Free Ranging ~worth the risk?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by shortlegs2, Jan 22, 2007.

  1. shortlegs2

    shortlegs2 In the Brooder

    Jan 22, 2007
    New Zealand
    Last night when I got home 6 of my remaining Muscovies where gone. One by one over a period of time they have vanished without a trace!!! I free range my Muscovies, not my chickens I couldnt risk it!! But I "DO" free range my ducks, I thought they would be safe they are big, males 15pounds females 8 pounds. I have learned that they must be locked up before dark or they are taken, last night we did not get home in time, I am suffering the consequences of free ranging and poor choices. We searched everywhere, but nothing. I am full of guilt and pain. Worse is telling my children.

    This morning Donald my male Muscovy appeared and I continued to search for the others, nothing!!! I left to take my children to school and found Princess two properties over at the roadside I tried to catch her but couldnt. I left and took the kids to school. When I got home she had made her way home to Donald. They both look so dramatized, if they could only talk.

    I will be locking them in with the chickens from now on no more free ranging, which is sad, but I can not risk loosing the only 2 I have left!! I truley adore these ducks they are the most wonderful birds to own!!!

    So my question for you is this ~ HOw can you free-range knowing the risk you are taking by doing so?

    I cant, and couldnt with my chickens. If an animal can carry off a male muscovy without a trace to be found I cannot stomach the risk.

  2. ginasmarans

    ginasmarans Songster

    Jan 15, 2007
    West Tn
    There is always a risk with free-ranging, but heck, there's a risk with keeping them penned up. I had more of mine killed in their pen by a neighbor's dog or some wild critter than out free-ranging. You just have to weigh your risks. When we rebuilt our pen, we predator proofed it the best we could. We went on and fenced it in when we built the fence for the horse, and that has helped keep other dogs from getting to them, but there's always a risk. Mine are just so much happier out, I can't deny them. So sorry about your ducks.
  3. Sorry for your loss Toni. It sounds to me more like they are being chased or harrassed than taken if you find them a bit away or they come back. While I can free range here we have had some coyote losses. Both my chickens and ducks free range, in fact the ducks are better about sticking close so they do well, it's the chickens that venture too far into the woods and become targets where we can't defend them with our rifle. That is not always an option I know, but I have no neighbours in miles. Once when I lost 3 chickens in the same week I quit letting them out till we had the coyote come right up to the barn in broad daylight. After he was shot I went back to free ranging with no more losses since.

    There are options you have for getting your girls out. Movable pens that are electric so they whould zap the neighbours dog or whatever, tractors, motion sensor lights might help if it's always after dark.

    Contact your local SPCA or pound to see if the rest of the ducks have been found, they might just have been chased off too.
  4. shortlegs2

    shortlegs2 In the Brooder

    Jan 22, 2007
    New Zealand
    The pen/run the chickens are in, have 3 feet of cement around the whole place, plus a foot of cement into the ground, the whole place is like fort knox!! Metal fencing around the whole thing including the coop plus metal fencing ontop. The only thing that gets in are snakes and mice/moles, etc...

    I know the ducks have been taken by either foxes or coyotes the property is surrounded by woods, usually they take one. This is the first time something like this has happened, not to mention 2 returning. its never happened in the past. Plus the town knows me and my birds.

    The electric fencing would be an option if we werent selling the house, I agree its the best option if you free range.


    Oh, April I wanted to add the towns animal warden(whatever) saw me at a quick stop getting coffee and I told him what had happened. When I got home he was driving around on my road looking as well and said "keep looking, but stop when you cant feel youre feet or hands", We will keep our eyes open for any ungly looking ducks:cool:
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2007
  5. Toni the electric fencing I'm talking about is very portable. It's a net mesh and it's on it's own stakes and you move it so they graze here this week and next week you put them somewhere else before they make mud (or a dust pit) of the first place. You could take it with you when you leave there, it rolls up easy for storage or moving.

    I'll try and find you a link. It's most common with sheep so if your asking around for a local supplier keep that in mind.

    Here try this. That's the sort of stuff I mean.
  6. sloper74

    sloper74 In the Brooder

    Jan 13, 2007
    So sorry Toni to hear about your ducks.

    We free range our chickens and have had some losses. When we first got the chicks our own dog killed 2, the cat got 2 when they were day-old (son left door open to their room in the basement). We trained our dog to not do that and shes fine with them now. Recently the neighbor dogs ate one and mauled another (survived). We have had more problems with our neighbors than predators - they have 2 black labs that they never feed. The grump is pregnant twice a year and killed one of our chickens because she was probably starving and needed to feed her puppies. I've offered to spay the dog but "we just love puppies" (ignorant). Legally I could kill the dog if she even comes onto our property and chases a chicken again. I don't want to kill the dog because their sociopath 14 year old son would probably poison our dogs, goats and chickens just to get back at us. So I will probably call the 1 animal control guy who works our county and have him address it with them. Though he recommended just shooting the dog...

    My point is you do have losses when you free-range. Our chickens are very healthy though because they can roam.

    Not sure if I would free-range ducks, as they are more expensive. We have about 30 chickens now and just ordered 41 more.

    Not sure if that helps. But yes, it is risky. But IMO,worth it. We coop ours up at night and there are about 7 who roost in the trees and refuse to be cooped. We also have a dog that barks when anything is going on outside. She usually goes out at night and hopefully is scaring away some predators.
  7. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your duckies...
    It's easy to blame ourselves for our losses, but it's not something that you can look into your crystal ball and forsee. I wish we could and I'd still have Tom.[​IMG]
    I only free range if I'm able to be physically out there with them.
    I hope you're able to find the rest of them...
  8. raysflock

    raysflock In the Brooder

    Jan 22, 2007
    newfoundland, canada
    I free range my flock in the late spring, summer and fall. not now there is two ft of snow on the ground and night time temperture is running between -10c and -20c. If your ducks or chickens disapear with no trace,then my guess is a fox or coyote. A weasel or mink would kill everything and leave. A hawk can only carry away a small chicken.
    I have lost several of my chickens to a merlin hawk. they kill and eat them on the spot.
  9. shortlegs2

    shortlegs2 In the Brooder

    Jan 22, 2007
    New Zealand
    Thanks April for the link!!

    I kept hoping more would return, at least donald has a woman, you guys just hate being alone!!

    No more free-ranging for me for a while, I think the ducks are stressed as all they do is huddle together. The kids want to put out flyers. Its so hard explaining that if they were coming home they would have come home by now.

  10. allen wranch

    allen wranch Crowing

    Jan 11, 2007
    San Marcos, TX
    I am sorry about your ducks, Toni... Glad you didn't lose all of them.

    I too only free range if I am outside. If I am in the house and can see them, I occasionally let some out into a fenced yard with a six feet welded wire fence.

    A friend was outside with her chickens and a coyote ran into the yard, snatched a chicken and kept going with it. Another friend had a hawk take a bird in front of her.

    I think birds are happier and healthier free ranging, but you are going to lose one or more eventually.

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