To Free Range or Not

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by ramac, Jun 29, 2016.

  1. ramac

    ramac Hatching

    Feb 11, 2016
    I had an orpington, one of four hens that was brooding. With no rooster it was sad. I ended up getting chicks and she stopped. I got too many but that is a question for another day. They are cute and growing quickly. Soon I will have to decide to let these join the adult hens as free range or keep them in a pen? I know I shouldn't worry so much and after all they are just chickens, but I do. I find myself going out several times a day and calling them. Sometimes they respond and I give them a little canned corn that they love but sometimes they don't. So then I spend time walking the property looking for them. I think how much more I will be if I add eight more to this. I try to balance that with, "are they happier as free range"? Any advice appreciated>

  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member 9 Years

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    I feel that they are happier free range, but there is always the possibility of loss. It's more a reality of 'when' rather than 'if' a predator will take advantage of the situation.
  3. crash0330

    crash0330 Songster

    Mar 11, 2010
    Mecca, CA
    My Coop
    Do you live in an area with known predators?
  4. The birds are always happier when they are allowed to free range and explore.

    But as both previous posts have mentioned, it does not come without risks. Predators abound, so you will need to take precautions to ensure the safety and security of your flock.

  5. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging 8 Years

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Why not build a run to secure the flock when you're worried predators are active? It does a lot for peace of mind, and you still have the option of letting them out to free-range when you feel you're going to be around to keep an eye out.

    That is how I manage my flock. My chicks grow up along side the adults and are mingling with them from three weeks on. When I open the run so the flock can go out and free-range, the chicks have that option also, but they generally stick pretty close to the run and cover for the first several weeks.

    People are always so worried they can't get the chickens back into the run when they need to round them up. It's so easy that anyone can teach their chickens to come when called, you'll think I'm pulling your leg. All it takes is feeding treats to your chickens from a container that you use every time so it becomes familiar to them. Using a verbal cue along with this visual cue, and it's just a matter of minutes and you will have chickens who are trained to come running when you call them or shake the container.
    1 person likes this.
  6. realsis

    realsis Crazy for Silkies

    Jan 17, 2013
    Have you had preditor loss from free range in the past? Have you seen potential preditors on your property? Have you seen hawks above or on your property? If you answer yes to ANY of these questions, your birds are safer in a enclosed and secure run. I would love to free range my flock of 11. The reasons why i dont are that im in the direct flight path of several species of hawks. Also on my property ive seen, possums,cats,skunks,and raccoons. What i did was build a nice large house and connect it to a nice size run. I want to expand in the future. The door for the birds is lifted in the morning and goes directly to the run. They spend the day digging in the dirt of the run and going in and out of their house. The back of the chickens house has a regular size door i can enter the house from to clean it properly and check the girls. The front of the run has the door where i can also enter the run and play with the girls. I feel much safer for my girls keeping them enclosed as i am CERTAIN if they were freerange i would loose them all in no time. You can get creative and make a nice connected area for your girls to be safe of preditors and happy and healthy. My girls are part of my family and i love them and want to keep them safe. Each one has a special personality of their own and i would hate for a preditor to get them.if you want your flock to be safe and you have seen preditors on your property i would absolutely build a enclosure for them. Hope this helps and best wishes
  7. ramac

    ramac Hatching

    Feb 11, 2016
    Since I lost the two hen about two months ago, I guess you could say I went to war. A neighbor told me there were bobcats in the area. Another said foxes. I caught and released two raccoons to a wildlife refuge. I euthanized two Possums, one raccoon, and one snake. In the game camera I see no less than one raccoon per night. I have seen the rare possum and deer but I have yet to see a bobcat or fox.

  8. Donna R Raybon

    Donna R Raybon Chirping

    Apr 13, 2016
    Mine free range once they are adult. We have no close neighbors, half our two acres is fenced. There are open hay fields surrounding us. Lots of bushes and trees for birds to hide and a grown up fence row. Also throughout yard there are several vehicles, trailers,they can hide under. And, more important than any thing else a LGD named George who is worth his weight in gold.

  9. Here's a post that I made, from page 58 of My Coop Project thread:

    Protecting the Flock

    I know that I have posted about using cage traps to catch predators, but for the life of me...I cannot find it. So here it is again.


    I live in town. This is what I use to catch any culprits that might want to make a meal out of my chickens. The trap opening is 13 inches X 13 inches, and 36 inches in length. Once the predator steps on the treadle, the door closes and your predator problems are solved. Any one that keeps chickens should have at least a pair of these for quick use when predators stalk our birds. These traps are solid, well built and will last you for many years.

    Stay away from the Havahart brand traps, unless you're after squirrels, Havaharts are cheaply made and use sheet metal, the springs that lock the trap are weak. I've had animals push out of a Havahart Trap. If a predator forces out of a Havahart trap once, the trap is ruined.

    For most predators bait it with a tin of soft cat food food and set it each night. One time I had a squirrel problem, so I baited it with a mix of peanuts and corn, caught a lot of birds, but after a few days no squirrels. You will probably not want to leave it set during the day, all you'll catch is a bunch of chickens; trust me.

    You'll need to stake it so it cannot be turned over, if the trap rolls over the washers will slide and the trap door will open. If the predator escapes, they just got a free education as to what to avoid in the future.

    It works great for squirrels, weasels, mink, feral cats, small dogs, dumb foxes with a lower I.Q., and raccoons; basically most of the animals that want to make a meal out of our birds.

    For cautious predators like foxes, the trap has to be perfectly bedded, no wobble at all or a fox will not enter the trap. The trap needs to be well weathered, just leave them outside and nature will do a great job. When handling the trap, always wear gloves, try not to touch the trap with bare hands.

    Cautious predators are very challenging to stop from killing chickens.

    Most foxes that become chicken killers are the young of the year that are just learning to hunt and provide for themselves. Chickens are an easy prey item for young foxes...

    Here Is my recipe:
    1 tin of sardines
    2 cups of vegetable oil

    Mix the sardines and vegetable oil in a blender until puraid completely. Then in a 5 gallon bucket mix the slurry thoroughly with about 10 pounds of dry dog food.

    This makes a very good bait for most any predator that feeds on chickens.

    If you are having trouble catching the predator that is being overly cautious, and there are no malfunctions of the trap itself, wire the trap open so that it cannot trigger and let the target animal hit the trap each night for about a week. Check the trap each day to ensure that the predator is visiting the cage trap, re-bait as needed.

    After week, remove the wire and ensure that the trap is properly set. If the predator is hitting the trap regularly, you should have your chicken killer the next morning.

    This approach works great for even those very cautious predators like foxes.

    I ordered all my cage traps years ago from a guy called, Trapper Art's. But I think someone else has bought out his business...shame, Art was a great guy to do business with. I wanted a couple cage traps. He sent me two different models. After trying both for a season, I sent one back and bought all he had of the's the one that I still use to this day. It realy is a great trap.

    The closest thing I could find are these:

    Get the heavy duty ones at the bottom of the page.

    30" x 12" x 12" is the size I use. I have a couple 36" x 13" x 13", those are hard to find anymore, those are the ones I started out with. Again a great trap.

    Duke makes a good product. Bridger is another good brand, but I don't know if they still make cage traps.

    If you are good at welding and fabrication, order one in and copy copy copy....

    When I get into a lot of raccoon, they seem to be family units, all traveling together. They are creatures of habit, and they actually make roads as they go about their nightly routines.

    When I find that I'm dealing with a lot of raccoons...just gang set. Setup four or five locations along their travel routes. If you are using cage traps, wire them open and bait them for a couple nights....once they are hitting every night you know that they are racing each other to get to the free food. Then unwire and set the traps, and they should all be full for the next couple nights. I had one place where all the sets were within a 20 ft line right along their the end of a week, I had 15 raccoons, then nothing. A month later, I got another call, and pulled out 5 more.

    Once there are no more catches for a few nights, check very carefully for sign. If there is no fresh sign..then your job is done.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
    1 person likes this.

  10. SueT

    SueT Crowing

    May 27, 2015
    SW MO
    Youngsters that are not raised by mama hen will not have her protection/guidance when free ranging. I'm letting my brooder raised chicks get pretty big before I let them range with the hens.
    There are threads on free ranging. Chock full of advice from those that have been there done that. This one, has over 250 pages.

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