How Many Chickens Will I Lose Free Ranging

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Big Bubba, Jan 31, 2017.

  1. Big Bubba

    Big Bubba Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 19, 2013
    I've had 5 girls for about 5 years now. I free range. I've lost 2 girls in the last month to hawk attacks. The remaining gang is going to be kept inside the coop for the time being.

    My backyard, where I keep them, is pretty small. The backyard is, maybe, 40 yards by 20 yards and is surrounded by my house, trees and fencing. The lowest entry point is 6 feet high. So, I've seen hawks come in numerous times and they were always unsuccessful until now. I've given the girls a lot of hiding places. I knew the girls weren't invincible, but it seemed like they'd done pretty well for themselves so far.

    So, my question is this; does losing 2 girls out of 5 over a 5 year period seem about what I should expect? Do people who free range expect to lose a few now and then?
    1 person likes this.
  2. Double Barrel

    Double Barrel Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 17, 2017
    Too many variables to answer with any accuracy. I've found that once predators realize how to get an easy meal, they more often than not, strike more frequently.
    Something killing just for fun, can potentially wipe you out in no time.
    Sorry to hear of your loss,
  3. HeavensHens88

    HeavensHens88 Remembering the Forgotten

    May 17, 2015
    Lost, I fear.
    I have been free-ranging for over 7 years and, miracuously, I have never lost a bird to a predator! Friends have lost their entire flock within a week of free-ranging, too though, so it's a combination of where you live, the proximity of the nearest predator habitat (e.i. woodlands or open sky) and also how often you peek on your birds...
    So sorry for your loss!
  4. 5crazies

    5crazies Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 13, 2016
    Northern IL
    We got 3 RIRs last spring and have been free-ranging them every day. Everything has been going great until last week. We came home from running some errands and only 1 came to greet us in the driveway, which was odd. We went looking for the other two and found one in a nesting box but the third nowhere in sight. My heart sunk. They usually stick together. We ended up finding the remains of the third on the side of our deck with feathers everywhere. [​IMG] Her head and neck were all chewed up but nothing was actually eaten. We are thinking it was a raccoon but we're not sure. We've set up a game camera to see if we can catch something on camera. We haven't let our poor girls out of the coop since this happened because we're afraid to lose them too. We plan on getting 4 more this spring and I really want to let them free-range so I hope we can get over this fear.
    I'm sorry, I guess I didn't really answer your question but I just wanted to share our experience.
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    0 to infinity. I have a self sustaining flock with many years experience. Your question too open ended.
  6. thejaxx

    thejaxx Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 3, 2014
    Tukwila, WA
    I've been free ranging with about the same size yard as OP since April (first flock). I had six girls.

    I lost one in November to a hawk. Then Christmas day to what I'm guessing was a raccoon since there were feathers all over the yard. And last one to egg block.

    So I guess it just depends on the luck.
  7. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    If you free range, you will lose some. There is no way to calculate how many. If you have a securely built coop and run(with cover) your birds will be safer. If you use poultry wire and other misc. materials you aren't likely to have a safe coop. Poultry wire only keeps chickens inside, it does nothing to keep determined predators out. The best is 1/2" hardware cloth securely affixed to framework. Not with wire held on with zip ties.

    Even folks who stay out with the birds while free ranging have had losses. Predators are stealthy , and fast. By the time your mind registers an attack is happening, it's already over.
    1 person likes this.
  8. AllynTal

    AllynTal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 22, 2014
    Mississippi Gulf Coast
    I recently watched a YouTube video that a person was taking of their flock....kinda panning the camera around and talking about the birds and suddenly off-camera there was a ruckus and the rooster that had been center frame took off like a shot in the direction behind the person with the camera. A predator had taken a chicken right along the treeline maybe 15 feet behind where the human was standing. There was a single panicked squawk heard on the video and that was it. All that was left was a pile of feathers, a distressed rooster and a lot of nervous chickens; whatever the predator was, it carried off the chicken. So yeah, being outside with your birds is no guarantee that a predator won't be brazen enough to snatch one. Video proves that.

    I haven't lost a bird.... yet. Mine free-range over an acre of property all day -- half is wooded and there is plenty of cover available in the open areas. My chickens are food. I intend for them to be my food, but I know sooner or later one or more will end up being food for something else. There's no way to calculate how many will be lost except to say that once a predator finds the chicken-buffet on your property, he'll keep coming back, so you'll definitely lose them all if you don't do something to safeguard the remaining birds. Keeping the birds penned as the OP is doing until the predator moves on is one way to deal with it.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
  9. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Yep. I went 30 yrs without losing any to free range, then lost one to an owl when she refused to roost in the coop, didn't lose any for 5 more years, then lost a few half grown chicks to a hawk when I made the mistake of hatching in the fall~migratory hawk and little cover, then three more years went by and this past year I lost more to predators than I have in the past 40 yrs of free ranging all together~lost 20 chicks to black snakes right after they hatched, lost some broodies sitting on nests too far out in the woods for the dogs to protect, then lost a whole set of birds this fall to a pair of great horned owls hunting at dawn and dusk, both adults and juveniles were targeted. One of the dogs foiled three of the owl's forays and got a cut on his face at the time from a talon...all three of those birds still died due to the attack but the owls didn't get away with the birds.

    It happens and sometimes no matter what you do to provide protection out there, predators are unpredictable. BUT, if you consider how many times they DON'T successfully nab a bird.....and I can tell you it's countless times's not bad averages.
  10. ScottandSam

    ScottandSam Still learning

    Dec 24, 2016
    Shell Knob, Missouri
    Well In the last Year, which was our 1st year. We lost 8 chickens. 2 to a dog, that will not be taking anymore ever, I saw to that. 6 to coyotes. I also let my tea cup yorkies out to pee last night and heard something. I ran out with my rife only to see a pack of coyotes kill one of my girls. Man that sucked. She was 3 years old and had 4 liters and had at least another 4 years of breeding to go. That is thousands of dollars lost in seconds. Needless to say I do live in the country and now I will be hunting that pack till its extinct.
    What I cant believe is that I never have had claw marks or chewing on the outside of the coop. But this does give me some more insight as I get ready to build the chicken run and then fence in a area to let my dogs into at night.
    Btw all chicken I have lost to the coyotes have been in the morning or late afternoon.

    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017

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