how do you free range when hawks are about?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by siouxbee, Jun 17, 2007.

  1. siouxbee

    siouxbee Songster

    May 8, 2007
    Hi --

    We have 12 chicks inside in a brooder, which they're quickly outgrowing. The first 6 are about 7 weeks old, then the other 6 are between 3-4 weeks old. My question is, how do I free range them without leaving them prone to hawks? I keep reading on here about how people let their birds free range, and I'd really like to, but now I'm scared since we lost one girl. We built them a moveable 8 x 8 pen that has that plastic corrugated roofing on top, and hardware cloth on the sides, so if I use that and move it to a new spot every day, does that count nutritionally as if they were free ranging? And for those of you that do free range, do you just not have hawks in your area?

    This past week, my 3 year old daughter got up early and fiddled with the grate that keeps the girls in the brooder in our laundry room. A while later, I heard loud peeping from downstairs, and went to investigate. Rounding the corner from the stairs into the kitchen, I saw the baby chicks scurrying about underneath the kitchen table. The floor was littered with little blobs of chicken poop.

    Laughing at this unexpected sight, I escorted the babies back to the laundry room brooder. Discovering that it was empty, I went in search of the older girls. I found them hanging out in the middle of the living room rug, tho they must have just arrived in this room since it was poop-free. I opened the door to the deck and helped the girls figure out that this was the way I wanted them to go. We all walked down the deck stairs and they all were happy to be back on familiar territory. I headed back inside to clean up.

    Once I finished, I went back outside to find the big girls because I couldn't see them. They were back behind a big evergreen, sitting on the stone wall. Missing one of their number. It seems that in the 10 minutes that I was wiping up the mess inside, a hawk swooped down and breakfasted on our smaller silkie. I was so upset! We worked to finish the moveable pen that is relatively predator safe. Sigh.
  2. brooster

    brooster Songster

    Jun 14, 2007
    northwest Ohio
    I have a rooster, and he is constantly watching for predators (we have bald egals, and lots of hawks) when he sees something he starts calling to the girls which usualy run under the deck or under the pine tree. We havn't lost on hen yet.
  3. lurky

    lurky Songster

    Jun 4, 2007
    Western MA
    I was told that hawks will wipe out ur chicks if you let them free range or dont have a cover. But when they are full size, only a really huge hawk would be able to give you trouble. I would not risk it if you dont want to lose them..........its just not worth it. I read all the posts on here about people having tragic loss and i learn from every single one.
  4. siouxbee

    siouxbee Songster

    May 8, 2007
    Well, both silkies and the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes we've got are straight run, so I'm assuming out of those 6, we should have one rooster! ;-)

    I didn't realize the rooster was that efficient at keeping everyone safe. That's good to know. Also good to know that the hawks won't go for the fullsized chickens. Our girls seem to be liking the new pen, tho it's more difficult to get them out at night. Can't WAIT to finish their coop and get them all out there. I hear them now in the brooder, squabbling because there's just not enough room. Poor things.

    Thanks for the tips,
  5. MTchick

    MTchick Songster

    Feb 2, 2007
    Western Montana
    A full size hen is still very vulnerable to hawks. The hawk might decide to eat it on the ground instead of flying away with it, but that doesn't make it any better for anyone.

    A rooster is helpful but not perfect, while dense cover (shrubs and trees) are also a really good idea.

    Ideally, you'll have them covered at all times. Especially if a hawk has already found one bird- they are intelligent and will remember where the flock was living.

    Moving their enclosure frequently is really, really close to free range. That is what I hope to do once the enclosure is ready! Too many hawks here for any semblance of safety.

  6. JudyMcKinn

    JudyMcKinn Songster

    Jan 24, 2007
    SW MO
    I don't want to be argumentive, but all roosters aren't "that efficient" at protecting the flock. Most of them will sound an alarm if they see the hawk, and if there is something to run under, hopefully the hens will have enough instinct to run for cover. However, a roo can just do so much.
    Also, a hawk will go for a full sized chicken, make no mistake. He may not be able to fly off with it, but his strike will disable or kill the chicken, then he will proceed to eat it on the ground if necessary.
    I would sure want a coverd pen--something like deer netting isn't expensive, and works wonders for keeping hawks away. I would cover your movable pen. Good Luck.
  7. 4H kids and mom

    4H kids and mom Cooped Up

    Mar 10, 2007
    Southern Wisconsin
    We let our critters free range (no pen, no tractor...just open the doors and let them out) and we DO have hawks, owls, eagles, fox, coyotte, etc. We have 3 things that help keep the predators at bay, and two things that we 'do' that helps too.

    Roosters. Roos are great at watching for predators and rushing their gals to safety quickly. I have learned my roos "warning" call, and when I hear it from the house I come out to see whats wrong too.

    Goats. Believe it or not, hawks dont like goats and try to avoid them. Having a goat or too run with your chickens helps keep the hawks away. We used to have a pair of hawks that sat in the big tree in my yard. Once we got our little goats, the hawks moved on and have not been back since.

    Geese. Geese (even little young ones) are awesome watch-birds. They will go after anything in their 'territory' that shouldnt be there. They make a loud rucus while doing it too which will alert the humans to the problem.

    Dog Urine. No kidding. Have a dog? Walk him at night and let him 'pee' around the perimeter of your chicken yard. Things like fox and coyotte dislike the scent of dog urine and will stay away.


    Lock Up Times. Dont let your chickens out before the sun is fully up, and put them to 'bed' well before the sun goes down. Avoid "Magic Hour" (that time of dusk when even WE have trouble adjusting our eyes to the changing light) when it is VERY hard for chickens to see things that may sneek up on them. Predators LOVE this time of day for a quick easy snack that cant see them approach it or run away in time. Also keep in mind that night time is the predators time. Keep your chickens locked up safely at night, and you will avoid problems.

    Since I have done all these things, I have not lost a chicken to a predator yet.
  8. lurky

    lurky Songster

    Jun 4, 2007
    Western MA
    I just want to say that i did not mean to give the impression that i was saying that a full size chicken was safe from hawks. I was told that the bigger chickens are less likely to be picked on. We have alot around my house because of the open fields, so i asked alot of people about them and this is what i was told. I will be afraid to ever let mine out. I am going to expand the coop already to give them more room rather than let them out. To me its just not worth the risk.
  9. xitaa

    xitaa In the Brooder

    May 18, 2007
    We have a hawk problem and we planted a long row of Pampas Grass down one fence. It is great cover for all sizes and we have not lost a one since the Pampas grass has gotten grown. I even spotted a hawk on the grass, walking toward the cover, as I charged out the door. All the babies and Mommas had taken cover and he did not get a one!![​IMG]
  10. jackiedon

    jackiedon Songster

    Jun 4, 2007
    Central Arkansas
    I didn't realize that about the goats but we haven't lost a chicken since we got our goats.

    We have a about 3 white leghorn roosters that free range all the time. My husband got tired of them being so mean to the hens so he let them out and haven't lost a one. You can tell when they since danger. The racket they make!!! Even if my daughter goes down to the chickens at late dusk they have a fit.


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