Needing advice! Thinking about letting our girls free range...


9 Years
Jul 13, 2010
Currently they're in a 24 square foot run attached to the coop. We'd really like them to free range in our side yard as soon as I can get a gate up on the back yard side to keep the dog out. We've got an eight-foot fence running alongside the house with a six-foot gate at the front of the house. The side yard itself is grassy/rocky and relatively unsheltered from the sun, although it gets mainly morning/early afternoon sun (SF Bay Area so relatively mild climate). The idea is that we'll let them run during the day but coop them up at night (we have raccoons and possums in the area), but I'm worried about a couple of things. First, how high can they jump/fly? I doubt they can get over an eight-foot fence but I'm a bit concerned about the gate. Secondly, should we cover the area with mesh to discourage cats and/or predatory birds from getting in? Any advice would be appreciated.
I free range all day in an unsecured/ unsupervised back yard. Also a mild climate- Seattle. Things you need to consider are. Every one's chickens are a little different. Even though it is mild there you still probably want to provide them with some shade/cover. You need to know your predators, they are not all the same. I have raccoons & possums in the yard almost daily and have not had a problem with them showing any interest in the chickens, BUT I do not recommend this. I have 6 ft, 5 ft and at the gate 4 ft fencing. They have never tried to go over, even yesterday I realized that the garbage can is right next to the gate, and they do get on top of the can without hopping over. But they have wiggled under the fence a couple times. They may go over your fence. Cats are rarely a problem for adult chickens. If you have hawks or eagles that might be a concern. I have eagles fly over, they have not gone after the chickens. I have lots of cover in the backyard.

Good luck & post pictures.

Mine are in a privacy fenced and unsupervised yard all day too. I wouldn't try to put any netting OVER your yard; the chickens could get caught in it and possibly loose a leg or wing or be strangled. If they are a heavy breed, they probably won't fly much, but they could get to the top of the fence if they wanted to. If they can't see what's outside the fence like mine, and they have everything they need inside the yard, it probably won't be a problem. There is always a risk when you free range, but for my back yard chickens, I think it is the right choice.
I let my 10 hens free range for a couple of hours almost everyday - supervised. We have plenty of predators around here - there's even a fox den on the back part of my property. Altogether we have fox, coon, owl, skunk, possum, and hawks.

I never let mine out without me being there.

They really love it though and crowd the run door when it's time to let the out.
I let mine free range while I'm at work, with 6 and 4 foot fences arond the yard.
We lost one to a hawk, so I put fishing line across the top of the area, attaching it to the fence and bushes, etc.
No more losses to hawks so far, and although the fishing line looks a little funny, it's worth it to protect my girls.
I think there's an article on the Mother Earth News website about how to do it.
Mine free range all the time. I've lost chickens to foxes that I know of, and probably other predators, but none for a couple of years now, since I trained my mutt dogs to leave them alone (they wanted to play with them and would pick them up and shake them.)

Hawks are around daily and never bother the chickens; guess they prefer the other hawk foods here. They don't even fly low, just fly up high over them, paying no attention.
I live on 5 acres and my chickens free-range morning to night. I lock them up at night. I'm sure we have predators but I haven't lost any yet. Not saying I won't, I'm sure the day will come. I figure that's part of the price of having chickens that free-range. However, I may feel differently after I lose a few. They have plenty of places on our acreage to run under for cover.

We have a dog too, but she isn't outside unless she's out with us and she is trained to leave the chickens alone. I wouldn't let her be outside with the chickens by herself. I don't trust her THAT much.
Hope this helps.
I am interested in free ranging for part of the day, also. My fence is only 4' high. Should I assume they will be able to jump this easily? Sorry, but I'm a chicken novice and mine have been penned up since day 1. Not sure what they are capable of. I'm also concerned about them going through the fence since it is goat type fencing with 5-6" squares. Should I grab the smallest bird and see if she will fit through? Can they compress their bodies to fit through a hole smaller than it looks like they can fit? BTW, these are standard breeds. Thanks
Free range without supervision, any bird that you don't mind losing.

Kinda like, just brush the teeth you want to keep.

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