Happiness vs. Risk

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by doubleatraining, Sep 17, 2011.

  1. doubleatraining

    doubleatraining Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2011
    Franklinton, NC
    When I first planned on getting chickens I did my research, built my tractor, and got 4 young hens to start my adventure.

    Since then "chicken math" has taken over. I now have 5 "keeper" laying hens and 2 broody pens.

    I'm picking up some 8-12 roosters tomorrow and will hopefully pick a quality roo and send the rest to freezer camp.

    I have been letting my girls out in the yard while I'm home. They stay close while I'm in the house and get brave when me and the dog go outside. I have noticed they seem more content when they have their "outside" time. This has made me re-evaluate my plan. While I don't want them out when I'm away from the house or out to work I do think their happiness is worth the risk of predators. I work 24hr shifts and normally work once every 4 days so they will get plenty of outside time and I will keep moving the tractor for their cooped up grazing.

    The next step is to build a smaller "chicken door" so they can get back in but varmits can't get in.

    Does anyone else feel this way? How you weigh the risks? Happier hens vs. predators.
  2. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA
    I don't think I could own hens without letting them be content on a good pasture/wilderness/free ranging area. [​IMG]

    But, mine I usually feel safe about. I have CD's strung up to keep the aerial predators away, a fence that keeps out (surprisingly) most day-time attacks, and their coop and "inner run" are designed well enough to keep even the smartest raccoons out.

    But of course, I have had a casualty. A hen went broody out of the blue way out in the back of the pasture in a pile of twigs and branches, and one rainy night, she was dragged away.
  3. doubleatraining

    doubleatraining Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2011
    Franklinton, NC

    Unfortunately I do not have a fenced in yard...I rent and don't want to spend the $$ when I can't take it with me. I am on the hunt for a cheap dog kennel to let them out in when I'm at work.

    They have my truck and horse trailer along with the coop/tractor and a nice woods line to run into if they need to.

    They are really good about being "herded" back into the coop even before roosting time.
  4. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA
    Yep, CD's. Get some old, useless, trash CD's and hang 'em up on a string over the area the girls are roaming around. The shine and glimmer of them as they blow in the breeze keeps the raptors away.

    The only reason I fenced my place was because we had goats and a yak - If you don't have stray dogs around, and you set up a schedule of locking them in the coop at dusk, I think you're decently safe. [​IMG]

    The worst predator times come right before sunset, up into the night.
  5. Arielle

    Arielle Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 19, 2011
    Massachusetts, USA
    I always had the policy of letting my cats out despite the high coyote population. My own dogs helped but still a cat would go missing. I decided that a cat who had to live cooped up in a house had no life at all. Better a happy short life with free food and medical care than living the feral life. Always hard to loose one though.

    I kept my chickens locked up in a pen until I felt ready to let them free range. DH popped into the house one day holding 3 long wing feathers--our first casualty-- we did a head count. ALL accounted for. A near miss by a predator? The feathers were where the coyote travel thru. THey have a very secure coop at night and the coyote are regulars as much of their land has been taken over by houses, where are they to go. So I expect I will lose a bird at some point, more likely a raptor. Though the crows were hanging around to day, keeping the raptors away!

    Letting them out to free range was a big emotional step. Now some range far away, out into the horse pastures. Safe from coyote there but not the hawks. I see them duck for cover and someone starts the warning call . . . . and they are hatchery birds!

    Good luck, sounds like you are thinking it though.
  6. donnavee

    donnavee Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 7, 2009
    Central NC
    I started out with 8 baby girl chicks that I was positive would always stay fenced in. But, they start growing and looking longingly at the outside world and so then we started letting them out a couple of hrs before bedtime while we nervously monitored. Fast forward 2 1/2 yrs and the flock has grown to 21 and they spend most of the day free ranging on 1/4 acre. As someone else said, we have CD's hanging around and they have lots of hidey places. Once, I saw them all take off for the hen house - I'm guessing they saw a hawk. I worry more in the winter when the trees don't offer as much cover, but they also seem to sense this and stay closer to the covered areas during this time. We have only lost one young pullet - and that was this year. Somehow, she got locked out at night and I'm sure a racoon got her since there were feathers all over the place the next morning. It broke my heart since I was tired that night and didn't do the usual "chicken count". But, I will say my flock is very healthy and happy and I can't imagine keeping them in a confined space - in fact they have a pretty large fenced area which they have access to once the auto door to the coop opens - but as soon as they hear me step onto the deck, they start complaining to be let out into the world. Spoiled girls!
  7. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 14, 2011
    Central Oregon
    See now, for me, I always figure they are happier if they aren't dead.
  8. brandislee

    brandislee Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2011
    Southern Minnesota
    I'm with you- when I first got my birds I thought I would always keep them penned. Then I thought they may enjoy a few hours out on our 3 acre property in the evening, with my close (nervous!) supervision. Now they free range most of the day, whether I'm out there or not. I'm sure I'll have a loss eventually, but so far haven't had a problem (knocking on wood right now!).

    They do much better than I would have thought at hiding when they sense a threat, and they have lots of bushes to hid in.

    And if you're going to argue that they're happier if they're alive, why don't we just keep them cooped up all day in safe little cages inside, because we all know that no run is 100% predator proof? Oh wait...

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