Freeranging Q's


In the Brooder
8 Years
Oct 14, 2011
I have 21 girls and a couple roo's out in their coop, they are almost 2 months old now, fully feathered and looking great!

I have not built a run for them as we want to free range them, so I have let them out increasing a couple hours each day before dusk each day for the last few days and all goes well so far.

I noticed though an owl or some fast flying bird fly by in the woods adjacent to our home as we were cooping them up just the last two days.

I guess I am afraid of having my entire flock picked off one at a time by these hawks ravens and owls we have in our area, we live in the country.

Is it just the cost of doing business in a free range way, or is there anything I should be doing or...

Thx as always!
We have a similar set up - large coop, but no run and we free range all day. If you're going to free range then you have to accept that you are going to lose the occasional bird. We have a good dog that keeps most predators away.

Some things you can do to keep losses down:
Try to have some type of cover that they can hide under. Don't let them roost outside the coop at night. Don't let them out of the coop too early in the morning when many predators are still on the prowl. Roosters are good at warning the flock when hawks or other raptors fly over, but don't depend on them to protect your flock from predators.
I let my flock of 18 free range (I have two other flocks, one of Silkies that I keep penned, and the others are too young yet to join the main flock). We live in a rural area also and have owls, hawks etc flying around and I dread the day that we lose one of our chickens as they are all our pets. We do, however, have a lot of activity in our yard....we have a 9 year old and a 10 year old who always have their friends over and we have two noisy dogs and 3 cats. When the hubby and I aren't working, we're also always in the yard. One thing that I have that I swear by is the "NiteGuard". I have 10 of them all around my coops and run. I'm convinced that we haven't lost any chickens because of these. A great investment!
We free range our flock of 40.

We've had more losses from raccoons when the girls decide to roost in low tree branches at night than we've had from them being out in the pastures all day. Now I make sure they all go into the run by late afternoon by giving them treats in their run about the same time every day. They know to come a runnin' for me then! LOL Once they're in the run, I leave them there until they decide to go to roost for the night inside the coop. I then go back out and shut the pop door to keep them all safe and snug.

We've lost one to a hawk attack this past fall. Our first! But I got to my girl before the hawk could eat her. She was still alive, but died in my arms.

Ravens have not been an issue for us - in fact, they're the ones to alert us about the hawk attack! So now we pay more attention to them. If they're fluttering about and cawing up a storm, it's usually indicative to a predator being close by (hawk or eagle). Once the ravens settle back down is when I let my flock out. Or if they start making a fuss then the girls are out in the field, my girls will start running for cover!

I've not seen any owls, but that's not to say we don't have them....

We have coyotes (a pack of at least 8) in our neck of the woods. We've never seen them on our property, but I do know they hang out in the valley just below us 'cuz I've seen them there more than once. Pretty sure our dog barking and marking his territory each day may help keep them at bay.

And we have two cats which help keep rats and field mice in check. The cats never mess with our birds (in fact, one likes to sleep in the nests on top of some eggs for his naps).
I have a flock of more than fifty chickens, plus 9 ducks and a pair of Toulouse geese. No run at all, just a garage turned into their coop. There is a lot of cover in my yard. The only time -so far, because it IS inevitable - I've lost one pullet who stayed out back behind the house and out of the fenced yard. No rooster back there to call the alarm, so a hawk got her, but not the pullet foraging with her.

Two ducklings were killed at night before they finally learned to go into the coop at night. They snuck out of their protected pen next to the house and went wandering...

I do have several roosters who call the alarm and the geese are great about announcing "intruders."

The losses are sad, but I knew ranging freely was a risk. The flock is so very happy.
It depends upon where you live.

If I let my birds out to free range, they would all be dead in less than 24 hours.

In another area, you might only lose a few. Just keep in mind that everything loves to eat chicken and once a predator discovers a chicken dinner in your yard, he will be back and probably bring his family with him.

If a predator eats your birds, it is not a predator's fault, it is the responsibility of the keeper of the fowl to keep the birds safe.
The best thing I can recommend is a chicken-friendly, large (50+ pounds), active outdoor dog that is allowed to roam where s/he pleases. People in this area are shocked that I'm able to free range my chickens without losing any to predators. I haven't lost a single chicken to predators in the daytime in the three years I've free ranged them. I currently have 58 chickens, but have been up to nearly 100 that free ranged every day. I've seen my chickens foraging 100 feet into the wood line, and I'm surprised I haven't lost one. I've also seen coyotes eyeballing my birds in broad daylight, but they don't dare come near my dog's territory (he's a large Golden Retriever/Labrador cross).

In addition to a good dog, I recommend waiting until the birds are at least three or four months old before letting them free range unsupervised. I also recommend keeping a rooster, the roosters are much more alert and help alert the hens to possible danger. Keep chicken breeds that aren't hampered by excess feathering. Crests inhibit vision, feathered legs inhibit mobility. Try to stick with dark colored breeds that blend into the landscape better (versus white birds).

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