable risk only to find out I signed their death warrants. [​IMG]

    Hopefully when I can share some pictures I can get at least a foggy idea from folk who have a clue [​IMG]
  8. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Is it safest to keep your birds in a covered run? Yes. But for me it's kind of like indoor cats vs. outdoor cats. Most vets will tell you up-front that it's safest to keep your cats inside 24/7. But I think my cats would kill me (or drive me insane at the very least) if I tried that.

    When I first got chickens, we built them a huge, covered run to keep them safe. Later, I began letting them out of the run, under strict supervision. Seeing how much they LOVE being out and about (on our fenced 3 acres), I couldn't imagine now keeping them confined all the time. These days, they free-range daily without supervision [​IMG], although they're always closed inside at night. I love my chickens. But seeing how much they enjoy running around our property...watching them out pecking and scratching about from my kitchen or living room window, is worth the risk for me.

    Our main risks are from hawks and possibly a dog squeezing/digging under our fence to get in. As long as you have shrubs, trees, structures of some kind for your birds to hide under or near, I think they'd be fairly safe from hawks. And let's face it, dogs have been known to get inside runs to kill chickens too, so a run doesn't give automatic immunity from dog attacks, unless it's a HIGHLY SECURE run.

    We went a year without a rooster, and my lead hen gave the warning calls if hawks were in the sky. The girls minded her and would head in close to a building. DH enjoys a roosters call, so we eventually ended up with an older, bantam roo that we knew did well with people. He's good with the girls, and we have no fertilized eggs (he's about 1/3 the size of my girls). So if, down the road, you want to try a rooster, that might be an option for you to consider.

    Good luck with your decision, with your coop, and with your birds (once you get them).
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2011
  9. gronsk

    gronsk Chirping

    Aug 17, 2010
    SE MA
    we have had blue cochin and buff orpington roosters -- very nice with children
  10. kwhitlow

    kwhitlow Hatching

    Mar 2, 2010
    i also didn't want a rooster because of the noise. But i bought a black and silver Wyandotte "hen " about 12 weeks old we named "her" Lola. after a couple of months i thought she looked different - she was getting BIG and ran like a T Rex. i also noticed little buds on "her" legs. Then one morning "she" crowed . we didn't want to make the neighbors mad so we asked them if the crowing bothered them. They said no so we changed "her" name to Larry and kept him. He knows his name and is not mean. I catch him about every two weeks and hold him and pet him which he does'nt mind And he is a lookout for red tail hawks which nest all around. i have lost only one chicken to a hawk. I haven't had a problem with raccoons or possum since they come to the front porch for cat food.

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