I want to free range, but i am worried about predators.

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by sarahjessica, Aug 5, 2013.

  1. sarahjessica

    sarahjessica In the Brooder

    May 13, 2013
    My chickens have a 10x6 indoor coop and a 10x5 outdoor coop which is covered and has a trench to keep predators out. As of now, they are completely safe. Unfortunately even though it sounds big it is really not. I have 16 chickens and a very large turkey. I feel bad for keeping them confined, i bring grass and greens in several times a day, and they do still find bugs. I'm just worried about their happiness. Is there a way i can let them free range without the risk? They are only three months old so I thought I'd wait until next summer when they're bigger for this project. I'm keeping the same area for the winter, since i live in Wisconsin, I'm worried about them free ranging in the winter.
  2. I free range and have done so for most of my life. I have never lost a chicken to a predator free ranging. However you do have to calculate the risk and expect something bad to happen at some time even if you take precautions.

    Chickens must have COVER to free range with constant threats from hawks. Shrubs, overgrowth along fence lines, small trees, clumps of ornamental grass, covered structures ect are a must. Cover provides a place for the chickens to hide from predators like dogs.

    I recommend free ranging due to the many benefits to the chickens and your property. But you do have the responsibility to provide for their protection.

    Wish ya the best.
  3. quigley257

    quigley257 In the Brooder

    Jun 13, 2013
    The one guarantee is that there are no guarantees once you decide to free range. Having a good dog is one of the best things you can do short of confinement. In Wisconsin you will have the full compliment of predators from bears to weasels. As many have discovered when raising chickens, it will become a decision of quality of life versus length of life. You may be able to free range your birds for years without incident but you need to accept the risk factor when they are roaming. I know for a fact that my chickens are happier when they are out and about. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.:)
  4. junecleavage

    junecleavage In the Brooder

    Jul 30, 2013
    south carolina
    There is nothing better than looking out and seeing your chickens somewhere you never expected them to be (like on your back porch cuddled up with your dog when there is 7 acres worth of garden, pasture and yard).

    While there are dangers that come with free ranging, the laughs and smiles you get watching them are far greater than those you get watching them in an enclosed run. The joy they obviously have getting in all the places you thought they'd never get since they have "so much room to run around" is worth making your self look like an idiot running around clapping your hands trying to scare off whatever predator you think you might have heard [​IMG]. I'm sure everyone who drives down my street thinks I am insane since at least once a day I am stomping around the yard clapping yelling up at the sky, "Get out of here hawks! Scoot, scoot, scoot!"

    Even if you think your coop is safe, at some point it is going to fail. Would you rather have your chickens trapped in the coop with no place to get away from whatever predator gets in? Depending on the predator you could loose your whole flock that way.
  5. cgmccary

    cgmccary Songster

    Sep 14, 2007
    NE Alabama
    I free range my birds every day and have no losses. I agree with quigley257 that a good dog is the best protection. My dogs as well as my donkey are the reasons I have no losses.

    If I did not have a good dog, I would not free range unless I was out there with them the entire time. Do NOT take the chance.
  6. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Crowing

    Actually it doesn't sound big. For that many chickens it sounds very, very small, at least the run part. The coop sounds ok but they really need much more outdoor/run space. As they mature it's possible you could start having pecking issues with them being confined in such a small space.

    No, you cannot free range without risk. You have to be willing to accept the chance of loosing chickens. I used to free range with my first flocks long ago. I lived in a very rural area, not far from a river and wooded area. Coyotes eventually discovered my free ranging flock and starting picking off my birds. I had to either stop free ranging or be out of chickens in a short amount of time. Roaming dogs are also a constant threat and can demolish an entire flock in one visit. For me personally it's not worth the risk. I'm just not interested in seeing my good laying hens slaughtered. But everyone has to make their own choice in that matter.

    These days I do things different. I don't want my birds cooped up all day either so I have built their coops where I can give them free access to a securely fenced pasture. They have the best of both worlds. They get to come and go as they please from the coops, scratch about in the barn and go foraging in nearly an acre of pasture whenever they want. Hawks are still a potential threat but despite having many hawks in the area I've never had one go after my chickens.

    If the possibility of loosing any of your birds to a predator attack is not something you can accept then maybe figure out a way to fence in an area around the coop for them to give them more space but still keep them close. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just a way to contain them. Sometimes you just have to get creative but there are ways to let chickens have more freedom and still protect them at the same time.
  7. TeaChick

    TeaChick Crowing

    May 5, 2013
    Deep South
    My Coop
    My very first flock is currently five months old. We have free ranged them since they were completely feathered out. They have their coop open all day, then I get them in there with "peep treats" every evening and close it up. I let them out in the morning so they can hunt and peck around the yard all day, at the same time that I let them out, I put out my dogs. We did have to watch the dogs with them and tell them no. Our female seems to think they're babies still and barks when they start going down the driveway. lol
    We did have ONE run-in between one of our dogs and one of the hens. We had to get rid of the dog b/c he did not listen to my husband to put down the chicken, a command that a chicken dog must know and obey every single time.
  8. Ravenseye

    Ravenseye In the Brooder

    Dec 30, 2008
    Pepperell, MA
    I free range during good weather. They won't walk on the snow though! That said, I've lost a few to predators but most of my losses have been my fault. That is, forgetting to lock the coop at night and the fox walk right in and take birds off the roost. I have had hawks "try" to get birds and one even succeeded in killing a hen, but not carrying her away or eating her in the yard. We have six small dogs which have an adjoining run so that may help but predators tend to be smart.

    I free range as much as I can and I have two roosters (20 chickens total flock right now) and they do a pretty good job watching out for danger. I get tired of the crowing so I don't always keep roosters but I've had less loss with them than without.
  9. sarahjessica

    sarahjessica In the Brooder

    May 13, 2013
    We have 4 roosters, which is alot I know... But I think that now ill leave the run door open for them to escape, but they can free range around the barn. I'm hoping they'll stay close to the coop anyways, since we have a family of hungry hawks in our woods that tried taking the cat! Ill just have to supervise.
  10. sarahjessica

    sarahjessica In the Brooder

    May 13, 2013
    There's a couple of chickens I am very attached to and would be devastated if I lost. That's why this is so hard for me. I'm also worried that with them being so small that they are easy targets. They are only 3 months old and a majority are bantams. One of my roosters is a full grown Cochin though and very sweet and reliable. I also have a huge turkey, would she provide any protection?

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