Scared to let my first flock out!

cmom

Hilltop Farm
12 Years
Nov 18, 2007
23,566
14,375
641
Florida
My Coop
New flock owner... my babes are about 4 weeks, so they will be moving out of the house soon, and into their coop. My husband has built an amazingly strong run and coop (concrete floor and all), but lately I’ve been hearing more stories from people saying fox and other predators have been attacking them during the day time while they’re out free ranging. At this rate, I’ll never let them out if I’m not there! I don’t want anything to happen to them! Any tips or tricks to prevent daytime attacks? We live a mile from a town, and have houses around. Have seen only cats, beavers, and we’ve only heard a fisher cat once at night. But I’m sure there are fox and raccoons! Ahhhhh please ease my mind!
:welcome :frowPut up a game camera then you will know what is lurking. Most chicken owners do fortify their coops and runs after they have losses, I have. I don't free range any more due to losses in the past. I have electric wires around my coops and pens, concrete under the gates and heavy duty netting covering my pens all because of losses from predators in the past. When you free range it's inevitable that sooner or later your birds will be discovered and you may have a loss. My losses usually have been from either a coyote, fox or a hawk during the day. At night, coyote, fox, possum, bobcat, owl. I have also had a skunk attempt to dig under a gate to a pen. I haven't had any losses except several months ago, my fault. A fox got my very special bird during the day. I was preoccupied. I should have left her in her pen. Then something got a gate open to one of the pens and killed a couple of birds. I think it was the fox too. It did knock over the electric wire next to the gate so probably got shocked or maybe I would have lost more birds. Since I have put spring gate latches on the gates. I usually only let the birds out when I'm working outside around the coop. All of my coops have very large pens so the birds have plenty of room. I also have several game cameras around on my property and most nights see a predator on at least one of the cameras. Here it's mostly coyotes. Since I got the fox I have seen some but not like I was. I'm sure the one I got was the one that killed my Gladys. I put my live traps out and baited them and let the fox get used to getting the bait then I set the traps and caught the fox. If you have fisher cats and they discover your flock they are nasty little killers. Everything like chicken. Good luck...
 
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NatJ

Crowing
Mar 20, 2017
2,886
4,267
286
USA
New flock owner... my babes are about 4 weeks, so they will be moving out of the house soon, and into their coop. My husband has built an amazingly strong run and coop (concrete floor and all), but lately I’ve been hearing more stories from people saying fox and other predators have been attacking them during the day time while they’re out free ranging. At this rate, I’ll never let them out if I’m not there! I don’t want anything to happen to them!
That can be a perfectly reasonable strategy-- a safe coop and run, and chickens out only when you're available.

They will enjoy the run more if it has things for them to do.
Things to sit on--perches, stumps, even boxes.
Things to forage through and eat--a compost pile and/or deep litter works well (just throw anything plant-based in there, so long as it's not actually poisonous. Some gets eaten, some rots and attracts bugs that the chickens can then eat, and the chickens can happily spend hours digging through it and occasionally munching a bit.)
Some people put various kinds of toys, too--mirrors and bright colored things to peck and things like that.
 

jreardon1918

Songster
Jul 13, 2016
592
936
226
Southeast, MA
My Coop
We have a very secure coop and enclosed run. So far it has never failed us or the girls. But it is just OK for our small flock. They really could use more elbow room.

We also have a fenced area that we let the girls out to during the day. Early this spring one of the hens disappeared. No evidence of an attack. Maybe she was dragged off or snatched up, or she just flew into the woods. Plenty of predators lurking. No idea. Also this spring one of the White Plymouth Rock hens was attacked by a hawk. She lost a few feathers but shrugged it off. We saw it happen. We added more protection, pallets in a triangle arrangement. to give the girls hiding places in this area.

Recently, we started letting the 8-10 week chicks out into this area. Yesterday, we let 6 out and only 3 returned to the coop. Found one, dead. The other two missing. Our 4 hens all returned to the coop at night. This is my long way of saying, even supervised during the day has risks. Your risk tolerance will guide your decisions. We will double the size of the secure covered run and put all the girls in strict lock down. We will see how long the lock-down lasts.
 

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hayley3

Crowing
13 Years
Aug 16, 2007
1,663
1,549
316
Southern Indiana
They are to young to have unsupervised free-range as for the rest i would do the hot pepper trick I use ghost peppers but you can use the hottest pepper you can get your hands on smash them especially the seeds put them all around your coop and run redo every month or after a big rain
I would be afraid my chickens would eat that.
 

NatJ

Crowing
Mar 20, 2017
2,886
4,267
286
USA
I use ghost peppers but you can use the hottest pepper you can get your hands on smash them especially the seeds put them all around your coop and run redo every month or after a big rain
I would be afraid my chickens would eat that.
It won't hurt chickens. Capsaicin (the hot stuff in peppers) only burns the tongues of mammals, not birds. That's why it gets added to bird seed, to try to keep squirrels out without bothering the birds.
 

CluckerFamily

Songster
Feb 14, 2016
487
796
153
Wisconsin
Go at the pace you are comfortable with! You have a run so your chickens will still be “outside”. My first year I was also uncomfortable with letting the chickens free range unless I was home. I was the crazy chicken lady that would put fresh grass clippings in the run for the chickens and my chickens love snow, so I was also shoveling snow into the run. Once I got a rooster, I felt more comfortable letting them free range all day. A rooster may not be an option for you.
My coop and run are under the shelter of trees and shrubs, the chickens stay close because they feel safe in those areas from flying predators. The dogs help to spread their own scent around the yard to keep cougars, bear, fox, and coyotes at bay.
 

gtaus

Crowing
Mar 29, 2019
1,998
6,376
407
Northern Minnesota
My Coop
I had thought I was going to let them roam the yard during the day, when I was home or not, but I’m leaning more towards not having them out in the yard, except for what you say, a few hours when I’m either outside with them, or close by doing chores and such...
Too many predators where I live to free range my chickens. Built them a chicken run using 2X4 welded wire fencing with bird netting on top to stop any hawk/eagle attack. So far, no attacks on my hens. Where I live, people who free range their birds are mostly known as former chicken owners.

My girls get locked up every night in a Fort Knox chicken coop. The chicken run is predator resistant, but not predator proof. So far, the 2X4 welded wire has been enough to discourage the wandering neighborhood dog that may come around during the day.

Even if you are outside with your chickens when they free range, you have little ability to stop an attack from a hawk or eagle if they are around. I have watched some YouTube videos of aerial attacks on chickens even when the owner was only feet away from the birds.
 

seahorse2276

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 11, 2014
2
0
59
New flock owner... my babes are about 4 weeks, so they will be moving out of the house soon, and into their coop. My husband has built an amazingly strong run and coop (concrete floor and all), but lately I’ve been hearing more stories from people saying fox and other predators have been attacking them during the day time while they’re out free ranging. At this rate, I’ll never let them out if I’m not there! I don’t want anything to happen to them! Any tips or tricks to prevent daytime attacks? We live a mile from a town, and have houses around. Have seen only cats, beavers, and we’ve only heard a fisher cat once at night. But I’m sure there are fox and raccoons! Ahhhhh please ease my mind!
I have just found out the hard way that foxes are super smart and very sneaky. They will get chickens during the day, they will watch you and pick up on your routine Unless you have a wide open space (which has other risks) they can snatch one and be gone before you realize they are there. I’ve had chickens for 10 years and this is the first time we’ve had a serious predator issue. They are usually out for several hours in the afternoon. But now 🤦‍♀️
 

AltonaAcres

Crowing
Jan 13, 2019
2,804
4,781
311
The way I see it, I would rather my birds die younger (because of free ranging) but live very happy, healthy lives than live forever in a small, crowded, boring secure run.
 

nao57

Songster
Mar 28, 2020
1,294
1,271
160
I think my losses had been cut by the fact that the backyard overall has a big fence all around all of it that is mostly (but not entirely) concealing (6 or 7 feet high).

I think it also helps to plan for losses. So say you want 5 chickens....because you know you will lose some you start with 8 instead, etc, counting on that you will maybe lose 2 or 3. Then when you lose 2 or 3 you aren't decimated. (Still sad but you can still have enough for your needs.)

I wish there would be more awareness about agriculture also. Like, most city ordinances and town regulations are completely Idiotized about unrealistic expectations about how much space is needed for poultry. Anyone should be able to have poultry in their backyard as long as they aren't bothering anyone or making noise. But the laws don't often reflect this. (I understand not wanting noise, and roosters.) Like some town laws want several acres for poultry, which is laughable because 1 cow needs 1 acre of pasture and a horse is similar. You could raise 5 or 6 sheep on an acre of pasture. People don't understand how small a space you can put chickens in.
 

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