To free range or to not free range? That is the question

To free range or to not free range?

  • Free range

  • Don’t free range


Results are only viewable after voting.

chickengeorgeto

Crowing
7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
8,048
4,090
431
Big Bend of the Tennessee River's Right Bank.
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.
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.
 

IamRainey

Crowing
I 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::
 

jdw

Chirping
8 Years
Jun 8, 2011
30
9
84
We are in Northeast Ct. We have the predators issues you speak of winged , four legged. we Free range on a 2 acre pasture. Just recently we started with electric Poultry netting. We have a couple dozen egg layers and pasture raise meat chickens, duck,and turkeys. i f you free range you will eventually loose a bird or 2. Every things got to eat thats just part of it. I'm guessing you're on the Cape by the way you describe your coyotes . Being they are so bold and have little fear of humans there i would suggest maybe not. We have greater predation from raccoons and red tail hawks than anything else. the netting is a viable option and is supposed to work well for our 4 legged friends. we practice predator control but honestly you are bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon. my 2 cents
 

HenHouse4Life

GrandmaOnDuty
Mar 22, 2016
1,371
3,849
332
Mid Michigan
I 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::
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 me :yesss:
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,771
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
I use a holistic approach that takes advantage of natural chicken behavior. My flock is closed as in all breeding is done here. I have sufficient land to support my flock with only supplemental feeding with incomplete feeds, but only use that approach with part of flock. Some birds are always penned up, in part to serve as backups in the event free-range birds are lost. Penned birds are also in multiple pens that are tougher than typical coops. Cover patches, feeding stations and quality foraging areas are centered on area where roosting and nesting is done. All birds roost up and nest up in locations that are not super easy for critters like raccoons to reach. Electrified fencing is used with multiple perimeters and even pens are electrified. I use multiple dogs as well. My dogs are not big enough to handle wolf-coyote hybrids. but I would make switch pretty quick to dogs that are big enough.

Keeping chickens free-range without any other kind of animal husbandry going at the same time is expensive by all measures excepting feed, and feed gets costly if lots of birds are lost. If you are also keeping other types of stock like diversified farms used to, then keeping chickens free-range becomes much more cost effective. Even with all that taken into account, it is just an expensive hobby. Horses do cost more from experience, but you do not have to worry about critters eating them all the time.
 

Erin80

Songster
Apr 16, 2017
438
283
151
Our neighbour two houses up (which is a good distance away!) now has an annoying 8 month old dog who they let run free and refuse to tie up....so he often comes around. If my chickens range this spring/summer/fall, it will be for maybe an hour before dusk and only when I’m outside the whole time. Otherwise, helicopter free range here from now on!
 
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