Raising Chickens without a Coop

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by skw9, May 22, 2017.

  1. skw9

    skw9 In the Brooder

    Does anyone have any experience raising chickens without a coop? I have heard that some people have free ranging chickens that roost in trees at night. I am somewhat of a minimalist, and the idea seems appealing to me. My 5-week-old chicks love my backyard which is sheltered by two large pecan trees, and I have noticed some ideal roosting places. We live in Southeast Georgia where it never gets very cold.

  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockwit Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Guess it depends on your local critters, and whether you like the idea of feeding other critters their eggs (i.e. critters finding the eggs before you do) and killing them whilst they are laying / broody. Certain breeds have a higher likelihood of surviving for longer, so thats something to think about also.
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I have done it a lot.

    Tree roosting can be risky with owls. Predator management will be your biggest concern. I would not do it without dogs on your side or at least backing up some birds in a coop.
  4. skw9

    skw9 In the Brooder

    Actually, I failed to mention that I have three large guard dogs that are friendly to and protective of my chickens, but I am wondering if the dogs could protect the chickens from the owls. Sorry, to show my ignorance, but what do you mean by "backing up some birds in a coop".

  5. skw9

    skw9 In the Brooder

    Most of the acreage surrounding our property is pasture. We have a cluster of trees surrounding our house. The woods beyond our 13 acres is full of armadillos, foxes, coyotes, owls, raccoons, opossums, and hawks. We have three large guard dogs who are constantly roaming our property to ward off predators. They have been very vigilant about it, and I have never seen any wild animal near our home unless it had been killed by our dogs. Our dogs have even made a distinction between our cats and stray cats. A stray cat would never survive wandering onto our property. I do occasionally see hawks flying overhead, but the chickens are acutely aware of this and run for cover when they discern a hawk's shadow. Also, I have a rooster.
    biophiliac likes this.
  6. SueT

    SueT Crowing

    May 27, 2015
    SW MO
    Some breeds of chickens are better at free ranging and evading predators than others. The feral chickens of Key West are just one example.
    Guineas may be better at this than chickens. I once had guineas that free ranged, wouldn't go back in their coop after about 2 months of age. They roosted in a tree year round, rain, wind, snow, ice. Occasionally we'd lose one at night to a predator, and the survivors would move to another tree. Some of them lived many years but eventually we lost them all. I am not recommending tree roosting ...you'd have to be willing to accept inevitable loss.
    I am raising some brown leghorn chicks now because I read here on BYC that they are better free rangers than my other heavy breeds. But they will be cooped at night for sure. And they are not going to be free ranging until they lay their first eggs-- so that they become attached to using their nest boxes. I never found those guinea eggs until it was too late. (then they'd move their nests.)
    Anyway, I don't know what else to say. You will probably have a lot of criticism on your idea. But I will wish you good luck ...
    skw9 likes this.
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Your dogs won't be able to manage the hawks and owls, or any critter that gets up in a tree with your birds. Chickens are totally helpless at night when roosting, and will be MUCH safer having a safe coop at night, and the only eggs you will be likely to find will be in that coop that they consider home. Also, feed outside of the coop will attract other varmits, and your dogs may love it too. I started with bantams roosting in my pole barn from a neighbor, until finding body parts and piles of feathers in the mornings just became too much, and the coop was set up for night time roosting. Also, plan on carefully selected breeds; nothing large and fluffy with poor flying ability. Mary
    21hens-incharge and skw9 like this.

  8. skw9

    skw9 In the Brooder

    Thank you for this sound advice. I actually have a large coop in very large pole barn that was here when we bought our property. There are no trees around the pole barn, so I am concerned that the chicks will be targeted by hawks during the day if I let them out. In my backyard, however, the chicks can are hidden by the trees. I may just have to build a coop in the backyard. The concern about the backyard is the poop in the yard. What are the chances my young children will get salmonella if they play among the chickens?
  9. skw9

    skw9 In the Brooder

    Thanks for your input. I think I will consider what you say very carefully. Good to know about not letting them free-range until they start laying.

  10. KikisGirls

    KikisGirls Must hatch more Premium Member Project Manager

    Jul 31, 2015
    Houston, TX
    My Coop
    Zero ...
    Humans do not catch salmonella from chicks or chickens the way you would catch a cold from your neighbor. Salmonella is food poisoning; you get it from eating infected meat or eggs.
    skw9 likes this.

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