Give up free-ranging?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by jdgbirds31, Jan 5, 2015.

  1. jdgbirds31

    jdgbirds31 Out Of The Brooder

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    We started in the spring with 4 chickens and 4 guineas... Made it all through the summer and most of the fall with no problems, but since thanksgiving we have lost 2 guineas and 1 chicken. The first 2 just disappeared (1 hen, 1 guinea) but today my husband found a dead guinea with what appeared to be a broken neck but no other injuries (what does that?). At this rate I won't have anyone left by summer! Do I just give up and keep the chickens in a run? Half the reason I got them (and in particular the guineas) was for tick control, but I hate to just be feeding our local predators... What do I do??? The guineas really shouldn't even be penned, so I'm really struggling.
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Tough choice.

    There are far fewer daytime predators but still everything likes the taste of chicken. Most likely your culprits are aerial or in the weasel family. Other daytime predators would take the birds or do more damage.

    I certainly can feel your pain in losing your tick predators.
    I lost about $4,000 of chickens to mink this past May. They took all the free ranging chicks in the middle of the afternoon over the course of 2 days. They killed every bird in a different coop each night.

    As for what to do now.
    Other than personally supervising ranging activities, I find that a good rooster will save lots of hens from hawks and will give themselves up to save them from a ground predator like coyote or dog.

    I'm assuming you can keep a rooster with your flock. I recommend a large yet agile and wary breed of rooster.
     
  3. nab58

    nab58 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I wouldn't have any birds left if I left mine out unattended. After loosing one to a fox right in front of me, we built a large extension to the coop that, although not predator proof, keeps them all in one spot and away from the more dangerous areas.
    The pen we built is simply made from deer fencing and supported by movable fiberglass poles stuck in the ground. It's totally portable and quite flimsy but keeps the birds close to the coop so they can run back in if something threatens them.
    We also never leave them out without someone within earshot.

    It's just the way it is. Once a predator finds your flock they'll keep coming back until they're all gone.

    You other option is to incubate and raise your own chicks to replenish your flock as they disappear.
     
  4. jdgbirds31

    jdgbirds31 Out Of The Brooder

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    I got the guineas in hopes of them playing the rooster role without the crowing, but perhaps I should consider one. I actually raised these birds fr chicks and was planning to get more chicks to replenish, so at a couple bucks a chick I'm not worried about the money, I just hate serving them up on a platter! They just seem so darn happy wandering around the yard :) Also, I'm sure it helped all summer that the kids and the dog and I were outside all the time.
     
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    A good LG dog that won't kill your birds is a good option.

    I thought guineas were loud. I know they don't make the same sound as a rooster but IMHO, roosters aren't that loud. They're no louder than dogs and not as loud as lawnmowers, weed eaters, boom boxes or trains. When I'm in my house, I can't hear a rooster - I have 9. But I can hear the traffic and loud stereos going by, the powered lawn equipment and the train that's 2 miles away.
     
  6. jdgbirds31

    jdgbirds31 Out Of The Brooder

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    Haha - Yes the guineas are totally loud. In fact a rooster probably wouldn't be as bad... especially compared to the 4 of them. Any advice on introducing a new (young) rooster into the group?
     
  7. JanetMarie

    JanetMarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have the same dilemma. Last year we lost a mom while she was taking her chicks foraging. The chicks came running into the main fenced area, where they can get under the fence. Fortunately, there were other moms with chicks all the exact same age, and they adopted the orphaned chicks.

    I believe it is foxes feeding their kits in the spring here. I have decided though not to give up on free ranging, since it is so much better for their health, unless they get killed. I think a solution may be having at least one devoted rooster with the free range flock, and have been thinking of getting a Llama.
     
  8. jdgbirds31

    jdgbirds31 Out Of The Brooder

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    I feel the same way about the free-ranging... Does having other livestock help? I was thinking of getting goats next year.
     
  9. JanetMarie

    JanetMarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The problem with goats is they eat EVERYTHING, but if I get a Llama it will need a friend, since they are herd animals. What about Icelandic rams?
     
  10. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    If the cockerel is about 4 months, he might get picked on by the hens but eventually he'll become the rooster and head of the flock. One closer to 6 months may work better.
    I think the breed of rooster makes a big difference. Depending on where you live, a big Mediterranean breed like Minorca, Black Penedesenca, Andalusians, Catalanas or if you live where it's very cold, something like a Buckeye or Orloff. If you live where it's hot, the Meds work or a Fayoumi.

    I always vote for roosters but if that's not possible, electric fencing for ground predators and an area with poultry netting on top to thwart hawks. Hawks can still fly into enclosures.
    I had a hawk fly into a 40' long, 3' high 8' wide hoop pen to get to some meat birds.
     

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