Unattended Free Range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sgrzybin, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. sgrzybin

    sgrzybin Out Of The Brooder

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    I have 19 hens and 2 roos. I work all week so I currently only let the chicks out on the weekends. I live somewhat secluded on 5 acres with on kind of close neighbor that has a dog. I want to let them out every day so that they get more of a natural diet instead of the non GMO grain that I throw out every night once they have gone in to roost. I need input and thoughts on whether or not the two roos will be able to protect the flock.
     
  2. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    If you turn them out, you have a very real risk of predation. The neighbor's dog, or some wild animal, everything likes chicken. You can try it, but you might get hit.

    I have had good luck with roosters, but not all roosters are the same. You need one that is at least a year old. When you come up to the coop, he needs to be the first one to see you. When you let them out, he needs to have his head up often, checking things out. I think roosters tend to be good against bird predators. Coyote, bobcats, coons, and dogs, not such good luck.

    Mrs K
     
  3. Teila

    Teila Bambrook Bantams Premium Member

    Hi there sgrzybin

    I do not have a lot of experience [any actually] with roosters but have read a great deal. I agree that they are probably not going to be of much assistance when it comes to the larger predators.

    However, I just wanted to add that after only allowing my gals to free range supervised, just this week I have had to make the decision that they can free range in the back yard unsupervised. I had to make this decision because after 3 years, they have decided that the run is not enough and they want Out all day; not just for a couple of hours in the afternoon and all day on weekends.

    I do work from home so at least I can race out if they raise the alarm but whether I am quick enough is yet to be seen. Also, the only real threat is aerial [they have lots of places to hide] and wandering neighbourhood dogs and cats [I have seen two wandering dogs in 6 years].

    What I am getting to is that it was a tough decision for me to make .. I am not happy about the severely increased risk of losing one of them but I can not increase the size of their run and made a quality of life decision.

    As Mrs. K has mentioned, it really comes down to whether you are prepared to take the risk but you will most likely lose some at some point.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I free-range at least a few birds year round. Roosters are also part of management system even now but appear effective only in controlling losses of young chickens to hawks. Protection of larger chickens, including those roosters first comes from fencing connected to a fence charger. Most medium to large (dogs and coyotes) predators repelled by the fencing. To top that off I have dogs which are expensive and can be a problem in their own right. I also use multiple perimeters, one inside of another, to protect those free-range birds and those in pens. Losses I experience are relatively light and I have a work schedule that allows rapid and appropriate responses needed to shut losses down. Having larger numbers of birds like you have free-range doable without the fence although in my experience it would require multiple active dogs and modifications to property designed to keep stock and guardians together. I tolerate low levels of loss and replace them from breeding my own stock. Based on description of your setup, you will at least periodically suffer catastrophic losses that will shut you down. My suggestion is to first invest on electrified poultry netting. Then make further adjustments as needed.

    Possibly employ a pop door to limit free-range to end of day during work week. May take longer for predator to catch birds but will do so eventually. When I do similar I check / count birds every night on roosts to detect potential for predator that might "nickle and dime" me to nothing before I otherwise make adjustments.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    On the MN prairie.
    As Sourland said in your duplicate post on the Predators and Pests section of the forum, your roosters will serve as an alarm system, maybe deter a smaller hawk, but will not be any help in fending off fox, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, or other larger predators.

    Free ranging has its risks.
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I said it much better here.
     
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    On the MN prairie.
    Of course you did. My point was, the question was adequately answered by the first reply in the other section of the forum. Just with fewer words.
     
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    A smart donkey is sometimes involved with predator management.
     
  9. Cacique500

    Cacique500 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Am I reading this correctly...that you throw out some grain at night for feed?

    Does this mean you don't have a feeder that they can get at during the day?
     
  10. sgrzybin

    sgrzybin Out Of The Brooder

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    completely unrelated, but the grain that I through out at night is more of a treat than feed. There are four feeders out at all times.
     

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