Is free-ranging totally hopeless?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by hannahshatchery, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. hannahshatchery

    hannahshatchery Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 15, 2013
    We started a flock of 6 this summer. We live in a fairly rural area on about 7 acres, and placed the coop (which is predator proof) near an area with lots of tree coverage. We want to free range, and knew the risks.

    We have had the odd loss here and there, always just one hen missing when we go to shut them up for the night, which we almost always do before dusk. We have replaced the losses to keep our magic number of 6.

    Tonight I went to lock everyone up and everybody was still pecking around right by the coop. Since it's freezing outside and I didn't feel like chasing around I left them with the intention of going back in a few minutes to close the door. In that time, THREE have disappeared, two hens and my brahma roo that is a pretty big (albeit placid) guy.

    I have searched the farm and they are nowhere to be found. I figured before we had an issue with a hawk or something, since the first couple we lost there were just a couple feathers. Now I am wondering if it is a fox, but I am still dumbfounded as to how 3 would disappear in such a short amount of time without a trace. I was losing the light during my search so I suppose I may find some feathers tomorrow.

    Does this sound like the work of a fox?

    And is free ranging just a hopeless thing? I love our chickens pecking around the farm and don't want to build an enclosure. I can take some losses as a result of this desire, but this is too much, we've lost 8/10 in 6 months now.

    Any advice gratefully received. And anyone in NoVa with a shotgun who wants to come hunt what is taking them is welcome on my porch anytime!!
  2. LRH97

    LRH97 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 29, 2013
    Southern Illinois
    Normally I would say that it's a predator attack, but it is indeed strange that three are gone at once, including your rooster. However, I know that my roo leads my hens EVERYWHERE so there's the possibility that he's maybe led them somewhere. I mean, I've had major fox problems lately, losing 3-6 hens a week (finally caught the little (you fill it In) ), but I've never had a predator take three birds in one day. I've had hens who've wandered off and came back in the morning too. However if it is a predator, I would say a fox. They're such clever little buggers. Best of luck to you and hopefully you find them.
  3. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    Any time that you can only find a few scattered feathers laying around it is a sure sign of something like a fox or other wild K9 is praying on your poultry, either that or else you have a large feline like a bobcat or lynx feeding on your fowl. They like to eat in private and usually carry their victims some distance from where they caught them. Not many birds of prey are able to carry off a 4 or 5 pound hen or rooster. The only thing I can think of that could be expected to carry off a full size chicken is a bald or a golden eagle.
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Free ranging is great, but I also have pens attached to my coops for when I want them outside, but contained to a slightly safer area. That might be what you need to do, add some penned areas. Mine do free range on an almost daily basis, but then they are returned to their pens and at night, as you do, to a predator proof coop. We have quite a bit of cover because in addition to living on very wooded mountain property, before I even had chickens, we planted lots of leyland cypress, hemlock and rhododendron for year-round greenery. Those are spectacular for cover for them.

    You probably have a fox or coyote-they can take one, then another, and cache the carcasses for later consumption. I know I do have both here, in addition to a cougar, though my roosters have been invaluable in warning the girls and I haven't had a loss to anything yet (in 8 years of free ranging, but my time will come). This particular fox is a gray, so a fairly small fox, but they climb quite well. It could climb into the pens, but it would take some effort and set up quite a ruckus and we are home most of the time, which does help.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2014
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