This is my first 'Spring' with chickens....need advice


In the Brooder
8 Years
Jan 27, 2011
So, I was walking out to the coop the other day and saw coon prints all around in the snow. That got me thinking....should I hold off free-ranging my girls until summer to give the predators time to feed on other wild animals and not be so excited to go after my girls. The girls started free-ranging last summer, about mid-July and I did not lose one to predation. About a month ago, we had a beautiful sunny day warm (30 degrees) day so I let the girls out to exercise only to have one attacked and killed by a hawk. It's been a really snowy, cold winter so I am concerned. Any advice? I'm thinking about getting a Great Pyrenees to hang with the girls while they free-range and I am at work. I also have mini-horses and would welcome the GP's presence to protect them from Coyotes and Coy Dogs. What does everyone think?

some of my girls:
yes.....about 2 ft above ground and a foot below. The picture is showing a 'dividing' wall to keep the chickens out of the rabbit run. The outer run has the hardware cloth. But the chickens just leave the enclosure and free-range on my 24 acres. They do a huge circle starting at the coop towards the cow/horse pens, around the house into the forest, and then into my pasture. They only come to the coop in the heat of the day to take a nap. Otherwise, they come back just before dusk. I hate to keep them in the pen because they eat the grass down to nubs even with free-ranging all over the property. Their pen is about 20 x 20. I currently have 15 chickens.
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I only free range my hens when I am home and the dogs are out to protect them and yes, I agree that the first sign of good weather every predator will be out and very hungury, so be extra careful. I have a fenced in yard like yours and have been told that only keeps the chickens in, anything else can clime up the wire fence and over the top to a bunch of penned in delights! sorry, needs a secure cover to be really safe.
If you get an LGD like a Great Pyr you will not worry about predators. We have a Maremma and have never lost a bird while he has been around. Make sure you have a good fence situation though as these dogs will roam to increase their territory, hence the phrase Great dissa-Pyr. Another way to protect from hawks is to increase the area where the chickens can run to and hide under. Our yard has plenty of shrubbery for when the chickens are just laying around. Wild rose and raspberry bushes are great because they are fast growers and make great places for the chickens to hang out underneath away from the eyes in the sky.
I think you need to put a hot wire around your 'yard'
the coons etc can just climb the wood posts and hop over
also, provide cover for hawks
either cover the whole thing with poulty netting or provide places to duck under for cover
good luck
thanks everyone! All good advice. I have never heard of the Great DisaPyr, but that's good to know too. I am definitely thinking about some type of netting on top for when I'm at work. I can't wait until Spring. I'm a bit tired of the minus degree temps right now.
We have red-tailed hawks that can be an issue here, so I have to be careful in the spring, until the leaves are out on the trees and shrubs. We have to be more careful when they are migrating through, too, especially in the fall.

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