Have we damned ourselves to eternal chicken herding/guarding?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by counterWULF, Dec 14, 2018.

  1. counterWULF

    counterWULF Chirping

    Aug 19, 2018
    We love our chickens as pets (they all have names!) and would never want to lose any of them, though we understand this is inevitable. However, we are doing our best to keep them safe, protected, healthy, happy and ALIVE for as long as possible. We have four young kiddos who have raised these chicks from 2 days old and are very attached. They would be devastated if anything other than old age were to happen to their babies. We've already lost 1 out of the original 19 and it was pretty rough on the family. We ordered 17 pullets, received 19, one died, and one was a rooster. Weird. So now we have 7 layers as of yesterday, and are waiting on the other 10 to start. We kept the rooster. He's my personal fav!

    Anyways, I have reviewed some other threads about free range chickens and chicken herding, but wanted to ask my own questions. We live out in the country with about 2 acres around the house (1 acre open space, 1 acre of forest) and another 59 acres across the road. People speed down our country roads, so we don't let our chickens near them. Sometimes they test us though, which means we have to sit out there with them for hours while they free range. We don't have any fences and don't want to limit them to smaller areas. We also have plenty of birds of prey and red fox, black bear, coyotes, etc around/on the property. So far the main issue would be the bald eagles. I was out during "chicken recess" yesterday when two bald eagles flew about 10 feet off the ground maybe 50 feet from us. They were right over the road that crosses the front of our home and kept going. I yelled at them to make them aware of my presence and stood up out of my chair so they could see me. I didn't see them again, but it's a constant reminder that they're out there and are big enough to pick off our hens. I have read where hawks usually won't mess with fully grown chickens; not sure about owls, but they are normally nocturnal and our chickens are in their coop at night). Our chicks are all 6 months old now and I'll assume nearly fully grown.

    So this is the big question: does having chickens in a situation like this mean that either you take some losses, OR you have to sit out there with them at all times to keep them safe? I think many of the farms we have visited don't care as much as we do about chickens, so they have a higher rate of losses and don't seem to mind. I don't know anyone personally who sits with their chickens every time they are out of their coop or run. This seems insane. But we've been doing it for 6 months and so far haven't lost any chickens to predators or cars.

    I hope someone has some better ideas. We love our chickens and love spending time with them while they free range. But I feel as if our life has been put on pause or interrupted now that we have to assign a chicken watcher for hours daily, 24/7/365. We won't get rid of our chickens. If this is what we have to do in order to not lose chickens, we're obviously willing to do it. I'm just not sure if there are other/better options out there so we can be indoors or doing other chores instead of constantly following chickens around the yard, making sure we still have 18, and trying to get all of the speeding cars to slow down as they pass so they have time to brake in case a rogue chicken is feeling rebellious or sneaky.

    Thank you in advance for any help! We knew pets and farm animals would be a lot of work, but we never thought we'd be sitting out there with them every second while they free range. I don't believe that was in any of the books we were recommended. But again, I think we care for our chickens more than most who might only see them as a meat or egg source, or profit/money-makers.
  2. Trish1974

    Trish1974 Araucana enthusiast

    Mar 16, 2016
    North Central IN
    My Coop
    You may even have losses while you are out there with them. I have read several posts on here of hawk attacks with a human just feet away. My neighbor lost a hen to a fox while he was maybe 30' away. It was hiding in a bean field waiting for the perfect moment and when my neighbor turned his back the fox ran out and snatched the hen.
    The only way you can guarantee no losses to predators is a safe, secured, covered run with no openings smaller than 1/2". It sucks, but that's just how it is.
  3. andreanar

    andreanar Crowing

    May 16, 2014
    Finger Lakes, NY
    A hawk swooped down a few weeks ago and killed one of my hens, My sister was standing maybe 25 feet away. Then it proceeded to eat it right there. So, whether you are there or not does not matter. Full grown hens are NOT too big for hawks!
    This is the absolute truth.
    townchicks, aart, sourland and 3 others like this.
  4. BGcoop

    BGcoop Songster

    Aug 5, 2018
    You can do some things to lessen the risk of losses with free ranging too, such as having places where they can run and hide if needed, and if your rooster is good, keep him.
  5. FnWeirdo

    FnWeirdo Songster

    Sep 6, 2018
    u.p. mi
    i posted this idea for brush uses a few months ago, heres an easy and free hawk hideout that you could put many of in open spaces.
  6. MissChick@dee

    [email protected] ~ Dreaming Of Springtime ~

    Aug 18, 2017
    Caliente Nevada
    I love the ideas of Hawk hideouts...just one thing I make sure of is to have them open ended. Meaning 2 ways in and out. Hawks will trap birds into a corner. Some chickens behaviors are to cower and squat when cornered. If chickens can turn around and run out they at this point can out run a hawk....provided there’s another shelter to run to. Does that make sense?
  7. red horse ranch

    red horse ranch Crowing

    Jan 24, 2014
    Buffalo Wyoming
    I've been free ranging poultry for 15 years. In that time I've lost one chicken to a dog and 2 guineas to other predators. That's not bad considering I've had hundreds, and perhaps over a thousand birds in that time.
    I think one of the secrets is having plenty of fences, trees and other obstacles for them to hide under if a predator is spotted. I keep several roosters around ALL the time. The guineas are great about sounding warnings about anything they see as a threat. They are great for watching out for the hens and warning them.
    It sounds like your house is pretty close to a road. If you aren't willing to have fences then you have no other options.... sit out there with them or keep them confined. That's just the way it is..... :(
  8. wild chick

    wild chick Songster

    Hi & welcome! :frow We invested in 2 x 4" mesh wire fence around 7 acres of our property. Thousands of $$$, but not just for the chickens, we have a dog and a horse as well. The coop/run is not near the fence, so coyotes,fox,bear,bobcats, mt.lions are not as tempted at night to investigate. We have a nesting pair of ravens and they relentlessly drive off hawks that come by, so I love the ravens. Not much you can do for flying predators and sounds like you have lots. My fence is not by any means predator proof, but in 3 years we've had only 2 losses, the first to neighbor dogs (which prompted the fence) and the 2nd we aren't sure, but it was a pullet that would wander far away from the flock and we found feathers just inside our perimeter fence. I'm on an in-holding in a nat'l forest, so I have over 100,000 acres of undeveloped land around me. The chickens free range from sunup to sundown. Their coop & run is double fenced + 5 strands of electric wire, so they are VERY safe at night. We never babysit. We have one rooster, and 17 hens/pullets right now. But be warned, chicken math is hard to master. (a BYC thing). :)
    sourland and counterWULF like this.
  9. 2 many chickens

    2 many chickens Songster

    Jan 14, 2017
    Free ranging isnt safe. Doesn't matter if you're out there with them. A hawk sees it's chance it's going for it. I had a chicken taken when I was in the front yard playing ball with the kids.. the chicken was in the back yard, we were in the front. It didn't care, it was hangry.
    We don't free range anymore. They have a big enclosed area to play in now, net and all.
    townchicks, counterWULF and Trish1974 like this.
  10. mixedbreeds

    mixedbreeds Songster

    You need to have a nice covered run with 1/2” hardware cloth everywhere and the same hardware cloth as an apron all the way around the run at least 2 feet out from the run then cover with dirt or rock. That way you can have a life, you can let them out when you want to and guard them the other times you have something to do you can keep them in the run. That’s it

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