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Free Ranging

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rsweet, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. rsweet

    rsweet Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 24, 2014
    Tijeras, New Mexico
    Maybe I'm being over protective but obviously a lot of you free range...Am I missing something? I'm very concerned about predators...am I under estimating my birds abilities? What are the parameters for free ranging?
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

    Sep 13, 2011
    There aren't any absolutes here, except that your birds will enjoy having more space to explore, and sometimes a predator will kill one (or more) of your flock. It's essential to have a very safe coop and run, and then having the flock out is a bonus. Chickens are jungle animals, so they want trees and shrubs rather than open fields. Shade and shelter from raptors! Bantams and especially Silkies and Polish types can't see well, and are first choice for hawks. More alert 'wild' type birds will do better than some. Right now my flock is locked in, because I saw a sick house wren near my house. Other times a hawk has come visiting, or there's snow. Mary
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Free ranging does have its risks. I free range, and it's a risk I'm willing to take. Yes, there is always the chance of loss to a predator, but I think my chickens are happier when they can be out exploring, and scratching and pecking and doing other chickeny things. I also have a secure coop and run for them to be locked in at night, when family comes to visit and they bring their dogs, or if I suspect a predator is lurking about. If your chickens are beloved pets and you're concerned, I would suggest not free ranging. At least not the way we do it. We let them out in the morning, go about our day, and lock them up at night. When I do it, I count heads to make sure everyone made it in. When DH does it, he just shuts the gate. Some people let their chickens out only when they can be in the backyard with them. Ours have acres to wander if they want. We live on a farm, and the coop is quite a distance from the house. I don't have time to sit and watch my chickens all day.
  4. rsweet

    rsweet Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 24, 2014
    Tijeras, New Mexico
    I'm sorry but sick house wren??
  5. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

    Sep 13, 2011
    I also have a small farm, and the flock has several acres of pastures, and a small wood lot, to explore. It's great for them, but never 100% safe. Mary
  6. Paganrose

    Paganrose Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2010
    Albany,, Wisconsin
    I think how well you free range depends on a lot of factors.

    When I lived up north, we were on and acre with several pine trees as a windbreak, but otherwise surrounded by open field. We had very little issues with predators. Our roosters would trill whenever a predator was around and the girls would take to the pine trees while the roos attacked/made a ruckus. We lost a couple roosters, but only once lost a hen to a stray dog.

    Now we live right next door to a nature preservation area with lots of woods surrounding us. There are plenty of places for predators to hide. In fact we have struggled with Raccoons. We had a coon break into our coop while we were away and decimated the flock last winter. We also have foxes, hawks, and coyotes behind our property. We had to take extra steps to protect the flock and discourage the predators.

    My Husband and Son will often mark the teritory along our pasture fence, along with making sure the dog leaves her sent their also. We make sure to never leave feed out overnight. We also don't let the chickens out until well after dawn and do a coon check in the coop half hour or so before dusk and also feed and lock them up at that time. Raccoons are most active at dusk and dawn, we have caught a few of them inside the coop before dusk. Raccoons also need a bullet proof coop. When we did lose our chickens to the coons it was because they broke a rotten board on the coop while we were on vacation, and we had left the birds locked up tight. Other than that we only occasionaly lost a bird here and there.

    When you Free range you expect a couple losses. Most of our losses were Roosters since a good rooster will act as a sentry and defend then hens.

    With the chicks we are starting over with now, we are planing to free range again, but have revamped our coop and Coon proofed it. We are also planing a covered run for them to use during the winter and when we are away. I feel that birds that range are healthier and happier, plus give free lawn fertilizer! Free range birds also consume a lot less feed during the warmer months.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
  7. Monguire

    Monguire Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 18, 2014
    Manassas, VA
    It's all about balance. Yes, there are risks that come with free ranging but it can also come with great happiness. Anything that lets chickens chicken to the best of their ability is okay in my book. Free ranging provides them some small measure of what it was like before we domesticated the joie de vivre right out of them and locked them in cages for their protection eggs.

    That said, I lock mine in a cage (coop) every night and am prone to locking them in the bigger cage (run) when there is evidence of predators nearby. We each have to find our own best balance between letting them live as naturally as possible while protecting the financial and emotional investment we have in our flocks. Sadly, letting them enjoy a more natural lifestyle means predation will likely happen at some point. I find the potential risk an acceptable trade-off for the definite happiness some structured freedom (secure coop & run, ample pasture fencing) provides.
  8. CTKen

    CTKen Monkey business Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    I agree with the sentiments above. I put feeding stations in covered areas to try and reduce hawk attacks, but thats about it. I've lost two 3 months old chicks in the past year and thats a balance that i find acceptable. I am home all day and someone is always out and about in the garden, so that probably makes a difference.

    All the best

    Maybe take a look at the threads here:

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Runs With Chickens Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I am willing to accept some losses in order for my birds to live a more natural and fulfilling life. Most predators can be dealt with or managed and you can set up you birds area to be more successful and less appealing. We keep some donkeys in the same shed with the chickens to help cut down our losses, and keep the fields mowed and give our birds cover from hawks. We also keep a lot of roosters to keep an eye out. I think there's nothing sadder than confined animals who aren't given the room to do what the need to do for their physical and mental well being, so for me it's worth the risk.
    1 person likes this.

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