How much supervision for a free range flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by HRHDi, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. HRHDi

    HRHDi Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 6, 2013
    Fairfax, VT
    Okay, I'm getting more concrete plans for starting my flock this spring. I'd really like to free range but both my husband and I work outside the home. Can I free range if no one's home for about 10 hrs each day? Is that putting my flock at too much risk?

    We're pretty rural - 2 miles outside of a small Vermont town - with active wildlife in the area. We have a lab but he was raised a city dog and isn't much of a guard dog for, well, anyone.

    Am I asking for trouble going free range?
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    If you free range, there will eventually be losses - that's just the way it works.
    1 person likes this.
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I agree with the above poster, and some of the losses might be from your lab. Even if you plan to free range, you should have a goo coup/run to keep your flock in for the times you don't want to expose them to predators.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    I grew up in Huntington. You've plenty O predators in your neck of the woods. You could have a rooster or two depending on flock size to reduce losses of hens. They're always on the lookout and sound the alarm so the hens have a chance to run and hide. A good rooster will attempt to fend of the predator too. Most of the time this will end with one less rooster but that's him doing his job correctly and saving (attempting to save) the hens.

    Your biggest day predator is going to be dogs. And they aren't even looking for meals just to chase and kill all your birds. For night when the majority of wild predators are a threat they are easily thwarted by shutting the coop door each night.

    You'll really have to survey your area, meaning mostly neighbors pets and see if they are unchained and going to be a real threat. Make your decision based on that if you'll allow unmonitored free ranging. They'll always have evenings and weekends to range when your home if you decide it's too much of a risk.
    1 person likes this.
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    It's a personal decision, depending on how prepared you are to lose some birds. I free range 9 months out of the year (my chickens opt not to go out in the winter, most of the time) whether we're home or not. We just let 'em out in the morning and shut the door at night. (Yes, we do provide food and water and check for eggs throughout the day) Until last summer, we hadn't lost any to predators for about 3 years. But, when you free range, it's generally not a matter of if you're going to have a loss, it's a matter of when. We live about 20 miles from town and have a good population of coyotes, hawks, eagles, owls, coons, some fox, skunks, mink, and oppossums. And weasels. And probably more that I've forgotten. This summer we'd been gone for two weeks and my mom was coming over to let the chickens out in the morning and lock them up at night. The day of our loss, she had been there twice in the afternoon, and when she went to lock them up at night, 4 or 5 - including my rooster - were missing. We figure the coyotes had finally figured out that there were no people around. We had to put our dog down in June, so I suppose any scent he'd left around was gone, too. If you will be devastated at the loss of a bird or birds, don't free range when you're not home.
  6. HRHDi

    HRHDi Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 6, 2013
    Fairfax, VT
    Thanks, everyone. I expect to have a loss or two or more depending. Honestly, I can't imagine our dog hurting them. He's such a baby and will more likely be scared of them, but we won't know for sure until he's around them. We plan on raising them for eggs and meat, so some of those "losses" will be planned. I just wasn't sure how much supervision they'd need on a daily basis. Sounds like it should be okay, but expect that there may be some predation.
  7. JackE

    JackE Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    One more thing. Don't just assume you are going to "Only" lose one bird at a time. A stray dog comes by,(Even your harmless dog can be a BIG threat ) you could lose your whole flock. I had a couple of daytime fox attacks here. They took 9 one time, and 7 the next. They were going to put me out of the chicken business. The answer for me was 600' of electrified poultry netting from Premier. With over 7000Vs, I can let the birds out everyday and I don't have to worry about them. As far as roosters go, they just proved to be feathered speed bumps when it came to protecting the flock. Goodluck with your future flock.
  8. CAjerseychick

    CAjerseychick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 25, 2012
    Northern California!
    There is a learning curve to dogs and chickens-- expect to lose a few over the first months to your dog.. after the transition though, some good dogs (we have 3 and our teenage pup is in his chicken killing stage he has played with 3 to death over the last 2 months so far) are the best flock protection a loose flock can have-- we have bear coyote coons fox and stray dogs.... no predator losses (except for dogs learning to tolerate chickens).... in 2 years... here...
  9. Farmer Viola

    Farmer Viola Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2013
    I would NEVER leave my chickens out free-ranging while I left home. Too important and expensive to me.

    Some folks use chicken wire to pen out their free range area. You would just move the pen every week or so to fresh grass.

    I've also seen poultry netting go over the top to keep bird predators (hawks, eagles) from attacking.

    Do you have a rooster? They are good at keeping watch & alerting while everyone else has their head down pecking the ground.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2014
  10. ChickenLegs13

    ChickenLegs13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2013
    Lower Alabama
    Don't free range anything you can't stand to lose.
    You say you expect a loss or two; a random dog can cause total loss in several minutes. There's probably more dogs in your area than natural predators. I traced down a pair of dogs that killed my entire small flock once and they came from 3 miles away.
    Personally I wouldn't free range if nobody was at home all day, every day.
    1 person likes this.

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