Preditor in sight; to free range or not.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by PaisyQ, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. PaisyQ

    PaisyQ Chillin' With My Peeps

    202
    14
    98
    Apr 9, 2013
    SW Michigan
    I was having a picnic dinner with the parents this evening when my step-mother pointed out a bald eagle flying overhead. At first I was pleased... then I realized it was circling my chicken coop. Since my parents had brought their dogs with them for the visit, the chickens were all safely locked up in their run, but this is a big disappointment. We've been working on getting them free ranging, at least for a few hours each day when I'm home to monitor. But I'm not so sure that is such a good idea now. I don't think I can do much to protect them from an eagle. But leaving them cooped up in their 5 by 10 foot run doesn't seem desirable anymore, either. I've got plans to build them a larger enclosed space, but these are longer term. They are not going to happen this year.

    So, I'm wondering what others would do. If you knew there was a bird of prey eying your chickens, would you let them out? Or would you keep them locked up?
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    65,129
    13,018
    786
    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    I would only let them out for monitored free ranging. Bald eagles have and will kill chickens and ducks.
     
  3. Apdeb

    Apdeb Chillin' With My Peeps

    417
    33
    128
    Jun 4, 2013
    Woodbridge Ct
    Paisy if you live in rural or semi rural area there will be aerial preds!!! I lost my best rooster to a hawk!!! You have to decide if you can handle a loss here and there first!!! I use radio turned on talk it seems to help. Ive had a hawk coming down and i was on stoop i ran it off but once attacked they are much more alert and savvy than 1st time!!! I have 8 barnevelders 1 buff bantam brahma and 1 seabright roo. My property is about 3 1/2 acres heavily wooded with maybe 1/2 acre of grass just around house
     
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

    8,794
    3,747
    441
    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    You don't have to just live in semi rural or rural areas for aerial predators (or any other type, for that matter). My aunt lives in a suburb of St. Paul, MN and her neighbors have chickens. There is also a red-tail hawk living in the neighborhood, and flies over the chicken coops frequently.
     
  5. PaisyQ

    PaisyQ Chillin' With My Peeps

    202
    14
    98
    Apr 9, 2013
    SW Michigan
    Grr... Went to check on them a little bit ago, found them all laying around under their coop in the run. Decided I'd let them out for some supervised time; they need to act a little more chickeny.

    They were having a great time, wandered down the yard to a shady patch next to some trees, started scratching and gobbling up whatever they found. I grabbed a lawn chair and sat down next to them. Kept one eye on them to make sure they didn't wander to far, and one eye to the sky. 10 minutes in, here came that eagle again. It must of circled us for about 15 minutes, with me standing there afraid it's going to try for the chickens. Finally flew off, and I led the girls back to their coop. Now they are locked up again, laying around under the hen house.

    I want them free ranging so bad. But I don't think I could stand to loose one of them. I think I'm going to have to find the money to put up their fence sooner.
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,741
    1,382
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    If you let them out, there are predators that are watching and waiting too. One has a little better luck if you have a rooster, but there are predators they can't handle.

    If you free range, you are very apt to lose some. Some times are worse than other, it has been a tough summer for me, and I have suffered heavy predator losses, but I hate them locked up all the time.

    But mine are in lock up way more than they ever have been, and I think I am upping that after the last loss.

    It is helpful if you don't let them out at the same time day after day, or leave them out all day long.

    But the reality is, if you free range, you are most likely to lose one or two or..... over time.

    Mrs K
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    34,453
    7,667
    596
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Paisy Q ..... where in SW Michigan are you located?
     
  8. PaisyQ

    PaisyQ Chillin' With My Peeps

    202
    14
    98
    Apr 9, 2013
    SW Michigan
    I am a little north of South Haven.
     
  9. naadarien

    naadarien Chillin' With My Peeps

    145
    8
    88
    Feb 10, 2013
    Central Vermont
    My Coop
    This is why we built a huge fenced in run for our chickies. We have all kinds of predators, and in our fields ravens, owls, and raptors are out hunting in our fields for any the small animals my cats don't catch. There is just no way we'd let them free range, but I hope we have given them enough space to do some forage. The coop is under a canopy of large 40-60ft maple trees so the run is covered. The birds don't seem to see them under that, but there are still foxes, coyotes, and even one of our own cats (the only loss we've was because of her) on the ground.

    Maybe in future years, it won't be as upsetting to lose one (or more) and we'll let them roam (we keep that particular cat in the house while the chickies are in their run), but for now I feel like I made a personal promise to care for them and allowing them to fall prey to the food chain earlier than necessary makes no sense to me.

    Good luck to you.[​IMG]
     
  10. Ravenseye

    Ravenseye Out Of The Brooder

    57
    3
    31
    Dec 30, 2008
    Pepperell, MA
    Aerial predators can be pretty sneaky. My rooster typically sees them well before I do. We have red tailed hawks and I've lost chickens a few times. Earlier this year I was working on one side of the barn and walked directly through my free ranging flock to get to the horse barn on the other side of the property. Less than two minutes later I returned and found a dead hen laying on her side close to where she had been foraging. At first, it looked like she just fell over and died but when I pulled her feathers apart I found four punctures in her sides. My guess is that a hawk flew down, grabbed and killed her. The rest of the flock ran and then I came into view scaring the hawk away. The rest of the flock was gathered under a boat and trailer near the front of the yard. I never saw the bird but the evidence was quite clear. Later that day I heard the hawk but couldn't find it circling.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by