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Free Range vs. Chicken Run

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by msdowning, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. msdowning

    msdowning Hatching

    Apr 12, 2011
    Hi everyone,
    We've been happy chicken owners for 1.5 years now and have really enjoyed having the birds. We initially let our birds range free and hand no problems for one year. This summer has been a sadder story. We started off with 2, then went down to 1, then were up to 3 (gift of friends), then down to 1 again. Yesterday we tried to introduce a new bird to keep the remaining bird company, but it never came home at night (we were not able to find it) and I just found the big pile of feathers in the woods. So we've lost a total of 4 birds this summer and have 1 left. I am kind of heartbroken at the moment and am probably going to bring the remaining bird back to our friend, where she came from early this summer. However, this brings me to the question at hand- how do you feel about ranging birds free (with the idea that they're happier that way, but are more likely to get eaten) vs. keeping them in an enclosed chicken coop with added run, which we could make much more predator free but might result in less happy birds? I'm trying to think about what I want to do when we do get birds again.



    CMTSMWC Chirping

    Jun 9, 2011
    I keep mine in a run. They are there most of the time but I always give them grass and they are extremely happy. When I am out working and taking care of horses I open the door and let them out to free range while I am out there. I have had no problems with predators in the run I have. I can post some pictures if you would like. I know people like to free range their chickens, but I am too paranoid about predators. I am not saying they are wrong for doing it in any way. All I know is my chickens are safe and happy [​IMG] and I couldn't ask for more.
  3. BrokenRoadFarm

    BrokenRoadFarm Chirping

    Jun 10, 2011
    North Central NC
    So sorry about your chickens [​IMG] We have a 12 X 20 ft. run for them. Sometimes I feel bad that they are penned up, but as long as I keep bringing them treats - grass clippings, weeds, spent plants from the vegetable garden, melon wedges - they seem pretty happy. We also built a tractor so they can "get out" every once in a while, and I won't have a panic attack wondering what is lurking behind - or up in - every tree! [​IMG] Would love to let them free range on our 10 acres, but not willing to let them die at the "hands" of a predator. Just my two cents..
  4. QuackerJackFarms

    QuackerJackFarms Songster

    Jun 26, 2011
    I've been dealing with the same issue as well. Only I live in town so my problem is the chickens (2) discovered how to jump onto the fence to get to the neighbors garden. And my ducks (3) which I thought were Rouens turned out the be Mallards so they have discovered how to fly over the house. I have made them a decent size run and they have been in there for 2 days now. They are not happy with me right now..
  5. LindenLiving

    LindenLiving In the Brooder

    Jan 10, 2011
    Upstate New York
    You can have the best of both worlds if you are willing to add some time that you spend with your chickens. I "walk" my chickens every morning for an hour while I clean their coop, check the nests boxes to ensure they haven't kicked out the straw, and feed and water them. I entice them back into the run with scratch and then they pretty much stay in their coop/run area until the evening when I again "walk" my chickens at about an hour to 45 minutes until sundown and they naturally head back in for the night. I do this because I have a chicken killing dog, neighbors are close enough that curious chickens might wander over,and for my own general piece of mind. I truly enjoy the time I spend with them in the morning as I use it for my prayer time as I am doing chicken chores and in the evening it is a great way to decompress from the day. Don't give up on chickens....just realize you live in a high predator zone and make adjustments as necessary. My chickens are very healthy and thriving in their coop/free range life.
  6. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    There are lots of threads on here that discuss this. I do a little of both, too, though when they are "in" it is in a 70'x70' fenced yard. One thing that helps is a rooster; he will send his hens packing to safety when a predator appears, then attack the predator, sacrificing himself if necessary. If you can teach a dog or two not to bother the chickens, that discourages predators. A donkey is ideal, though of course not an option for many. Unless you build a costly Fort Knox, a run is not always 100% safe, either. It's a balancing act, and a personal decision.
  7. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    Well, you had the deck stacked against you from the beginning. You had no protection for your flock and that is basically the same as having a pen that can be penetrated easily by predators. I've never free ranged without my good farm dogs watching my flock and this increased their chances of survival by 99%, at least.

    Losses of some kind are an accepted risk for free ranging but I've only lost 2 chicks to a black snake and one pullet that liked to roost out in the barn to a GHO~and that was in 6 years of free ranging flocks in this area....predators abound here in the form of hawks of all kinds, foxes, 'yotes, black bears, coons, possum.

  8. CariLynn

    CariLynn Songster

    Aug 23, 2010
    State of confusion
    We don't let our flock free range and in a year I have lost two hens, one to a possible stroke and the other to a hawk. Their pen is 100ft square, their coop is inside yet another smaller pen and at night we put a cover over the door and a heavy piece of wood to keep it in place. Are they totally protected? No but I feel better knowing there is a lesser chance of them being hurt.

    Here is our coop and yard..

    CMTSMWC Chirping

    Jun 9, 2011
    I second the rooster
  10. Snegurochka

    Snegurochka In the Brooder

    Apr 7, 2011
    Southern Indiana
    You really can't depend on the rooster, though. The last time I lost one to a hawk, the rooster didn't seem to notice she was gone, and plus, our entire family was outside doing lawn work and nobody saw a thing. I don't free range mine anymore because a hawk attack is really an awful way to die, and I have a small flock so it's harder for me when I lose one. If you do free range, just be aware that you can do it for several years without an issue and then just lose a hen out of the blue.

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