Free Ranging and Predators, some questions

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Sweetened, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. Sweetened

    Sweetened Songster

    Sep 14, 2010
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Hi guys!

    I've been reading through the forums, but there is -so- much information to read through and opinions seem to shift and alter as the months pass and people try new things.

    I'm planning on my very first flock next year and I am interested in free-ranging, however I work in the city (an hour away from where I'll likely be moving to). Being out in the country means a variety of regulards: Coyote, Racoons, red and grey foxes, black bears, moose, deer, hawks *breath* aaand so much more; Saskatchewan is rife with wildlife. I would like to free range them, though the coop on the property isn't mobile.

    Theres a lady on my drive to work who drives out every morning around the same time after letting her 6-9 chickens and 2 roosters out. She is just shooing them in by the time we drive by 8 hours later. I know she works down the road from me, her truck is not mistakable... a large vinyl on the side with 5 cats that says "just me and my girls." I suppose my question is, is she just lucky the chickens haven't gotten knabbed, or are the roosters protecting the hens? I wasn't intending on getting roosters for fear of ending up with a cock fight breaking out between them, but if they are that protective, I will definitely consider it.

    I suppose where I'm going with this is how long alone is too long alone in your opinion and why? Also, is there an easy portable... cage for lack of a better word, that can be built and flopped down before leaving in the morning, or would that be like putting a silver platter out for predators?

    I hope this post makes sense and that people can see where I'm going with this. I'm great at muddling things up [​IMG] .

    Thanks everyone, incase I cant keep up.

  2. DaughterOfEve

    DaughterOfEve Songster

    Sep 3, 2009
    Montague, MI
    The roosters can provide some protection for the hens, sounding an alarm when trouble is near. They will instinctively run and hide. The other issue is that most predators are active at dusk through to dawn. You will be ranging in day time hours. This is no guarentee though because neighborhood dogs wander during the day and we have seen possum come through the yard well before dark. We have a dog who marks the area very well, patrols and can be found on duty near where ever they are foraging.

    Free ranging has risks, you will need to decide if the benefits out weigh the risk for you. If you have the funds available you might look into portable electric netting.

    Hope this helps
  3. yinzerchick

    yinzerchick Songster

    Jun 13, 2011
    I've heard talk of the "honeymoon stage" of chicken keeping. I think I was in it for the first 5 months. Free ranging and nobody ever turned up missing, till tonight. My roo is gone. Anyway...There's lots of things you can do to make it safer for your chickens. We put out little "panic rooms" for them to run under in case of an air attack, they have a very small "chicken door" in the run gate so they can run inside and it would probably (hopefully) stop a fox or coyote from running after. We have donkey's that are suppose to keep coyotes away and the chickens can run into the barn too.
    Anyway, I've left mine alone for a lot of the day, I think the most dangerous parts of the day are dawn/early morning and evening/twilight. I don't let them out after dark. They are cooped up all night! But still, it's not fool proof. You might want to ask your neighbor what she's doing. Maybe she has a guard dog or something you're not aware of. Also, roosters will protect their hens, but they usually end up loosing the battle and end up casualties themselves.
    Hope that helps a little and some other more experienced folks should be along soon to help too. Welcome to the forum! [​IMG]
  4. Sweetened

    Sweetened Songster

    Sep 14, 2010
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Thanks very much for the quick reply. I considered safety in numbers, and that it would likely be best while I'm learning to have a few more chickens, just in case!

    I suppose it's a lot of trial and error, finding our what predators are in your area and how crafty they are... Thanks again!

    Sorry about your rooster, I read your thread and I hope he turns up. Maybe he just buttoned down the hatches and is waiting for the morning.

    All the best.
  5. I think city-fied predators are a little more delicate than country predators. So, maybe it depends on location. We have hawks, but perhaps they're not accustomed to their prey fighting back, so they left our chickens alone after being nabbed by broody hens and our little Silkie roo once or twice. I went outside one day to see what the commotion was all about, and the poor hawk
    was trying to get away from pretty little Chloe:
    who was protecting her chicks and had that poor hawk by the back of the head and WOULD NOT LET GO.

    The various hawks fly around now and then, but never in our yard. The few who do, have fought our rooster over chipmunk territory and lost. We have a few racoons too, who raise little families in our garage (thanks to a neighbor who hand raised them as orphans [​IMG] ) but they are so FRIGHTENED of the line-up of threatening hens that they don't even leave the garage for their nightly forage until AFTER our hens are locked up in their coop for their beauty sleep.

    We're not naive, someday the predators might win a dinner, but they'll have to fight tooth and nail to get it from our chickens, and if our chickens become so old and weak as to become prey, well isn't that a little better than wasting away from cancer or heart disease? Personally I'd rather lose my life in the course of 6 hours with a hungry pack of wolves than waste away with disease, being a problem for years to my loved ones. Just sayin'.

    I have often thought that a dog or two who are bred for shepherding would absolutely adore spending their lives with a backyard flock of adored chickens. They'd spend all day doing what they do best, counting their birds, watching the skies, sniffing the surrounding brush.....
  6. inohio

    inohio In the Brooder

    Jul 22, 2009
    Okay, I want some off-spring from your hen and roo!
  7. Quote:Are you close to the Chicago area? I have these:

    One of the splash/white ones believes she is the HEAD RULER OF THE WORLD. I think she might have that fighting for dominance thingie in her genes.

  8. Sweetened

    Sweetened Songster

    Sep 14, 2010
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Oh adorable!
  9. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    She is just lucky. Eventually she will suffer an attack. Your best bet would be a large impregnable pen coupled with free ranging once you return home from work. A rooster is a great alarm system but is unable to protect against most of the predators that you have mentioned - and surely not against one of the worst, neighborhood dogs.
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    Free ranging takes a good setup and even then you may lose a few to air strikes. In the past six years I've lost one to roosting out of the coop and up in the hay stacks~Great Horned Owl got that unwise young hen. Two chicks to a black snake, unavoidable at the time. I thought I lost two hens one winter but after doing a head count months later realized they were still with me...don't know how I missed that. [​IMG]

    For my free ranging I have perimeter fencing that the chickens can get through on the sides if they really are determined, but cannot penetrate in the front near the road. I also have two LGDs on wireless electric fencing that are present in the chooks territory day and night. I also have many hides that chickens can run to when hawks threaten. A good roo that is vigilant enough to call a warning so the gals have a running start....IME, roos will not fight a hawk that is big enough to lift a full grown standard breed chicken.

    I leave my pop door open 24/7 all year and have went away on vacation for 4-5 days at a time with no worries or losses.

    It can be done with the proper measures in place and with the expectation that you just may lose one here and there.

    If your chicken tractor(portable unit) is sturdy enough to withstand heavy dog attacks while you are away, this is also an option for free ranging...of course, these work best for foraging if moved several times a day.

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