Free range safety

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Ramblin Rooster, Dec 7, 2013.

  1. Ramblin Rooster

    Ramblin Rooster Hatchaholic

    Apr 14, 2012
    Fairfield, Connecticut
    As I write my girls are free ranging without strict supervision for the first time in 1+ years. When we free range now I follow right behind them and herd them together to keep an eye on them. After losing a hen when the petsitter locked them up too late at night we have been paranoid about free ranging. Then we only had 3 and they free ranged all day every day and were fine. Is it safer to free range with a bigger flock? We have lots of hawks which is my only concern.

    What can we do to make free ranging safer?

    Thanks for the help!
  2. TallChickMagnet

    TallChickMagnet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 30, 2012
    Jurupa Valley, CA
    Thank about getting an aviary net and some really tall poles to hang it on. Lets them free range in safety.

    Last edited: Dec 7, 2013
  3. LRH97

    LRH97 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 29, 2013
    Southern Illinois
    I recently had this problem. About two months ago I had 26 hens and 1 rooster. I'm down to 16 hens and 1 rooster today. I was losing a bird every two or so days. I finally said enough is enough and kept them locked up for about a week (they didn't like that of course). Then when I started letting them range again, I let them on supervised ranging for about two hours each night for about a week. Whatever was getting them (I think it was a fox) seemed to have moved on, so I now am ranging them for the entire day. Nothing has bothered them...yet. I live by woods so there are plenty of other things that would love a chicken dinner. There are only so many things that you can do. I would definitely stress to the pet-sitter to have the door closed at sundown. Also it is true that there is strength in numbers, so maybe a few more wouldn't hurt. It's also good to have a rooster to protect the hens (if you don't already have one). They give calls when something flies overhead which usually sends the girls running. Hope I helped some!
  4. Hillschicks

    Hillschicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 17, 2012
    Its part of free ranging.. I did the math one day and in the couple of years we habe kept chickens we have lost 20% to predators... Luckily 90% of those lost were roosters.. Which we expect and plan for.. If you have a rooster, you should lose him before a more valuable hen
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    a rooster helps, but they need to be about a year old. But if you free range, you are going to lose some. Fact of life. Chicken are safe in an adequately built run/coop. But many a predator has proven to a human, that it is not quite as tight as you thought. If you have chickens, you probably are going to lose some, and it sucks..... but then you can always try a different kind of chicken. Sounds heartless, but I like to free range my flock.

    I do vary the amount of time they free range, and I try to keep it erratic which I think helps with predators moving on. I didn't have a full grown rooster last year, and the losses were too much, and mine spent most of the time in the coop/run set up. Now I have two roos that will be full grown next spring...... one is going to the pot, and one will be the flock master......

    Mrs K
    1 person likes this.
  6. Hillschicks

    Hillschicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 17, 2012
    Well put.. While we pasture our chickens, my brother has a small enclosed run.. He has lost his entire flock on more than 1 occassion, i lose a random chicken a couple times a year (roughly 20 chickens in our flock) .. A mink or other weasel can not only get thru tiny holes.. They can chew holes thru wood.. My brother had one that apparently moved in and lived below his coop while it took its time burrowing a hole into the coop.. 2 chickens survived that attack.. Point is, you can never really protect them 100%.. They are food, and occassionally get eaten
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    If you free range unsupervised, you're going to lose birds at some point, it's just playing the odds as to who and when.

    Everyone loves a chicken dinner.
  8. 3chickchicks

    3chickchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 25, 2013
    N. Texas
    Give them lots of structure to get under and stuff they can weave through (bushes, etc) should something attack. They know exactly what a hawk looks like and can run for cover. Don't trim their wings if you can help it.
    Dogs are also a big help. I haven't gotten one of my dogs trained yet to leave the chickens alone (an italian greyhound-a sight hound's prey drive is at a whole new level), but just letting them out to roam the yard a little bit thwarts most predators. I had a cat bothering mine. His first attempt was unsuccessful. The second time he came over, the dogs were out, gave chase and about got him. Haven't seen the cat since. [​IMG] It worked better than me shooing the cat away! Had an opossum in the yard. The dogs freaked him out too and haven't seen him since.

    Free range is never 100% safe, even with you there. It takes mere seconds for a hawk to inflict severe wounds. I've seen videos of hawks attacking chickens while the person was standing right there. It depends on how hungry the hawk is.

    But the chickens are so much happier free ranging. Mine have feed available to them and they'd rather be out foraging. To me it's quality of life over quantity. And I wanted pastured eggs so if I kept them locked up and safe, then I might as well go buy eggs from the store. It'd be too expensive to supplement their diet for what they can find while foraging.

    At least if they're out, they have a way to escape. If they're in the run and something breaks in, they're trapped.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2013
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    ugh! A first nice day in quite a while, knew I would be home shortly after school......... so I let them out today....... locked them up tonight, and guess I will be keeping the Delaware Rooster....... the Dominique is gone. DANG it....... I was thinking of eating the Delaware, and keeping the Dom.

    Mrs K
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri

    Invest in electrified poultry netting. You will greatly reduce losses.

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