Housing Dilemma: lots of space, but lots of predators too. Tractor? Fence? Confused!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by travelingchick, Mar 20, 2013.

  1. travelingchick

    travelingchick Just Hatched

    Mar 16, 2013
    Hello all! I'm new to chickens and we are starting small this year with three birds. I've been reading everything I can on this great site about housing but still can't figure out quite what to do for our situation, so thought I'd post this question.

    Friends gave us a very solid, well-built coop they no longer need, and we want to take advantage of it; we figure we can put money into expanding later after we've done some trial and error and have a better idea of what it's like to raise chickens. The coop is great but extremely heavy and therefore not practical to move, at least not often.

    We live in the country with lots of space, but total free ranging doesn't seem like a good option: aerial predators and dogs make daytime ranging iffy, and at night there's everything else (coyotes, bears, weasels, raccoons, possums, skunks, you name it).

    Neither are we sure we want to invest in tons of electric poultry netting, especially since it doesn't protect against aerial predators.

    We were thinking about building a simple movable 4x8 run that can be pushed back to the coop at the end of the day so the hens can be securely locked in the coop at night. Originally we were planning a hardware cloth bottom to the run, but after reading that it inhibits scratching, that doesn't sound so good anymore. But then how to protect the movable run against predators? People talk about doing "skirts" around the edge of runs, or burying fencing to discourage digging, but then it doesn't seem practical to move the run around. In other words, chicken tractors seem great for ranging but not so great for predator protection. Does that even matter very much during the day?

    Sometimes I find myself wondering if we should just build a sturdy permanent run attached to the coop, with all of the predator protections in place, but that seems a little silly when we have all of this acreage where they could eat fresh grass and bugs and all that good stuff!

    I feel like I must be missing something. How can I take advantage of the fact that I have a lot of space for chickens to roam while still keeping them safe from predators and making use of this coop I've been given? I would love to hear from other rural dwellers or anybody who sees a solution I'm missing! I have been doing so much googling my head is starting to spin! Thanks in advance.
  2. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Quote: You can't "free range" and protect them against everything at the same time.

    Set up the coop, build a nice run, and either keep them in it all the time, or let them free range and take their chances.

    Sometime over worrying is worse than the actual predator threat
  3. bj taylor

    bj taylor Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 28, 2011
    North Central Texas
    i think it boils down to how you want to experience raising chickens. if you can be happy w/them in an enclosed run - then make it as big as you can.
    i have space too, but i have a fenced "back yard" that is 1 1/2 acre. the dogs keep any ground predator out & they take their chances w/hawks. i know i can lose them, but this is how i want my chicken world to turn.
    once you make your choice, you can change it later if it doesn't suit you.

    you won't be sorry to have chickens. they are the best
  4. Kaitie09

    Kaitie09 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 28, 2009
    South Central, PA
    We started with ours in an enclosed run, also worrying about safety. Eventually, we decided to let them out one nice day to scratch around. I can't tell you how happy they looked. Since then, we let them out on nice days. We have only lost one and that was mainly because it was not very smart and did not get back inside before it got dark.

    As for flying predators, most can't pick up a full grown chicken, and if you have a rooster, he will pretty much warn them of anything looking weird. Our stay in the woods, so there is a lot of tree coverage. If you have very open spaces, a pallet board on some cinderblocks can also provide protection. Ours were out the other day and we heard the rooster freak and call his girls back into the coop, we look outside and there is a group of wild turkeys in the yard.

    It is really up to you what you want to do. Our free ranging coop is just a mix of laying hens that were fairly cheap. We are not totally attached to them. I have another coop of an expensive trio that I am not going to risk letting them get out at all.

    As for hardware cloth under the run, you can do a skirt around the edges of the coop to deter predators from digging under. It is not as good as fully covering the bottom of the run, but it still protects them.
    1 person likes this.
  5. nova022

    nova022 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 3, 2012
    I have a coop with an attached run and a large fenced area with netting over the top. The run is covered top bottom and sides with 1/2" hardware cloth. The wire on the floor is covered with about four inches of dirt and sand with a section that I dump leaves or hay in for them to scratch and peck in. They stay in the run during the day when I am at work. When I am home but not neccessarily outside they are in the large fenced, net covered area where they can scratch and hunt bugs. If I am outside working within sight they free range, which they love. Not the perfect life, but they are safe and well cared for.
  6. JanetS

    JanetS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 22, 2012
    We use to let our chickens free range (they loved this) until we lost a hen to a bobcat in the middle of the day. My teenage daughter was out with them. So we expanded their run and they no longer free range. The bobcat has come back many times but our chickens are safe in their pen. Our chickens are our pets so the lost of one was hard. We provide them with many greens and crickets from the pet store so they are healthy and happy. Good luck.
  7. travelingchick

    travelingchick Just Hatched

    Mar 16, 2013
    Thanks to all for your feedback. All of these options sound good in different ways; my husband and I will talk it over and come up with a plan. In some ways starting small might have been harder because I feel so worried about losing even one chicken...but this is what we can handle right now. Thanks again!
  8. nova022

    nova022 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 3, 2012
    Good luck! As you said, there are so many options and I know you will find the one that is right for you.

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