to free-range, or not to free-range...that is the question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Marlo, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. Free-range

    3 vote(s)
    60.0%
  2. Pen them up

    2 vote(s)
    40.0%
  1. Marlo

    Marlo Just Hatched

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    Even though I do have a run connected to my coop, I've been free-ranging my chickens and ducks since I got them last spring. Just last night I lost my 2nd chicken (I believe) to a hawk. Is this just a consequence of free-ranging... Should I pen them up in a run? My chickens love ranging about the farm, scouring the earth for what they can find...
    I feel like its a decision of keeping them safe, or keeping them happy.
     
  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

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    I think you hit the nail on the head, Marlo. I think it is an issue of what one considers acceptable risk - predators, over attainable reward - free ranging. I know some folks on BYC are firm in their belief that free ranging is just asking for trouble and is irresponsible. Others feel that, while yes there is risk, the quality of life for chickens that run around and eat seeds and weeds, and bugs makes for a happier life. I fall into the second camp but have full respect for those in the first. I attempt to strike a balance somewhere in the middle - mine don't free range unless I or someone is home - and they are checked on regularly. Our dogs stay outside (and just ignore the birds) and do a very effective job barking off predators. I won't lie and say I've never lost a free ranger - I have, several over the the years in fact. But I still feel my birds live a better existence than the ones that never leave the coop and run. Just my two cents. Best wishes.
     
  3. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

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  4. MasterOfClucker

    MasterOfClucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Chickens that Free range will be more healthier and more happier.I free range my chickens and if you provide enough Trees,Bushes they will probably not get killed by a hawk.Chickens will naturally stay by the Trees for protection.
     
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  5. Marlo

    Marlo Just Hatched

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    Thank you RedSox. I needed some affirmation. I feel they are healthy and happy free ranging, and truthfully that is all they currently know. Perhaps I need to get a guardian livestock dog to keep closer tabs on them. They do have plenty of hiding spots, and even access to the goat barn, where they do spend a lot of their time. It's just those open spaces they may run into going to check out the bird feeders and whatnot. The 2 dogs I have currently are indoors and not much in the way of protection. Actually, the goats are probably more protective.
    I will implement some more hiding spots and look into an outdoor dog. Thank you.
     
  6. Marlo

    Marlo Just Hatched

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    Feb 25, 2016
    I agree! Thank you.
     
  7. mizjones

    mizjones Out Of The Brooder

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    I love the concept of free range chickens. We have 2 acres here so it's doable, but the coyotes are out of control in South Carolina. We do have a huge, long, amazing run though :)
     
  8. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    X2 You also didn't say what breed you have. I've had many many breeds over the years. The hawks tend to stay away from the larger birds and go after the smaller ones or the juveniles. I've seen unsuccessful attempts on the smaller birds. Unfortunately recently a hawk got my smallest California grey by trapping her against the fence. My husband was nearby and went running but other than deprive the hawk of a meal he couldn't do anything. This was the first time I've lost a bird to a hawk in well over 15 years. (might be closer to 20)
    If we see a predator we keep the birds locked up for a bit or let a dog out. We have coops, covered runs and a large fence around everything so they are pretty safe. Every now and then something happens but I feel the quality of being able to be out and about and enjoy chicken things makes free ranging worthwhile.
     
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  9. MasterOfClucker

    MasterOfClucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a whole bunch of breeds(Not worth saying all of them).I see hawks around my chickens coop everyday they have yet to kill any.....Knock on wood.All of my chickens would be dead if i didn't have my rooster.The only reason i free range is because my Rooster does a great job.
     
  10. Marlo

    Marlo Just Hatched

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    Yep, both chickens taken by the hawk were bantams. My only two bantams, first the rooster, then the hen. I will stay away from the smaller breeds moving forward. Thanks!
     

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