Thinking of Free Ranging Chickens - Hawk , Flight & Automatic Door Question

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Derby18, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. Derby18

    Derby18 New Egg

    Feb 25, 2013
    I am new to chickens and I'm debating free ranging. I was talking with a local chicken guy who said my birds will be too big for hawks when they are mature (BCMs should mature about 7lbs).

    He also said they wouldn't be inclined to fly over my 6 foot fence into the neighbors yard (not the end of the world if they go over on occasion), he said my yard is much more interesting to the chickens than the mowed yard next door (they have about 1/4 acre fenced). I could clip wings I suppose if it got to be a problem.

    If I do free range in the winter I will need an door on the coop that will shut automatically because I get home after dark and want them in a coop after dark away from night time predators. Any suggestions.

    I am willing to accept "some risk" with free ranging but don't want my birds wiped out. Thank you so much!!

  2. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    If there is plenty to keep them interested in your yard then I highly doubt they'll make the effort to get over a 6' fence. Mine stay in my 3/4 acre pasture behind a 48" fence with no trouble.

    As far as the dangers of free ranging....if you have a large flock it's easier to deal with the occasional loss when it happens. Although when coyotes or foxes discover a flock they tend to return until the food source is depleted. A small free ranging flock can easily be wiped out by roaming dogs in minutes. Especially if they are free ranging when you are not home. That is the very reason I cannot free range at all, I would be chickenless in no time. I let mine semi-free range in a securely fenced pasture complete with hot wire and this satisfies their desire to forage.

    I know a lot of people use and love automatic doors.... I don't. My birds often go to roost when they are supposed to but other times they stay out until nearly dark and I have to go herd them in. For me there is potential for some of my silly birds to get locked out which means I have to go check anyway so for me it negates the whole purpose.
    2 people like this.
  3. bryan99705

    bryan99705 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I don't believe flying over the fence will be a problem but you need to be sure they won't simply walk thru it, chickens usually get heavier than their wings can support so hopping up with a flap is about maximum range for them. As for flying predators, our issue here is ravens attacking the young birds. I use a chain link dog kennel attached to the coop in the spring with fruit tree netting over it till the birds grow big enough plus a adult rooster to watch over them. (It's kinda fun to watch the ravens walk around it looking for holes)
    Later in the spring when the birds are big the ravens cease to be a issue, I drag a couple downed trees into the pasture, in a different spots, so the birds have close cover to run to from the eagles and hawks.
    I've never used a automatic door on the coop since the birds put themselves away and like to hop perches to get as high as possible
    1 person likes this.
  4. gallusdomesticus

    gallusdomesticus Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2008
    Lynn Haven, FL
    There is no such thing as a chicken being too big for a hawk. I've lost a 7lb hen to a small cooper's hawk. The hawk doesn't have to carry the bird away, it just severs its spine and starts eating. I've seen some chickens 'freeze' in the open at the approach of a hawk and not run away. Bottom line is if you are going to let them free range unsupervised, you will eventually lose some to predators or dogs. I keep mine in a large run covered with steel wire and let them out in the evening when I come home for work to run around free range or on the weekend when I'm working in the back yard or can keep a close eye on them. While I would like for them to free range all day, I value their lives more.
    1 person likes this.
  5. Derby18

    Derby18 New Egg

    Feb 25, 2013
    Thanks, rather than an automatic door I might try keeping them in their run on days when I get home after dark in the winter. My plan is for a small flock, foxes if they will go for them during the day might be an issue, people in my area are really good about not letting dogs free roam plus I have livestock fencing they would need to negotiate (a fox could get on the property from the open space behind me). I have lots of ravens and crows but I have no intention of letting the chickens roam outside of their run until they are full grown I am making a portable run to move around for them.

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