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Still planning for chickens - free range?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by atobols, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. atobols

    atobols In the Brooder

    Aug 12, 2008
    We're trying to really plan everything out for next year. We will be building a coop and a run for 15-20 chickens. I have so many questions. [​IMG] We live on 8 acres in the country and our property is bordered by woods on 2 sides. The only fence we have is around the garden to keep the deer out. We also sit back about a 1/4 mile from the road. We would really like to free range. We have planted some trees, but the majority are less than 15' tall. We have a huge deck out back, a barn and one of those wooden playsets for the kids. Is that enough for chickens to take cover when the hawks and owls are out?

    We do travel a lot on weekends. The plan is to build a coop and run the chickens can be locked in for 2 or 3 days while we're away.
    Is there anything wrong with that plan?

    The current plan is to have 15-20 standard size layers. How many roosters should we have with that many hens? Or, do we even need to have roosters?

    While I'm at it, we're planning on getting buff orpintons, buckeyes, ameraucanas and buff brahmas. Any issues with those breeds that make them a bad fit for us?

    Any other advice or guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!

  2. heather112588

    heather112588 Songster

    Nov 12, 2010
    Baltimore, MD
    -I live in woods also. They tend to stay in one area and they will most likely be scared to go into the woods. Within 8 acres, they will find cover.
    - Hardwire cloth is a must, especailly living close to the woods...every creature out there loves a chicken dinner. I've had mostly problems with raccoons...look up what predators are around your area!
    - The current ratio is 7 hens per rooster. Hens do not need a rooster to give eggs. Personal advice: roosters have a bad rep so if you get a few, raise them from chicks.
    -Also, check local laws...some states prohibat the number allowed per area.
    - They eat anything...yes, i mean anything! its good that you already had your garden blocked off...i learned that the hard way but at least they enjoyed my lettace, grapes and strawberries. speaking of which, you can greatly cut down on chicken feed by giving them straps and letting them free range (it will take care of bugs too).
    -when free ranging, do not let them out before 8am and put them back around 6pm...foxes tend to hunt most at dusk and dawn.
    -As for breed, it depends on your location (temperature- some birds can handle cold and heat more), and what you want in them. for example, For meat or for eggs.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  3. FireTigeris

    FireTigeris Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

    Depends on how big this coop is, if it has an attached run, even undersized that is also predator proof you you leave them in it when you are away- or make a coop with an automatic door.

    I wouldn't want to be stuck with 15-20 people -one or two of them hormonal males that I'd have no escape from- in any sized building for 48+/- hours.
  4. FiveHens

    FiveHens Songster

    Apr 7, 2010
    If I were you, I would build a heavily fortified coop and a covered (w/ hardware cloth) run, big enough for the chickens to stay in all day long. This should be fairly large, especially with 15-20 chickens. I think the rule of thumb is 8 ft2 per chicken, in the run (120-160 ft2, for you). You can then use your discretion to let them free-range:
    During the day or
    When you are home or
    When you are specifically watching them

    Many predators, domestic or not, can get at your little chickies.

    Also, the standard is to get one rooster for every ~12 hens, to discourage fighting between roosters or over-breeding. Less is better, more is worse. So, if you want a rooster, I would say just one. Roosters will make your eggs fertile, and thus hatchable, and help protect your flock from predators. They will also (probably) harass the hens and possibly you. They are not necessary, in a flock.

    Good luck and have fun with your little chicks!!
  5. FiveHens

    FiveHens Songster

    Apr 7, 2010
    Sorry for the accidental over-posting!
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  6. FiveHens

    FiveHens Songster

    Apr 7, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  7. FiveHens

    FiveHens Songster

    Apr 7, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010

  8. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Of course ANY time you freerange, there's a chance you'll lose one or two. But I've noticed my little flock tends to stay close to the garage, cars, the cedar trees, ect. any time hawks are in the vicinity, so yours will most likely do the same with your barn, swingset, etc.
    If you know you'll be gone for long weekends occasionally, make your run strong, and make sure it's covered (even if it's just a wire ceiling/roof). Use sturdy welded wire (no chicken wire), with hardware cloth around the bottom 2-3 feet to prevent potential predators from reaching through the wire and grabbing a chicken head/neck. You'll want about 10 sq. ft. per bird for a run...so it'll be a decent sized run.

    Edited to add: Oh, and you don't NEED a rooster unless you're planning on hatching eggs.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Quote:1) Acreage more than adequate.
    2) Risk of crossing road minimal.
    3) Taller trees not better, especially in respect risks posed by hawks.
    4) Cover as described not suitable protection from hawks.
    5) Coop and run need to be hardened against more persistant predators such as racoons.
    6) Breeds all suitable although ameraucanas might be more able to evade diurnal ground predators.
    7) Setup as free range highly vulnerable to marauding dogs.
    8) Free range will require direct supervision or dog of you own.
    9) Neighbors reason for concern about roosters? Roosters not foolproof but can provide buffer between hens and hawks. Available cover can greatly influence value of roosters for that purpose. Another benefit I get from rooster is that crowing, especially at night indicates all is well.
    10) If you can dsign as such make roost in coop high (> 6 feet) such that racoons and oppossums that might defeat coop / run perimeter have more difficult time getting to roosting birds. Added elevation may also provide measure of protection from foxes and coyote in event gates left open.

    Think layers of protection and consider plantings that can provide birds with cover they can walk through and under.
  10. MikeyLikesIt

    MikeyLikesIt In the Brooder

    Oct 27, 2010
    I have done what you intend to do. I have 10 acres with a small pasture and the rest is heavily wooded. We travel so we built a covered pen large enough for the chickens to stay in for several days with access to plenty of food and water. I have an electric wire around the perimiter of the pen and coop about 5 in above the ground and 6 to 8 in outside the fence to deter diggers. The coop stays open to the pen so the chickens come and go as they please. So far it has worked great.

    During the day, when we aren't out of town, the chickens free range. We have the usual assortment of predators and as someone else stated, they all love chicken. We have an abundance if Redtail Hawks and I've seen them trying to snatch a chicken or two but as best I can tell they've been unsuccesful. (I lost several to owls before I made a new and improved coop/pen) My chickens will venture into the woods and will cluster under their favorite trees. I have placed some old wooden pallets on cinder blocks in a couple of places so the chickens can dash under them when threatened. I also have a utility trailer that I started leaving in the pasture for the same reason...the chickens love to congragate around and under it. Anything that the chickens can dash under will work. I cut down a tree the other day and the chickens were all over it like kids on a jungle jim at the park. I'm thinking I may just leave it...at least for a while.

    Anyway, if you free range then you should expect an occasional loss, though I've lost fewer during daylight hours than I expected. Almost all of my losses have come in darkness.

    Your idea is a good one...just make sure it is secure at night from owls and diggers, and covered so your chickens aren't 'sitting ducks' for the daytime dive bombers.


    Edited to add:
    I was fortunate to have an old barn on my place that I converted to a pen. I removed the tin on two sides so there is plenty of air and sun. The pen is covered with tin so the chicks can scratch bathe even when it's raining. We bag up oak leaves from our yard and the woods and when we travel, I'll dump several bags into the pen, leaving them in heaps. I then scatter some corn, peanuts, or some treat in the leaves. When we return, the pen has a nice fresh level layer of mulch and the chickens are happy as can be. And, I have never had an oder problem.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010

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