Opinions Needed- Thinking of letting my chickens free range


7 Years
Apr 29, 2012
I am having a dilemma right now and I would like to get some more experienced chicken owners views. I hope I am posting this to the correct forum, if not please let me know where I should post. First a bit of background. I am a new chicken owner. Last mothers day my husband and children gave me five chickens. My husband built me a wonderful chicken tractor, which I quickly filled up. Here in lies my issue. We want to build a bigger run or put up a electric fence, but due to the time of year with the cost of Christmas coming up, we do not have the finances right now to put in a electric fence or build a bigger run. So I have been thinking for the last few days of letting my chickens free range. We live on nearly three acres of land, with only about two being cleared. Our home is in a very rural area being surrounded by farmland, a cemetery and set off the road a little ways. So there is plenty of room for the chickens to roam.

Here are my issues. Number one we have cats. One cat in particular is a hunter. He is very interested in the chickens, but never seems to be in attack mode around them. He has brought down a few squirrels and may have killed a bunny (we are not sure of the cause of death). The other issue is we have a dog that loves to chase chickens. However the dog is controlled by a invisible electric fence and it does not reach out to where the chickens are. The chickens have a very large area of yard and farmland to roam on. One of the issues would be if the chickens happen to wander into the yard, our dog would chase and possibly "play" with them. Possibly killing them. As long as they stay outside the electric fence they would be fine.

So I am torn. I would love to be able to let them free range, because I think they would be happier. If I can't do this then they will have to wait till the first of the year for a new run or I may have to downsize my flock. Which I really don't want to since we are planning on building a new coop and run next year and then I will have to purchase more chickens.

I need help. If I get some experienced input I would really appreciate it. What would you do if you were in my shoes? Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom.

I would not worry too much about the cats. I have 2 and they watch but do nothing to my 7 chickens(6-7 months old). Now concerning the dog, could you bring it inside or crate it for a couple of hours. You could do this. Then about an hour and half before sunset, let the chickens free range, they should go back to the tractor at dusk. Then you can let the dog back out. That way they get a little free range time. I would also start training the dog on the "leave it" command. You can search in the search bar for the threads that have training tips. Unless you put up a hard fence the chickens will wander into the dogs "yard". I have a completely trustworthy dog and my chickens free range all day. But it did take training of the dog to get to this point. I hope this helps.
I used to have 12 chickens and a pet turkey! Now I only have 2 roosters from that flock. I had the chickens for many years and loved them very much! I lost them to a bunch of dogs from the neighborhood! Out of all the years of them living/free roaming safely one night and they were gone!!! I always let my chickens out to free roam in the day time and put them up at night, but after a few years I just got confident and would let them go in on their own or sleep outside the coop on top of it... and one night they were all gone! So after my terrible experience and me not wanting anyone to experince that if you're close to them, I would let them free roam in the day time and at least lock them up at night! Besides owls, hawks, and other birds of prey would easily make lunch of the sleeping chickens. In the day time they can at least have a chance of seeing them and running, but a sleeping chicken is defenseless!
Our dog is a inside dog and only goes out in the early morning and then randomly through out the day. She know the command leave it, but chooses when she will listen and who to listen to. Of course my husband is who she listens too best. Then of course there are the time when I am not out there with her. Raisedbyroosters I am so sorry to hear about you flock. That must have been really terrible to have lost them that way. I had always planned on having them back in the coop at night. We live in a area where there are fox, bear and hawks. I feel like during the day the chickens would have enough areas to hide in, so to be protected from being food for prey. There are plenty of areas around the yard for them to forage. The couple of times the coop door has been left open they have stayed near the coop.

My heart of heart feels like I should give it a try and let them free range.I know that they would be happier, if they don't get eaten of course. Gee I still can't decide.....
If you are home in the day to watch and teach the dog they will be fine and put them in the tractor at night.

I have 4' no climb fence and only one time one of my girls got over it because my puppy chased it.

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