Starting over - no more ranging

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jolenesdad, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

    Apr 12, 2015
    Montgomery, TX
    Sorry for the long post... here’s the cut to the chase... lost too many birds in a couple days to predators and I’m LOST, please offer advice for me going from free-ranging to fully-enclosed chicken keeping. (Any advice appreciated, I’m relearning from the ground up. Specific questions at the bottom of my rambling post)


    I’m pretty devastated, and trying to pour into research, as last Thursday I lost my two sweetest birds and today lost my other most docile to an as-of-yet unidentified predator. She was gone when I got home and I found a large pile of feathers. We thought hawks but are not sure. What we know is they’re not going away right now and I can’t leave my birds to fend for themselves. I have to enclose them for now.

    I tend to ramble, I’ll try and keep it brief. My entire chicken keeping history for the last few years has been entirely based upon free ranging my birds from sun up to sun down. All the education I’ve absorbed has been based on this and I feel like I’m starting over tomorrow building an enclosure to keep my birds in permanently. I don’t have a ton of current options. I’m loopholed into having chickens in the first place and I can’t get approval in my neighborhood to build an actual run so I need to come up with temporary solutions until I can build a large chicken paradise at our new property that may take a year or a little more to get to.

    (Be brief!) I have 3 surviving laying hens, 1 maybe-permanently-disabled survivor, and NINE five week old chicks I was about to integrate. That’s 12 birds I need space for, I’ll continue to plan on a separate enclosure for the currently-hopefully-not-permanently disabled gal.

    I’ve got a mini-barn where the chickens currently are that has a wash stall we hardly use down here. That’s 12x12x10 feet tall. It’s made of cement block. Tomorrow we will build a frame for the top and front with hardware cloth. It has a roof and large overhang over the entire structure but they’ll get afternoon sun dappled through many trees. I will read and search and research all that I need to completely relearn but I have a few pressing questions I’d like help for right now.

    1. Do chickens NEED an enclosed coop if the entire enclosure is predator proof? Like can they just roost inside this entire space wherever they choose on the multiple options or do they need an enclosed space at night to be fully comfortable?
    2. This is 144 square feet, 12 feet of floor space per bird and many options for what we can create inside for additional levels and space. I’ve never paid attention to exact run/enclosure needs before so how realistic is this to keep this number of birds enclosed permanently? Can I create levels that add to square footage or do those not count? They will get out an average of an hour or so a day, maybe 2, as long as they’re not getting picked off in front of our eyes. Plus there will be days they don’t get out because we can’t be there, so I want to plan for that.
    3. Here are the breeds I’m concerned about making the transition to this mostly enclosed existence. Any advice? I’ll want to rehome them before any big problems for them or others, and want to be looking out for the signs. Is an hour or so of outdoor time enough with only 12 square feet of floor space?
    • golden campine
    • White Legbar
    • Legbar/Andalusian hybrid
    • Partridge Penedesenca

    Thank you to anyone who made it this far in my post, any advice appreciated, oh so much. :(:(:(
  2. Chelsa'sChicks

    Chelsa'sChicks Songster

    Aug 16, 2017
    Before my chickens were cooped they all found their own spot in the barn to roost at. It was NOT 100% predator proof, but my chickens are mildly brilliant (says me) because they roost in the rafters 30-35ft up and in the middle of the barn. So no I don't think they need to be enclosed completely.

    A picture would help to visualize what your looking at.. what kind of predators do you have? What attacked them before.

    I don't know that 1 hour is honestly enough. In my area with my predators I have used things like 1) when the weather is terrible/rainy I let them out. My chickens love looking for bugs in the rain. Yes, its a risk that predators will still hunt in the rain, but I have never seen one in my area because the storms/rain are usually too much. 2) when you need to go to the store, try playing a talk radio station. I did this when I was going to be gone for a few hours and my birds learned all about taxes lol. I highly advise you do not use this all the time and only when needed so you don't accidentally educate a fox or coyote that your not there - even though they hear human voices. 3) If you have a dog take your dog potty around that area... Just a few things I have tried and found worked for me and my birds. 4) Putting a baby monitor in the coop so you can hear if there is a disturbance then run down and take care of it. 5) Putting a game/trail camera in your coop or fenced area. I have one facing around my fence so I can see what lovely critters are coming around at night or showing interest in my birds.. then I prepare to "handle" them or use preventative measures specific to that animal.

    Good Luck - not sure if I helped, but I hope you get something useful from it! :)
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
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  3. Morgsgirl

    Morgsgirl In the Brooder

    Jul 29, 2017
    What you're doing is similar to the way we keep our flock. We have 6 black sex link hens in about a 10 x 20 hoop (pvc and hardware cloth) run with a smaller enclosed coop inside that for roosting and laying. We do lock them up in the small coop at night. It's one of those TSC ones that we modified a bit. They get to free range supervised for a couple of hours every evening until dusk when they troop back in to roost. We take thier food inside at night. You might need more space. I'm pretty sure someone who knows more about space requirements will chime in soon. It's doable.
    I'm so sorry for your losses.
  4. PirateGirl

    PirateGirl Chicken Lover, Duck Therapist

    Mar 11, 2017
    South Park, Colorado, USA
    Some things to think about with your enclosure. I do not think you need to have a "coop" within it necessarily as long as their needs are met.

    Shelter from the elements. This includes a place out of the rain/snow as well as out of the wind. Make sure their roost spots are draft free, especially the highest spot because it will likely be the favorite.

    Your young chicks don't know too much about the world and should adapt quickly.

    I'd also make some enclosed nest boxes of some sort, they like to feel safe while laying and like a dark spot. Your survivors may take some time before they lay between the shock of the incident and the transition to new housing.

    If the floor is cement or wood they will need some sort of dust bath.

    Post pictures of their new spot once you work on it some and we can give more feedback.

    My sister in law lost all but 3 to a predator. Now one sleeps with the dog on the covered porch every night by choice. They are smart, they know when they have a safe spot, but losing their flock does affect them.
  5. KikiLeigh02

    KikiLeigh02 Free Ranging

    May 11, 2018
    Western Kentucky
    So you have a secure coop now, just not a run, correct? Would electric poultry netting be an option? Our coop is attached to a secure run and is only enclosed on 3 sides. It's part of a larger building and only one wall is external. We have the option to enclose it temporarily as needed during the winter.
    DobieLover, Raenh, EggWalrus and 4 others like this.
  6. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    I have a barn but all of my birds have coops. I have heavy duty netting over my pens which are good size. Most are 20 ft x 60 ft so the total pens are 200 ft x 60 ft. I have electric wire around my coops and pens and concrete under the gates. All was done because of past predators. The netting for owls that were killing birds in some open coops I have and a coyote that jumped a fence and killed some birds, concrete from a fox that dug under a gate and killed some birds and electric wire around the pens and coops due to a bobcat that dug under a fence. Since I have done these things I haven't lost a bird to a predator and I see a lot of predators on my game cameras that I have in different places on my property. Here most of the predators come out at night because it's still hot here during the day so they come out at night.
    DSCF0001910 02.jpg
  7. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    Most predators that have killed will be back for another try, that is why I originally got my game cameras so I could find out what I was dealing with.
    DobieLover, EggWalrus and jolenesdad like this.
  8. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    My property is mostly open pasture there are a couple of shade trees but years ago I planted trees in all of the pens so the birds actually would rather be in the shade in their pens when I do let them out. I do let them out sometimes if I'm out working on or around the coops and pens.
    DobieLover, EggWalrus and jolenesdad like this.
  9. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

    Apr 12, 2015
    Montgomery, TX
    Tomorrow morning I will get photos of the setup I have to make it more clear.

    I’ve got a barn inside of a horse paddock that is 1/3 acre fenced with horse fencing anti climb wire. Some of the chickens will just jump it but for the most part they stay in the paddocks. There are two paddocks one with many many trees and the other is open. They usually stay in the open but when they get out they end up getting trapped by the fence. Predators have always grabbed them at the fence because they can’t get under it and the bird is stuck. :-(

    The wash stall is the dark area(there are lights). Completely under roof and there’s a 15 foot wide overhang as well. All concrete. I could extend it out past the front of the wash stall if I need more space, and still have the benefit of the roof. Thinking I’ll essentially build a hardware cloth box that covers the open top of the wash stall and the front, maybe extend it out further? This is the only photo I have tonight. Thank you!!!

  10. Perris

    Perris Songster

    Jan 28, 2018
    Gower, Wales
    so sorry for your losses :hugs
    (but can't advise on fortifying your coop as a neighbour shot our predator and I've stuck with free ranging).
    DobieLover, steve232 and EggWalrus like this.

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