Our ancestors, who we think that we are emulating by keeping chickens, typically had 6 to 15 children around the house all day to look out for danger, no one was distracted by the PC, the TV, or went anywhere but to work in the field, but more importantly food was so dear that if any varmint came into your yard looking to steal one of your chickens, it wasn't your hens who were in mortal danger it was the varmint that was likely to regret disturbing your hens' siesta. That is the level of vigilance that is demanded when keeping free range chickens successfully. I don't think that Massachusetts residents are even allowed to trap problem wildlife anymore.What are your experiences? Predators, containing flock, behaviors, food, health, everything! We have tons of coyotes(they are actually wolf-coyote hybrids) raccoons, minks, hawks, fishers, etc.
I'm SO guilty of 'helicopter ranging' ....way too many predators around our house to free range without worry. But then again...I'm the lady who is planning on hanging valances in my dream coop that my ever-so-gracious husband is building for meI don't free range. I do what I call "Helicopter Ranging". That is to say I pick weeds, herbs, edible flowers, especially choice items from the compost, etc. and throw them in the covered run where my sweet babies are coddled and never exposed to danger.
HOWEVER, when we get 5 new chicks in June it's going to be tighter quarters than the 3 hens have had to that point. So I will need to let them out to the chicken yard around their coop & run that has a 5' high chainlink fence and would more than double their run space when I'm nearby in the yard gardening. Before that time comes, tho, I am going to need to train them to get back into the run when I'm not outside regardless of how much sunlight there may still be.
At present it's pretty ridiculous for me to chase 3 inside. Of course that happens one at a time and once the first one is in I can't leave the door open for the next 2. So we play quite a game of Red Rover, Red Rover before I can go inside or make an appointment.
We have a bonanza of predators here: coyotes, neighborhood dogs & cats, owls, hawks, rats, raccoons and possums. I wouldn't risk them not having someone nearby to run cover for them.
We're so yuppy my spoiled chickens and I. ::sigh::