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Opinions on whether to free range my girls or not....

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by AnimalsComeFirst, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. AnimalsComeFirst

    AnimalsComeFirst Songster

    Jun 6, 2011
    Hugging a Chicken
    Opinions on whether to free range or not.... 3 weeks ago, our half-blind hen got killed by a hawk. He's (the hawk) the only predator (right now) in our area, and he's a menace. Once a week, maybe, I see him out there watching the girls from outside their safe pen thats covered in netting. Now, help me out... did the half-blind hen get killed because she was half-blind, maybe giving me hope that the other 2 healthy girls won't be so easy for the hawk? After that hawk attack, i've been scared to let them out, though I know i've been free ranging them all summer with no problems, yet, in the colder months, food for the hawk gets harder. Should I risk it and let them free range a few hours a day, maybe with open access to the pen if they need to run? Or should I keep them in their run till warmer months when more food for the hawk comes out?

  2. cowcreekgeek

    cowcreekgeek Songster

    Sep 14, 2012
    Hurricane, WV
    Absolutely keep 'em up, unless you can collect them very quickly/easily in a matter of seconds, as they're most likely to have more difficulty spotting the threat, despite having the opportunity to learn what's somehow imprinted w/in 'em ...

    • they'll most probably remain unaware, as there's too few eyes on the sky.
    • even if they do spot the hawk in time, they'll most probably not head for the pen.
    • even if they do head for the pen, the hawk can obviously follow.

    Some will suggest that you supervise them while allowing them to free range, however: Hawks are generally unafraid, when humans shout and flap their arms, 'cause I think they know we can't fly after 'em, once they snatch another meal from where they have already obtained food before (it almost absolutely will return, and will most probably be successful )-;~

    You're only feeding a few chickens ... bring the range to them, by using a mulching mower, and lawn vac, or manually collecting, or providing other alternative sources of fresh greens 'n bugs 'n such. Or, prepare to continuously add more birds, to offset the constant losses.
  3. citychickx6

    citychickx6 Songster

    May 14, 2011

    Not worth the risk.
  4. chiefslogan

    chiefslogan In the Brooder

    Dec 23, 2012
    I wouldn't let them out. As long as they have some greens for them to eat. Like old vegetables. They should be fine in the pen. Maybe wait a while. The hawk may see that no food is going to come about and move on.
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I let mine out and have a lot more chickens and probably hawks / owls as well. Dogs to supervising but I have done it myself as well. There is not raptor on planet earth, not even a Hast Eagle of past times, that will stand its ground against me if I get into its face with purpose of driving it off my chicken. If chicken to raptor size ratio small enough for raptor to jut fly off with chicken then that would not apply but with adult standard sized chickens, even a golden eagle will have to work to carry one of those off and I doubt you are dealing with goldens.
  6. spotsplus

    spotsplus Songster

    Sep 29, 2008
    Franklin, MA
    We have hawks here from time to time. Generally once they find a source of food they stick around. I'd keep them in for thier safety.
  7. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Crowing

    Apr 14, 2011
    Central Oregon
    Free ranging and losing birds to predators go hand in hand and the two can not be separated. If you can't stand to lose birds, then don't free range. If you must free range, be prepared to lose birds.

    Losses can be anywhere from 1-2 birds every now and again to the entire flock all at once. Only you can decide what style of poultry raising suits you or how much loss of poultry you consider to be acceptable.
    1 person likes this.

  8. cowcreekgeek

    cowcreekgeek Songster

    Sep 14, 2012
    Hurricane, WV
    There's a good 'quote of the day' for any flock manager's calendar ~'-)

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