Questions about free range containment

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by aherzlin, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. aherzlin

    aherzlin Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm not sure if I should call it free range or a run, but basically I want to contain about 20 birds in some form. A little about the property...I have 2.5 acres and half of it (the back and 1 side) is a creek that's about 20-30 ft wide and 1-4 deep. The birds will be in a converted two stall barn that is prob 15 yards or so from the creek. I want to fence off an area for the chicks to be able to have fun, but keep them safe. I'm worried about a good chunk of the yard bc it's open pasture and we have plenty of hawks (land behind me is woods and nature trails). I've been told by the boss of the house that I have a spending limit with the chicks so if I could use the creek as a boundary, it would allow me to give them a much bigger area w/o spending so much on fencing. Can I use the creek? There are big dogs in the yard so I don't worry about any 4 legged friends coming through the creek (only otters maybe).

    Also, I'm considering field fence to keep them in. Their coop will be very secure so i don't intend this to keep night predators out of the run. Is that my best best?
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2012
  2. faykokoWV

    faykokoWV Mrs Fancy Plants

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    I wouldn't use the creek as a replacement for a fence - chickens aren't super smart and may drown. If you want to make a run to protect from hawks you have to worry about a roof on it as well. you may be best doing a long narrow run? maybe something using 6 ft fencing in an A frame type shape?
     
  3. aherzlin

    aherzlin Out Of The Brooder

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    There is a very steep bank (5 ft) down to the water so the hope would be that they wouldn't even go close enough to worry about drowning. I let trees/bushes go crazy about 15 ft from the creek so I'm not too worried about hawks as they'd have plenty of cover. I do want this to be at least somewhat free range and was aiming for a little over 250' of fence (plus the creek would be ~ 5000 sq ft) so covering it all to protect against hawks is out of the question. The best I can do for hawks is limit them going into open pasture. Since there are no more horses, I have started planting cover, but obviously I'll need at least a season till I have much.
     
  4. Daisy8s

    Daisy8s Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Do you have a rooster? A good rooster plus adequate cover will be a good deterrent to hawks--he watches the skies and gives the warning and they all dive for cover. It isn't a perfect guarantee but it does work very well in the right situation.

    I think it's hard to say if your flock will go down the bank and into the creek or not--everything depends on the ranging personalities of your birds, as well as their ability to find adequate feed. My flock usually stays around home but then come fall when they're wanting to fatten up suddenly they'll start crossing the road and hiking way off to the neighbor's farm. You'll need to observe your flock's ranging habits to see if they seem content with the plants/bugs they have access to throughout the seasons.

    i wouldn't worry about the chickens drowning unless the creek experiences sudden changes in height--e.g. flash floods.

    So, I'd say your containment idea sounds fine. As a note: I have used several types of fencing and found the best option for containing chickens (NOT for keeping out predators) is something that is both tall and flimsy. What works best for my flock is 4 foot wire fencing attached to T-posts driven down below the height of the top of the fence. This way the girls would have to jump straight up more than 4 foot and fly over--something they aren't prone to do. With some slack intentionally left in the fencing the girls can't perch on top of it, even if they could get a footing on the thin wire.

    Two kinds of fencing that don't work are something substantial that they can perch on top of (e.g. my 5 foot white picket fence with 4x4 posts made a perfect hop up-perch-hop down scenario). The other poor kind is something 3 feet or less that was easy to hop over.

    Good luck! Free ranging is great. It's really nice to let them be in a natural state--fun to watch the flock dynamics develop.
     
  5. aherzlin

    aherzlin Out Of The Brooder

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    I may have a rooster, but not sure yet. Do silkie roosters (only straight runs I got) have as natural a instinct as standards?

    As far as fence goes, do you think field fence is flimsy enough to prevent perching?
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2012
  6. Daisy8s

    Daisy8s Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't have any experience with silkies so I can't say exactly but I do remember reading a post by Centrarchid, who free ranges a lot of birds with the rooster/cover system, saying that Silkies were fairly useless as wild instincts have been bred out of them. He uses game birds and Dominiques, I believe.

    My rooster is a plain old barred rock from a nameless hatchery (my avatar) and he does a fabulous job. I had a Coronation Sussex rooster who was okay but not as good. It may depend on the individual personality of each bird as well as the breed.

    As to fencing--I'm not exactly sure what you mean by field fencing but the rule of thumb for me is to put up something so narrow (as in, as narrow as a wire) that they can't perch on it and so flimsy (it'll move back and forth a few inches under their feet) if they try that they'll be scared from trying again. Also, let me say again that I mean this kind of fencing is only good for keeping chickens IN, not for keeping predators OUT.

    While you're waiting for natural cover to grow you could put up a few low lean-to type shelters. Lean a big board against a big rock or some bricks so one end is on the ground and the other end is just taller than your tallest chicken. Maybe add a few branches to the sides so it isn't completely open. This will give them something low to run into if a hawk threatens.
     
  7. RWD

    RWD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Check out the Complete Chicken Habitat 6'x14' on our facebook page. The coop is moved every few days to fresh ground so no mud, smell, no manure buildup. It is extremely predator resistant, and allow the birds free range benefits.
     
  8. JackE

    JackE Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would recommend electrified poultry netting. I have 400' of the PoultryPlus netting from Premier. The birds have plenty of space to roam around in, and with over 7000V, it keeps out the ground predators I have around here, and I have a variety. As far as hawks go, the birds have a big brush area to hide in, along with under the coop itself. I've had this set up since March, and it has worked out great for me. I'm looking at getting a couple more sections and expanding their area.
    Jack
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2012
  9. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    If you have hawks and want to free range... avoid crested breeds and banties. Stick with large standard sized birds or you'll just be giving the hawks free meals.

    I fence less free range in them middle of about 7 acres. The chickens hug the house, the coop, and the natural shurbbery around the clearing in the woods. They have never wandered to the highway and are always in sight of what they consider "home"... which is basically the large clearing and the structures. I've lost a number of banties and silkies to hawks over the years so I don't keep those types anymore if they are to be ranged. I also don't have fences as all my losses have been up against a fence when the chicken rain into it and could not escape. That said.... 5 foot steep bank, chickens can fall down slopes and get stuck places. I've had birds stuck in trash cans when they fell in..., If it were a gradual slope into the creek, I would be much less worried. But flock dynamics are all different, you'll have to try it out. Most my birds spend very little time in the open and tend to hang out in the brush.
     

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