I can't believe I am free ranging!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by dixygirl, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. dixygirl

    dixygirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 14, 2008
    When I built my pens and coops, I was scared to death of my chooks being prey for predators and vowed I would never let them out. Now, everyday I let them out loose in the yard at 7am and go back in the house. I come back out by 7pm to put them back in their pen for the night.

    I can not believe I am doing this after I was so scared of the idea at first!

    What are your experiences with free ranging vs keeping them in a pen. Please tell me about your experiences with this.
     
  2. nccountrygirl

    nccountrygirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 31, 2007
    Sanford N.C.
    I would love to be able to free range my birds but do to the high volume of 4 legged predators it is impossible. They would not be out anytime before they would all be gone. We also have a Red Tail and Coopers Hawk problem and I'm just not willing to risk them.
     
  3. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    First, it helps if conditions are conducive for free ranging. If you don't have a good LGD to mind the chooks for you while your back is turned, you are probably asking for heartache. Also, a good perimeter fence is helpful, but not from air attacks (the dogs and a good roo are deterrents for this).

    My chickens are healthier, more sleek and glossy, and just all around happier, if one can use that word about an animal. Fresh air, green grass, sunshine, fresh forage and bugs, cool, clear water? Who wouldn't prefer that over a bare dirt run, a dim coop with no chance to escape a bully, no fresh food?

    No fighting, no picking of feathers, very harmonious living for them. They eat less feed, are parasite free, no illness to date (have been doing this for around 8 years total), no losses to predators.

    The absence of predation is largely due to the fact that I am not located within a hundred yards of the nearest woodlot, I have fence completely around our 2 acres, I have two of the best LGD around, a rooster that is wiley and protective. The only predation I've really had was 2 chicks eaten by a black snake this spring...and those birds were in a brooder at the time, with no chance of running away, as they would in a free range situation.

    The people who free range feel like its a good trade off to lose the occasional bird to predation if their birds live a healthier, more calm life-style. If you do not take the proper precautions to protect the birds and you lose some, you may change your mind. If you do have all that in place, and you still don't mind the occasional loss, then freeranging should be alright for you! Good luck!
     
  4. ChickaD

    ChickaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 6, 2008
    central Vermont
    Dixygirl, I can SO relate! We did the same thing at the beginning, assuming they just had to be kept penned in. That was years ago, but I think it was the next spring we decided to let them out - free range. For the most part, it's simply wonderful and very companionable having all those gorgeous gals roaming around our yard, gobbling bugs, including ticks. They are so much happier and lay more eggs.

    Over the years, we've had a few ups and downs, regardless of whether they are kept in or free ranging. A few weeks ago we had our first ever coyote run into our yard and get one of our gals, right outside the coop door! That was rough and made us reconsider our whole free ranging plan. Now when I'll be home during the day, and hopefully out in the yard lots of the time, I try to free range, but otherwise it's into their enclosed run. Two days ago, we had our first ever hawk closely chase our dear BO Tweety, who took refuge under a huge bushy jungle...close call. I notice from another BYC thread that many others are experiencing hawk attacks right now; seems to be the season for it.

    Why are we suddenly getting all these predators? One factor may be that we are currently dogless, as our last shelter dog had big issues and had to be returned. So we haven't completely resolved the whole thing, but take it one day at a time. Good luck and keep us posted on how you do!
     
  5. Hoover67

    Hoover67 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 31, 2008
    Huntsville
    We used to let our chickens free range in our old tennis court/ garden. A hawk came and got two of our chickens. I would never have dreamed a hawk could get them. There is a lot of cover....trees, bushes, large plants... a 20' high fence. Anyway, it got two. I really loved going into the garden and looking for them. I guess I will let them out in the evening when the chance of the hawk coming is less. They sure seemed happy out there!

    Michele
     
  6. schmije

    schmije Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 25, 2008
    Peoria, IL
    We also kept our girls cooped up when we were new chicken owners. We thought that it was necessary to keep them safe, and we assumed that they would run away. Then we had several instances where they escaped from their pen. We realized that they didn't go far, and they happily went back to their roost at dusk. In addition, our two labs were friendly with them, so we began letting them free-range.

    We've lost 2 out of 12 to predators in the past year, but both happened when the dogs were not around. We feel that the girls are so much happier and healthier when free-ranging that we're willing to accept the occasional loss. I never imagined having 10 chickens loose in my yard, but when they see me come out of the house and all run to me, it's completely worth it.
     
  7. GardenGirl

    GardenGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    We let ours free range. They are very happy for it. With tropical storm hanna threatening us here in the northeast, we kept them penned up for the day. This morning when I went out to feed and water them, they couldn't get out fast enough. I feel bad for them once the snow starts flying. We are thinking about moving their home slightly under the car port where the wood is stored so they can stretch their legs out a bit every few days.

    What does everyone else do in the winter? This is our first winter with them.

    We know that we may lose a few, but they are much happier and our little banty roo is absolutely wonderful about calling out the alarm. They all go running into the brush when he tells them to. Just the other day he spotted a hawk in the tree in the yard and they all ran under the deck when he started to yell. He's a good little roo.
     
  8. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Free range in the winter as well! They do wonderfully in the winter, forage just as much, get more exercise than they normally would in a run, get more sunlight and have no problems being out in the snow. Mine love it!
     
  9. DawnSuiter

    DawnSuiter Chillin' With My Peeps

    We just started doing so with a couple of our 3.5mo old roosters, we added a 3rd to the mix yesterday. They don't even have a coop now! They are sleeping off our front porch now at night, a few steps from our front door and out of reach of the guard dog, who loves & protects them anyway. I should also add that the porch is enclosed within the dog run, so predators will have to get through the fence and past our Great Pyranese to get to them. I have extra crates if we need to "coop" them at the ready, but I hope they live a long healthy life outside.
     
  10. schmije

    schmije Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 25, 2008
    Peoria, IL
    Ours free-range in the winter also. The only time we'll keep them cooped up is when we have heavy snow. We lost our first chicken when we let her out to free-range after an 8" snow last winter. The girls had trouble walking in the high snow, and we wonder if she might have been able to get away from the predator if she had been able to run normally. Our dogs happened to be away that day, so we also wondered if they could have done something about it. They'll only get to go out in the snow this year if somebody is around to keep an eye out.
     

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