Questions about keeping my flock safe

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by justmeinflorida, Sep 16, 2011.

  1. justmeinflorida

    justmeinflorida Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 16, 2011
    Zephyrhills, Florida
    I haven't gotten my flock yet...I'm trying to do more research before I go and get some birds. So here are a few questions that have been weighing on my mind.

    I have a Black and Decker plastic storage shed and I was going to make it into a coop. I have 6' privacy fence on the left of my property and 4' chain link on the right but no fencing in the back...do I need a run?

    We live in Central Florida, I was hoping to let the flock free roam but I also have stray cats, opposums, racoons, and rather large hawks in the area...do I need a run? If not how do I keep other animals from killing my birds? Will a rooster do the trick?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You are likely to get various opinion some this one. Some people do get by without a run. I let mine free range but find that a run comes in very handy at different times.

    From your description of your fences, I'm guessing you live in an built-up area, probably a subdivision. Cats are normally not a threat to grown chickens, although they will sometimes take chicks. In additiona to opposums, raccoons and hawks, I'm sure you have many other threats. Foxes and coyotes come to mind, even in subdivisions at night and even with those fences, but especially in suburbia dogs are a huge risk. Foxes, raccoons, opposums, and others will climb those fences like they are not even there. Coyotes and many dogs can easily jump a 4 foot fence. And your chickens can fly over those fences if they want to. What often happens is that they fly up to perch on top and who can guess which side they decide to hop down on. But if properly motivated, they can clear those fences. Many people keep chickens in with those types of fences without a problem, but you will find with chickens that they are often not consistent. What works for one person may not work for another.

    Any time you free range, you take the chance that you will lose some to a predator. This does not mean that every predator in the county will instant head your way for a feast. That does happen to some people, but many of us go a long time in between predator attacks. I can't tell you when a predator will attack, but I can tell you that some of us are at more risk than others.

    You can get by without a run. Many people do. Whether you should is the question.

    My philosophy is to let them free range but lock them very securely in a coop at night. I have had losses. Until someone dropped a couple of dogs off in the country instead of taking them to the free drop off animal shelter, I had lost very few using this method.

    Although I usually free range them, I find having a run comes in handy in many different cases. Sometimes I have to retrain one to use the coop nesting boxes. If I see a predator in the neighborhood, I leave them locked in the run. Maybe if I need to work with them, banding them or medicating them. Sometimes it is handy to leave some locked up when I integrate. The run comes in very handy and gives much more flexibility in how I can handle them.

    Will a rooster protect your flock? It depends on the rooster. A good rooster will sacrifice his life to keep his flock safe and will be on the watch for predators, especially hawks. But when danger is present, my current dominant rooster will lead his hens to safety instead of positioning hiimself between them and the risk as he should. Sometimes the dominant hen will assume many of the protection roles of a rooster. Sometimes but not always. A good rooster will make your flock safer but there is no guarantee any specific rooster is going to be good. And no rooster is going to regularly stop many big predators, but he can sometimes slow them down.
     
  3. justmeinflorida

    justmeinflorida Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 16, 2011
    Zephyrhills, Florida
    Thanks for the advise RidgeRunner...

    We actually don't live in a subdivision, I have about a 1.5 acre corner lot on a back country road. We just closed on this house last month and the fencing was there before we got the place. From what the next door neighbor told me, the previous owners had a small dog, hence the 4' fence. Someone stole the back fencing and the 6' fence was for privacy from the neighbor. Along our chain link is .25 acre then dirt road. We have tons of trees and palms for cover and I've not seen a stray dog yet but you never know. I've seen about 3 stray cats, one got hit 2 weeks ago, so we're down two.

    Should I be concerned about them going out the back? It's pretty grown up back there because the house in the next field is being held up in divorce court. If I raise them as chicks will they stay in my yard?

    My concern is my friend has an acre a ways down the road and he had about 40 chickens (free roam). He had them for about 4 months before the hawks got them all.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    A little different situation than I was thinking. I have mine on a 2 acre lot in the country. Mine do use most of it. They tend to hang in the general vicinity of the coop but they will roam to the far corners occasionally and across a barbed wire fence into a neighbor's pasture field. Some roam further than others. I had three hens that liked to go play in the dirt road about 400 feet from the coop. The rest did not make it that far. But I processed one of the three and happened to get the ringleader. With the instigator gone, the other two stopped going up there. Each chicken is an individual. It's hard to tell what they might do.

    If it is grown up, they will probably like it. The tall vegetation gives them protection from hawks and they can find all kiinds of good things to eat back there. Not just creepy crawlies but different kinds of vegetation. They do like a varied diet.

    I have plenty of hawks around here but have not lost any to hawks. As you well know, some people have serious trouble with that. The more places to hide the safer they will be, but a determined hawk can snatch a chicken out of a pretty tight place.

    I find that people like to drop dogs off in the country. I don't have trouble with the neighbors' dogs, but sometimes when people drop strange dogs off out here, they kill chickens. I lost 8 a few weeks ago to that. Just because you don't see one today doesn't mean that an irresponsible pet owner won't drop one off tonight. It's part of the risk you take when free ranging.

    I still like the flexibility a run gives me. I suggest you build one so you have it. Keep then in there for a little while. Then start releasing them after supper when you can be out with them. If things go well, you may decide to just let them go. But if you have problems, you have the option of locking them up.
     
  5. justmeinflorida

    justmeinflorida Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 16, 2011
    Zephyrhills, Florida
    I spoke with a breeder today that is 15min. down the road from our house. She recommended we build a run as well. The hawks out here are pretty bad and big and will snatch all of my chickens. Her husband is calling back tonight so we can talk price for some pullets, mixed breed to start me off and if things go well and I like having chickens then we can talk another time about getting pure breds. She said she hate to sell me expensive chickens right off, incase I make some mistakes and kill some of them. I'm hoping it won't come to that...this is why I ask plenty of question and try to learn as much as I can. Thanks for your help, it's really appreciated [​IMG]
     

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