Safest times to free range?

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
Hi all, I am new to raising chickens. I have six 7.5 week olds. I have been letting them free range in the backyard when I am doing yard work and able to supervise them. I see on BYC that some people let their chickens free range only at certain times of day (ex. Evening time before sunset). Is there a time of day that is safer for free ranging than other times? Just curious. I live in upstate NY in a wooded area.

Thank you!
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
13 Years
Nov 18, 2007
26,826
19,574
781
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
:welcome :frow Predators can come at anytime to pick off your birds. Most likely as long as you're out with them it would be less likely. I believe predators lurk and you won't see them looking for an opportunity when you least expect it. I was out painting on the coops one day and one of the birds was in one of the garden beds dust bathing. I never heard anything and when I called her and she didn't come. I knew something was wrong because she always came when I called her. I do have game cameras and moved some around and a fox was showing up during the day. I never found her but did find some feathers. I was heart broken as she was a special needs bird and my favorite. You never know. Good luck and have fun...
 

SE WA Guy

Chirping
May 14, 2020
67
121
63
I guess my first thought in allowing my birds to walk free (with some supervision) was to identify what really could come after them. In my area, we have raccoons, hawks, owls and the occasional snake. But more than that, we have a lot of stray cats.

I try to not let the birds out of the enclosed run any time from dusk through to the morning. And as for ranging during the day, we have a little dog that absolutely hates cats. It's almost comical, cartoonish even, how prejudiced he is against cats. He's a wee ShiTzu mix, and he's never actually caught a cat. But he does a good job at patrolling the backyard just in case any would hop on in.

Nothing is full-proof and without risk, but having a dog around that is trained to leave the birds alone will go further to prevent attacks against your flock than anything else you could do. They will at least smell and alert you to any dangers coming around before you'd be able to see them.
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Sep 19, 2009
26,386
17,759
856
Holts Summit, Missouri
I free-range more vulnerable birds in the evening, not so much because of less predator activity at that time, but rather because it gives me more control over when free-range time starts and in particular ends. The birds will want to go in to roost in their own. My most vulnerable birds are young juveniles 5 to 10 weeks of age. In my location they are most likely to be targeted by Coopers Hawks which can carry of the younger birds without even landing at point of capture. I seldom see Coopers Hawks hunting in the last hour or so of day. Stated seldom. Other predators will hunt in the evening light, but here they are less of an issue when compared to Coopers Hawks. There is another fart knocker that will do the dusk thing that in some years required I be out as chickens go to roost. Namely the Great-horned Owl. Myself or dogs have some years had to literally stare the owl down as the last young chickens went rooster where I could close door or lower hood.

In our household, we are more consistently out for that solid hour before dark than at any other time. I have dogs which not discussed in detail that provide additional options.
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
I free-range more vulnerable birds in the evening, not so much because of less predator activity at that time, but rather because it gives me more control over when free-range time starts and in particular ends. The birds will want to go in to roost in their own. My most vulnerable birds are young juveniles 5 to 10 weeks of age. In my location they are most likely to be targeted by Coopers Hawks which can carry of the younger birds without even landing at point of capture. I seldom see Coopers Hawks hunting in the last hour or so of day. Stated seldom. Other predators will hunt in the evening light, but here they are less of an issue when compared to Coopers Hawks. There is another fart knocker that will do the dusk thing that in some years required I be out as chickens go to roost. Namely the Great-horned Owl. Myself or dogs have some years had to literally stare the owl down as the last young chickens went rooster where I could close door or lower hood.

In our household, we are more consistently out for that solid hour before dark than at any other time. I have dogs which not discussed in detail that provide additional options.
Thanks for your reply! We have hawk activity here as well. I haven't noticed them since I got the chicks but I know they are active in the area.
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
If your worried about hawks, I would free range them in the afternoon, hawks usually catch prey in the morning, so are less likely to be around to eat your chickens. That being said, you never know.
Thank you! They usually leave the coop and stay in the protected run until lunch time. I then let them out for a few hours (I'm either outside supervising or checking on them every 15 min. Or so) then back in the coop for an hour in the middle of the day and free ranging again from 5 to 7ish. At 7 they seem to know to enter the coop for night time- it's amazing how quickly they learned that!
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
I guess my first thought in allowing my birds to walk free (with some supervision) was to identify what really could come after them. In my area, we have raccoons, hawks, owls and the occasional snake. But more than that, we have a lot of stray cats.

I try to not let the birds out of the enclosed run any time from dusk through to the morning. And as for ranging during the day, we have a little dog that absolutely hates cats. It's almost comical, cartoonish even, how prejudiced he is against cats. He's a wee ShiTzu mix, and he's never actually caught a cat. But he does a good job at patrolling the backyard just in case any would hop on in.

Nothing is full-proof and without risk, but having a dog around that is trained to leave the birds alone will go further to prevent attacks against your flock than anything else you could do. They will at least smell and alert you to any dangers coming around before you'd be able to see them.
Thanks! We have a dog as well, unfortunately she wants to get at the birds just as much as the predators probably do! I'm having to keep them apart.
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
:welcome :frow Predators can come at anytime to pick off your birds. Most likely as long as you're out with them it would be less likely. I believe predators lurk and you won't see them looking for an opportunity when you least expect it. I was out painting on the coops one day and one of the birds was in one of the garden beds dust bathing. I never heard anything and when I called her and she didn't come. I knew something was wrong because she always came when I called her. I do have game cameras and moved some around and a fox was showing up during the day. I never found her but did find some feathers. I was heart broken as she was a special needs bird and my favorite. You never know. Good luck and have fun...
Thank you!
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
I guess my first thought in allowing my birds to walk free (with some supervision) was to identify what really could come after them. In my area, we have raccoons, hawks, owls and the occasional snake. But more than that, we have a lot of stray cats.

I try to not let the birds out of the enclosed run any time from dusk through to the morning. And as for ranging during the day, we have a little dog that absolutely hates cats. It's almost comical, cartoonish even, how prejudiced he is against cats. He's a wee ShiTzu mix, and he's never actually caught a cat. But he does a good job at patrolling the backyard just in case any would hop on in.

Nothing is full-proof and without risk, but having a dog around that is trained to leave the birds alone will go further to prevent attacks against your flock than anything else you could do. They will at least smell and alert you to any dangers coming around before you'd be able to see them.
Thank you!
 

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