Is free range safe?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by tfatc, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. tfatc

    tfatc In the Brooder

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    We have an acre of land in Alabama and about 3/4 of it is wooded and not being used. The other 1/4 has our little home, shed, vehicles, greenhouse, etc. We also have 2 older (8yo) buff orps in a 200 sq ft enclosure; coop & run.

    We want to get about 10 started pullets and my original plan was to build a 1,000 sq ft enclosure (coop & run) with a fenced top as well but now I'm wondering if I should just build a Fort Knox coop and then a topless enclosure (all hardware cloth of course for the sides) that takes up the entire 3/4 of an acre that's unused. I don't plan to cut down any trees, so is it safe?

    I'm worried about trees falling onto them or hawks swooping in or other animals getting over the fence. I plan to attach a 1-2' hardware cloth skirt all around and build it about 6 ft tall.
    Or should we just stick with the 1,000 sq ft enclosure with a top?

    If we get a livestock guard dog, would it be safe to let the hens free range in a topless enclosure as long as they're locked up each night? What if the dog lives inside their enclosure and his dog house is right next to their coop? We're considering a Great Pyr or Maremma Sheepdog if they can handle a hot, humid climate.

    Thoughts on all? Thanks!
     
  2. AltonaAcres

    AltonaAcres Songster

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    Here are my thoughts. It's better to have happy free ranging chickens that may not be as safe, than have bored over protected chickens who live until they are too old to function. That being said, my chickens live in an acre sized pasture fenced in with 10 foot fence. But there are a lot of holes in the fence, trees hanging over it allowing coons to climb in, and chickens escape on a daily basis. However, my birds are all very happy and healthy, and we only rarely (maybe once or twice a year) have predator issues. We do have two dogs who spend most of the day outside. I would try free ranging and see how it works. I have a broody hatch most of my chicks, and she teaches them very well how to keep safe from hawks and other predators. Maybe purchase a broody and her chicks to start with?
     
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Crossing the Road

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    Welcome!
    Nothing about 'free ranging' is ever totally safe. Having a Ft. Knox coop is essential, IMO, because chickens are helpless at night. Then, a safe, or safer covered run will work well, for the times when they can't be out, perhaps for weeks, because of weather, or a predator attack.
    Electric fencing or electric poultry netting keeps most ground predators out, so that's another way to protect birds in a wider area. Premier1supplies.com is great for information and stuff, and Howard E on this site has good information about electric fencing.
    Dogs take at least a year or two to train, and are by far the most expensive option for this purpose! And they need to be fenced on your property anyway. I think electric fencing and that coop and run are faster and better choices.
    Mary
     
  4. BigBlueHen53

    BigBlueHen53 Crowing

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    Hi and welcome. I think there are a couple of things to consider. One, how willing are you to sustain losses? If you become emotionally involved with your chickens and will grieve over each one taken by a predator, then go the Ft. Knox route. Two, what kinds of predators do you have, and how many? A couple of raccoons or members of the mink family can wipe your flock out in a couple of nights. Again, Ft. Knox. Are you going to get a puppy and train it, and if so, do you know what you are doing? If not, the dog could destroy your flock. So, Ft. Knox. A good, tight, safe coop to enclose your chickens at night is a must in any case.

    For us, we have a large fenced yard, a couple of pretty good roosters, 20 hens and a Sheltie, and a low predator load. We turn the hens out on roughly 5 acres late in the afternoon and the Sheltie keeps the coyotes away. If we have foxes we never see them. We trapped a raccoon a couple of months ago after losing a couple of pullets but typlically don't lose birds to predators. We are in SE MO. Hope this helps, but basically you have to find what works for you. Sometimes it's trial and error.
     
  5. tfatc

    tfatc In the Brooder

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    Hey. I always become emotionally attached to an animal, so I would absolutely grieve over a loss. Especially that way. We have foxes, raccoons, coyotes and hawks. Those are the main ones I've seen and I believe there's several of each but I'm not sure of the actual amount of them.

    My plan is to get a pup and train him but I've never trained for this before.
     
  6. Folly's place

    Folly's place Crossing the Road

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    You can put up an electric fence in one day, and training a dog may take two years, and possible dead birds during that time.
    Mary
     
  7. Ghosty

    Ghosty Songster

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    I live in SW MO. I free range every day, all day, but our predator pressure has been low. It is a matter of where you live, and I lucked out in that sense so far. There are definitely predators around elsewhere in this area, and I hear coyotes all the time, but they don't come around the houses. I attribute it to the fact that I am hemmed in by woods and neighbors with dogs, and live in a sweet spot in the middle. There are large fields for hawks to hunt nearby and they usually pass right on. I lost one stag to a hawk last year, otherwise I have been lucky. Hawks are a bigger danger here when the leaves are off. Cryptic colored birds will go a long way to camoflouging birds from predators.

    I have two Border Collie/Pyrenees, my avatar, and a Cairn Terrrier (aka Toto). My Pyr crosses are not even 1.5 yrs. They were easily trained by 10 weeks old. They are good to go far sooner than 2yrs, and get quite large by 6 months. I have more issue with letting my dogs run loose than free ranging my birds. These kind of dogs make their own decisions and have a large working range. Despite them being trained to stay on the property, they will do what they think necessary.

    My male got in a fight with a neighboring dog when one of my neighbors walked it down the road, and it got away into the woods near my property line. When we first moved in, my neighbor across the road had a large female dog that ran my 3 year old clear up to my house, and she acted daily like our yard was her territory, and would bark at me when I was outside. She killed 20 of one of my other neighbors chickens. They shot her. The guy that owned her thought I did it because I confronted him about her chasing my son. It was a big to do. They just moved. He thought he could let his dog run all over the neighborhood and he was an ahole. That is what spurred me to get my dogs. People just haven't any sense.

    I am putting a woven wire fence up around the property, with a ground apron if I have to, and this is for keeping my dogs in and other dogs out, not for my chickens. My male got into another tiff the other day just off my property line.

    I am sore today from tamping posts yesterday. It all is going to be a situation unique to you, but in any circumstance with a few acres and an lgd or herding dog, I would put up a fence first and the dogs will do their job where you want them to.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
    Sequel, Willowspirit, slordaz and 3 others like this.
  8. Folly's place

    Folly's place Crossing the Road

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    That's right, having dogs means having fences!
    Mary
     
  9. Ghosty

    Ghosty Songster

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    Do you have dogs Mary?
     
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  10. Ghosty

    Ghosty Songster

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    I just sat outside with my brand new pups and chastened them anytime they stared down a bird, or went to chase one. It really isn't difficult. It just takes a couple weeks of full time supervision when they are around the birds. I sat with them like I was momma showing them what not to do.
     

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