Thank goodness for instincts!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jenkassai, Jul 30, 2011.

  1. jenkassai

    jenkassai Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 28, 2011
    My chicks are now outside in their temporary home while we work on their coop. The plan is to keep them in their yard while we are at work and free-range them when we get home. Their temporary home is inside a small pen which is inside their humongous yard. Their temporary home is an extra large dogloo with a door made out of a wire dog crate divider covered with hardware cloth. Both the pen and the yard are covered and have hardware cloth around the outside of them. I feel like they are pretty secure in there.

    Anyways, yesterday morning I opened their house but kept them in the small yard since it was supposed to thunderstorm and at least there is a canopy over the small pen. When I went out later to turn them into the big yard, they were all lined up at the gate waiting to be turned loose, but RIGHT THEN a hawk swooped nearby!!! [​IMG] They scurried under the dogloo and stayed there [​IMG] The hawk can't get into their yard, but it startled me too, and I was relieved their instincts seemed good. They stayed under there for a loooong time, and even with the gate to their small pen open, they stayed in there. Finally later in the day they would venture into the big yard, but stayed close to the small pen. That hawk gave me second thoughts about free-ranging!! We have lived here for about a year and have never seen it before. Hubby saw it the week before we put the chickens outside. It seems like there are lots of overgrown areas they can scurry to if they would be out ranging, I just worry!!
     
  2. Stacykins

    Stacykins Overrun With Chickens

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    Mine free range, and even though no birds of prey have threatened my chickens (they stick to the fields and take care of rodents), any bird overhead from a crow to a swallow have mine running for the cover of their covered run and chicken coop.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    If you free range, you have to be willing to accept that you might have losses. A lot of times, it is not from the predator you might expect. I've had two losses in three years and I am out in the country with overgrown brushy/woody areas and a stock pond nearby and a lot of pasture around. You'd think it would be predator heaven. I've trapped a couple of raccoons that were messing around in the feed, we've seen foxes around, and I see plenty of big hawks every day. Yet we have only had two losses in three years. Neither were to hawks.

    I'm not happy about any losses but I will accept a few to let them free range. Some people have higher rates of loss and some people have fewer losses. I can't tell you what will happen with yours or how high the risk is, but I can tell you that there are risks. And I can tell you they really enjoy chasing grasshoppers.
     
  4. jenkassai

    jenkassai Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I guess my gut feeling is that once they are big, I will try it and see what happens! The yard is definitely big enough I think to keep them happy if they don't free range, but I like the idea of letting them free range. We have seen one raccoon and that is it as far as other critters, although I had no doubt that once the chickens were outside we might be seeing more wildlife. To be honest I worried more about my dogs (Akitas) trying to get the chickens than anything else, but the dogs are not allowed to roam, they have their fenced yards and the chickens have their yard outside the fenced dog yard, although they do "share" a wall, the shared fence does have hardware cloth at the bottom and the dogs are not left out for long periods unsupervised. My hopes are that once the dogs are used to seeing the chickens they will eventually ignore them. Some are getting better already. I worried that the chickens would have heart attacks when a dog charged the fence, but they were fine and seemed to have figured out that the dogs can't get them through the fence. When a dog is loose in the yard they just stay away from that side of their yard. I also hope that if I walk the dogs frequently around where the chickens will be free ranging, that might help to deter some predators?

    What predator did you lose your chickens to?

    Another question regarding free ranging, do you / are you supposed to set up watering stations somewhere other than in their run? Or the one in the run is good, just leave the run open so they have access to it?
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    What predator did you lose your chickens to?

    Pretty sure one was a fox. The other was probably a neighbor's pup that also liked to chase horses and cows. The neighbor took care of the dog.

    Another question regarding free ranging, do you / are you supposed to set up watering stations somewhere other than in their run? Or the one in the run is good, just leave the run open so they have access to it?

    It never hurts to give them good access to water, especially if you are having the heat many of us are right now. I have a broody with young chicks roaming around and a bunch of 10 week old chicks, so I set up different watering stations to keep the 10 week olds away from the adults. But normally I have just one waterer in the run. I do secure my gate open so he wind does not blow it shut and block them from the water.
     
  6. chi-rn

    chi-rn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Another idea to completely closing them out of the fun is to free-range only when you are outside. I have a very large outdoor run, but the girls STILL look forward to their "evenings out". They get to run about on our almost 4 acres for about an hour every evening for about an hour. They follow me everywhere as I turn over rocks & lift up planters... there's a wealth of crickets under these! Then, they're on there own while I work in the yard a bit... but they stick close in case I call "cricket"... they want to be the 1st there. The advantage is they come back to the coop at roosting time with little effort. I've heard getting a rooster provides an extra layer of protection against overhead predators, as they sound an alert that sends the girls running for cover. I don't have a rooster yet... but, I've been thinking.
     

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