I'm not sure if this is worth it (sad rant)


8 Years
Sep 22, 2011
I have wanted chickens for years and waited breathlessly for my chicks to arrive in July. Oh, I loved my little bantam cochins. Then the raccoons came and killed all but 2 of my 7 little guys. I bought a bigger and better coop and got some more (4) chickens. Then the hawks came. Lost 3 more of my babies. Bought a really nice, strong, covered run which is 7' x 8" and they are at least safe in there but it is so small. Yesterday I let them out of jail to free range which I only do when I'm home. They were having a great time taking dust baths, eating grass, running around, etc. The the hawks came again. My husband had just walked out of the garage when he saw a hawk pounce down on my little Roo. He managed to scare off the hawk and my little Roo is just fine, if a bit stressed.

Now my little guys HAVE to stay in that little run. I don't dare let them out anymore. I can't stay outside with them for hours and hours. What kind of life is this for them in a small run and small coop. Yes, they are safe but...................

How do you guys free range your chickens? Don't predators come for yours? I read all the time that chickens are free ranging. What the heck am I doing wrong:hit
I don't. However, they have a nice sized run, dirt under their feet... or leaves or pine straw or whatever we have. They get all the pulled weeds to go through, and all of the garden plants that have bolted.
It s still a good life, maybe not as great as 'a predator free' free range, but we do what we can and they seem to be contented chickens.
We did make a screened in cabana on wheels that we let them into when we clean the coop. They love that, but they also seem to be more comfortable 'home' in their own run.

I am glad the roo is okay.
If you live in Sturbridge MA, I live right next door to you. In the 3 years I have been keeping chickens, I have only had one hawk incident. That happened in the middle of January when I think food was really scarce. I don't know what keeps them away. I let my chickens out every afternoon for at least a couple of hours. My chickens are large, are yours bantams? If they are maybe hawks find them easy pickings.
Yes, Mamagardener, it is Sturbridge, MA. I live near the farm with all the Llamas. In fact, I'm surrounded by open fields which may be alot of my problem. I see hawks circling everyday.

And I do have bantams. I've been considering getting "big" chickens because I think part of the problem is bantams are so small. Perfect hawk food.

The poultry show is this weekend in Springfield. Maybe I'll invest in "big" chickens. I really, really don't want to give up having chickens. I love them to much.
Sorry to hear about your problem with hawks, but you are right it probably is all the fields that attract them. I wish I could give you a solution other than leaving them locked up. We have trees for them to hide under, and that is probably why we don't have the problem with hawks. Fisher cats are what I really am worried about, but I haven't had any problems so far. I live in Charlton.
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We're surrounded by fields, and have red tailed hawks here. But we have LOTS of cover (one line of cedar trees, lots of outbuildings, shrubs in the landscaping, etc.), and when hawks are out and about, my birds move in close to cover. There's one big open/field area between my bantam coop and the line of cedars, so I placed an old whiskey barrel (lid and bottom removed-laid on its side) in between for a place to dash to if needed. You might try adding cover...either real or artificial. Or ease your guilt and build a nice large run, even if it's not covered (you can string fishing line/cds across the opening to deter hawks).
I also think it depends on the wildlife in your area. I see tons of hawks here, but we also have tons of field mice, rabbits etc. Since I've never seen a hawk go after our birds, I just assumed that they must be filling up on rodents and such.

I wish to ad I have 6 chickens in a small run dirt under their feed and a nice coop to slumber in I feed them well and I sit with them the come over to me and peck at things I have on I sit sometimes I fee them breed of I just pick up thier feed and feed them by hand some like to cudfddle with me. I think if you have time to go in the pen with you chickens and do as I do maybe you would feel better. My husband says they are ONLY CHIKENS and don't know anything and it is a waste of my time to be with them BUT if one junped up on him and sat with him and he was to pet the chicken I am sure he would change his mind. They are not a dog or cat and I don't know if they can be trained to do anything BUT I find just to sit with all my little ones not w big still gives me pleasure I think you will find the same pleasure I do as you sit and watch them

Mine are in a pen and coop 24/7 for we have a hawk that nest in spring and we have a neighbor with dogs and I don't want the chickens to fly into another yard and be dinner for the dog we have strays once in a while and still they are not let out. I think my chickens are happy and healthy and I am sure yours are to, just go sit with them and hold some they may fight you are first but then they will come to like it, I had a conish cross rooster he was not happy at first with me hold him but they he would come to be held he was to big to hop up on me so I picked him up Sadly he got a proble with his leg and I took his life. He was so friendly I am sure this will be how your s=chiekns will be in time.

I am sorry to hear of all your little ones chin up I think you have it good now.

When I was a teenager I free ranged 53 bantams without issue for 3 years. Then a hawk carried away my favorite broody hen, and I had to watch her disappear over the tree line with him. Then I had to spend 3 hours catching her traumatized chicks... she was yanked right off of them because she was protecting them. They didn't have time to make a run for cover where they were. Once a fox came out of the woods to try, but I had a fabulous dog then who ran it off. A raccoon success, he killed 2 chickens and we killed him back the next night.

I'll never get that picture out of my head, that brave little hen being taken away. I sold all my birds then, I was getting too busy with schooling and didn't have the resources to build a pen large enough.

The second time I had chickens, I built a little Ft Knox for a little group of Bantams. A hawk tried for Blondie with me not standing 10 ft from her. I saw his shadow through the privacy fence, and I jumped at the birds to scatter them. He missed. Back in the run they went and I never let them range without me. That rooster didn't see the hawk coming, I had to do his job for him.

Now, I have full sized birds and a larger Ft Knox. I still sit with them, or range them while I do chores, whether it's 10 minutes or two hours. A hawk scattered them once. Now I have them "trained" to make a dash for the hen house when I call. The hawks are so frequent we have a drill.

I was leaving the ducks out, no hawk around here can carry off a 7 pound duck. But... they can kill one. So the ducks no longer get that luxury. They don't care to have that luxury anymore either. Ever since that hawk killed that duck hen, they won't go more then 50 ft from the run.

Bigger birds will not solve the issue. At least in my case it hasn't. Free range is a luxury, not a necessity. If you have a large enough flock and they're safe from dog attacks and such that will kill every bird they can catch... it's ok to lose one every now and then to a hawk. I don't have enough birds to make any amount of loss ok.

After the hawk killed the duck this last summer, I don't get any back talk when I lock them up back up. They return home on their own as soon as I put the hose up and fill the treat bowls. Before they learned anything about hawks, it used to be like herding cats. Now... they know the drill.
I do have plenty of cover such as rhododendrons, forsythias, 2 old army trucks, a car trailer and they do run under these things. But that blasted hawk sits quietly in the surrounding trees just waiting for my little guys to feel its safe and then he pounces. I've even tried keeping the crows around by feeding them and the crows did save my chickens from a fox attack just last week.

I swear if I lived near the ocean Orca's would be flinging themselves into my yard for a chicken dinner............
What I've done to protect my babies from hawks (I've lost 2 to them, and they have nests nearby) plus give them a lot of space to run in is running fishing line across their yard. I've actually made it even bigger since these pics and restrung my lines. It kind of looks like an invisible circus tent now (if you want updated pics for ideas, let me know, I can post some later on).





It's been over a year and so far (fingers crossed) no attacks. I've seen hawks circling overhead, but I think the string has put them off. I like the fishing line vs. netting for several reasons. I have lots of trees bordering their coop, so the leaves would weigh netting down. Fishing line - leaves come right thru to the ground. No worries about snow accumulating on netting as well.

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