If you free range, what makes that possible for you


6 Years
Aug 3, 2013
Oviedo, FL
Before I got chickens, I dreamed of chickens roaming freely across my land, eating bugs and living happily. Fast forward to my reality of hawk kills and two separate dog attacks and I am faced with a chicken prison that rivals our nations top prisons... Electric netting, bird netting, buried hardware wire, flashing lights at night to keep away predators. The list is endless. I have terrible chicken envy when I see chickens roaming freely when I drive around. If you free range your flock, what conditions have made that possible for you? What have been your experiences with success or losses that have made this possible for you. I have no other livestock or dogs and a predator rich environment. Without supervised free ranging, my girls are stuck in a big run, which could be worse but was not the vision I imagined.
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I am very, very, very surprised we do not have more predators - we have a large grove, lots of mice/rabbits other small critters, with a river near by and other out buildings for shelter - the only thing I've seen since chickens was skunk that I saw once and didn't do a thing to the chickens. I've seen hawks, but again, no harm done.
I have a unique and fortunate setup. Not only do we live in a small farming and ranching community, but we live at the edge of town our only neighbors live to the east of us and he doesn't mind a stray chicken wondering into his large backyard now and then (plus we compensate him with free eggs!). To the west, is the fairgrounds which doesn't get much use. We also managed to have our house built on two "city lots" with a third grandfathered in the deed. This third lot lays behind our coop (which was already set up when we moved in, although it had been vacant for some time. The third lot is a small grove of elms in an indented area, and has a small barbwire fence around it.

In the mornings I let my birds out and they spend the day pecking around the trees, sticking for the most part near the coop. So far the only predator issue, besides the random wondering dog, is a family of kites that call the trees home. They are small birds so only a very young chicken is at risk and those stay safely in an enclosed run. So far so good!
I have seven acre in a ruralish area. Went almost a full year before we had predators move in, and in a month we lost 27 birds. Two LGDs in training solved that.

Birds are cut loose in the morning and are allowed to roam as they see fit until they go to bed, when we close the coops at dark. One flock likes to venture into the woods. One group stays in the fields, while the pullets roam everywhere. The ducks cover some ground too. My meat birds have a pasture out front. I have a few "special needs" chickens I keep in a fenced paddock that I move, simply to protect them from the dogs excessive love and from being picked on by the layer flock.

But we have no neighbors to the north, one to the south about a quarter mile away, one to the east a couple hundred yards away -- and the birds only wandered over there when the neighbors threw a bag of feed out on their driveway, which attracted the birds, but they stay home now -- and none to the west, which owned by us but in forest conservation.

We have some neighbors down the road that free range, and their geese were in the road one day :lau and I'm not sure how they get away with it...small property with close neighbors.
My guys are free-range all the time. I keep a handful of roosters, guineas & geese, which make excellent alarms to danger! Nothing gets past those geese! We live in the woods and our neighbor is the state game lands. Our horse pasture makes a big C shape around the property which cuts the chickens area off from the game lands. Our horses have also stomped quite a few possums and raccoons to death. We have 4 dogs who keep a good eye on things when they are out. Had a fox issue once, but that was nipped in the bud real fast when it walked TOWARDS me when I was feeding the horses one morning; I luckily had my handgun and made the shot. Had an owl get one that sat on top of a fence at night instead of inside. I feel the trees do help a lot with raptor protection. The herd of pygmy goats has nibbled the underbrush down well in a 200yd radius of the house that the birds can easily spot predators. I have only had 1 loss so far this year which i count my blessings.
Our chickens mostly stay within a fenced yard/pasture area of about 8 acres, they could fly over the fence but generally don't. We have four large dogs that are good with chickens and because of them haven't had predator problems except for the occasional hawk or owl.
Oh how I miss the days of free ranging. It took a year for the fox family to find us. They took 4 in one memorial day morning, shortly after letting them out. Now we have an electric net fence. In this pen area, I included one of their favorite places to go, the raspberry patch. It has lots of cover and plenty of worms and bugs to scratch for. I may even get another section of fence to include their favorite hangout, the lilac bushes. It is nice though not stepping in their poo all the time.
I have cats, that's it. No dogs or neighbor dogs, like I said, I am very lucky.  I really can't figure it out how we get nothing else. 
Lucky! The chicken gods are smiling down on you.We only have cats too. They are definitely not livestock gaurdian cats. Husband not a dog person.

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