I am an American expat living and farming in the mountains of Assisi (Italy). I have wonderful farming friends but miss the opportunity to have a dialog or ask questions in English. I also miss the way so many of my American friends consider animals as companions not just dinner. This year I have committed to wild farming and raising my birds ("miei nipoti"--my grandchildren--I tell my Italian neighbors) as close to a natural, but still protected life, as I can manage. Here is my question, perhaps it is more of a philosophical dilemma: I am trying to find a balance between keeping my animals safe from predation and letting them live free: roaming and foraging where they wish during daylight hours. We bought this farm in October and having this much wild property is still very new to us. Our land (half woodlands) is home to wild boar, foxes, wolves, owls, and vipers. I would never kill these animals, they keep the local ecosystem in balance. But I am having difficulty with the idea of my birds free ranging and being carried off by a fox (they are around in the daylight too) or a snake getting into a hen or duck nest and eating the babies. Right now, deep winter, the ducks and hens are closed in separate barns at night with lovely straw covering the cement floors. But in April, my mallard ducks will want to build their nests outdoors, and though we have sturdy fences, they will be sitting ducks to whomever scales the fences. In April the overgrown gardens will be cut back and I want the chickens to forage at will (which they love), so much wonderful free food. And they would do me the great favor of leaving fertilizer for the next crop. My worries remind me of hovering over my children at two years old: how much freedom and at what price? I wonder how others find the balance? I am not really sure of forum protocol--have I already written too much? I am hoping for discussions helpful with wild (poultry) farming: and specifically within this forum, for ideas on nurturing and preserving the essential "chickenness" of our flocks, whether they provide food or bug control or companionship. Years ago, I was an animal rights advocate thinking this was the way to go to ensure that animals had intrinsic rights. Now I am a much mellowed teacher, working to bring young people back to the land. But I still struggle with protecting one species over another and where to draw the line. This forum looks amazingly wonderful. I am so thankful to have found it. I spent the morning reading and have barely scratched the surface of what you offer. Most people call me Zia Gallina, which is the name I use professionally. It means Auntie Hen.