Free ranging?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Gracegirl16, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. Gracegirl16

    Gracegirl16 Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 7, 2011
    Cincinnati, OH
    Is it okay to have free ranging hens without a rooster? Will they be safe from predators?
  2. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    Hello! Yes, you can free range them without a rooster. I can't say they will be 100% safe, because of natural predators like hawks and such. I free range mine every day, and I even have a woods surrounding my house. I think the risk is worth it, because they really seem to enjoy their lives much more than pacing back and forth in their chicken run.

    I'm all about the freedom though......Plus, they don't eat as much feed when you free range, which is a nice bonus. I don't free range my bantams though, unless I'm watching, because they are pretty much my pets and eye candy.

    But the large fowl egglayers get to free range every day. I also have two turkeys that free range. I've lost about one chicken a year to a predator that I've never seen. I do try and keep my eyes and ears open when they free range. Before I let them out I search the sky for hawks and kind of look around for the neighbor's dog, but that's about it.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Free ranging chickens are never totally safe from predators. If you free range, you take that chance, even if you are standing there with them. There is no guarantee that you will lose one but there is no way to guarantee that you will not.

    Sometimes a good rooster will help you out. The rooster is not going to stop a lot of predators, but he usually is on the lookout, for hawks especially. Part of his job is to warn the hens. A good rooster will put himself between the hens and the predator, sacrificing himself to give them a chance to get to safety.

    Not all roosters are good. My current one leads his hens to safety instead of putting himself between the danger and them. His replacement is about 15 weeks old, so his days are numbered.

    Often, with an all hen flock, the dominant hen will take over many of the rooster's roles as far as flock management. That includes looking out for predators or even putting herself in harm's way if necessary. But again that does not always happen.

    Do you need a rooster for them to free range? No, not really. You only need a rooster to fertilize eggs. Will your hens be safer if you have a rooster? Probably a little bit, but it really depends on the rooster.
  4. Gracegirl16

    Gracegirl16 Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 7, 2011
    Cincinnati, OH
    Thanks! We have woods surrounding our house as well as two cats ( they don't bother the chickens) and one dog. He likes to chase them but doesn't want to hurt them. He is inside during the day though. we are WAY out in the country so I'll give it a try! I have always wanted to free range them but haven't for fear of loosing more than I already have. I started with 15 and am down to 11. I have a rooster but he is pretty aggressive which is surprising considering that he is a buff Orpington. He has murdered one hen and came close to killing another. We have separated him from the girls. I have considered killing him. He "got" My little sis on her leg yesterday...any suggestions of what to do about him?

    Thanks again for your help!
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  5. turbodog

    turbodog Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2010
    Independence, La.
    Quote:Freezer camp for that boy.

    No, they don't need a rooster to keep them safe while free ranging, but then, a roo doesn't guarantee safety either. I have a roo to watch over the girls, but mainly because I think roosters are great looking birds and I love to hear the crow. I won't put up with a bad roo though.
  6. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA
    All of my 40 some hens are being free ranged right now on a pretty wild looking "pasture," the roosters can see them but have no way to protect them, and they're doing just fine! [​IMG]
  7. Florida_country_boy

    Florida_country_boy Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 17, 2011
    Tampa, Fl
    Quote:I free range only hens without roosters. The queen of my flock is a mean Buff Orpington, and she protects the flock like a rooster. Our neighbor's cat was recently stalking the flock, and she kicked it's ass, and the cat hasn't been back.
  8. RedDrgn

    RedDrgn Anachronistic Anomaly

    May 11, 2011
    West Virginia
    My Coop
    Generally, they're just as safe without as they are with a rooster. Not all roosters will try to defend the flock from a real attack, and those that do are not necessarily successful in their attempts.

    We free range ours without a rooster. Granted, my DH and I stand in as a "rooster" and don't leave them out alone. However, whenever a crow, hawk, cat, etc. shows up while they're out, one of two (or both) pullets always notices and sounds the alarm...sometimes before even we see the cause.
  9. cassidy22

    cassidy22 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2011
    Front Range - Colorado
    It also depends on the predators in your area. A sly fox, or a pack of coyotes aren't going to be stopped by a rooster. At all. A good roo or an observant hen might alert to overhead predators like owls and hawks, and give the chickens a chance to head for shelter.

    But true protection for free ranging birds are dogs that are guard dogs. My great pyrs are better than any electric netting, rooster, proper fencing, etc. They are the ONLY thing that stops hawks, coyotes, skunks, foxes, etc.

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