Unfenced yard in the boonies?


In the Brooder
9 Years
Jun 2, 2010
Duvall, WA
I'm just wondering how safe it would be to let the chickens out of their run during the day in a completely fence-free area. We have acreage but we do have predators out here (coyotes and neighbor dogs for sure). I love the idea of them wandering all over the yard but I'm just not sure how realistically safe it is. I'm a TOTAL newbie too so any advice is helpful! They aren't out in the coop yet, they're still youngins.
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Mine roam free during the day and we have foxes, fishers, coyotes and a couple random dogs around. I've never had a problem with anything during the day...but make sure they're locked up tight in a predator-proof coop overnight. We had racoons ransack our 1 yr olds and lost all but 1 hen in one night....and that was just racoons!!
Personally I would only let them out when somebody is at home able to hear stuff and help when needed. There are hawks that took by friends bird last year durring the day (In Woodinville). I don't have a fenced in yard but got the temporary fencing roll from hd and gave them a big chunk to wander.
I think you will find that if you have unfenced chickens, you will eventually have dead chickens. Coyotes, foxes, hawks, coons, skunks, possums- they will all eventually find your free meals, and once they do, they will keep coming back for more.

If you know you have predators, give your flock a shot at life, and put up some kind of barrier. If you are outside with them the whole time, and can catch them, or call them in, free ranging could still work for you. You also might want to consider a guard dog, or other large 'guard' animal, maybe a lama? I havent had a predator get any of my flock while they freerange in our 1 acre pasture, but it has a decent fence (not completely predator proof though)

Nothing sucks worse than raising your flock for any lenght of time, and then having them all wiped out in one attack. So, be prepared for loses if you dont fence at all.
Mine are out from dawn to dusk. I haven't had any problems but hawks are the biggest worry during the day around here. Your neighborhood dogs could become your biggest issue though. Good luck!
If they are unprotected, something will go after them at some time.

We have 52 acres that is fenced on 3 sides with wire that has small squares at the bottom gradually getting bigger toward the top and a row of barbed wire at the top. The 4th side is water; a saltwater bay. I'm raising some babies to keep at home and the rest of my babies will join the black sex links at this property. We lost one of the sex links a few weeks ago to an aligator (the little idiot kept running and playing in the pond). They go in a very secure coop at night. The fence helps, but it is not predator proof. If the neighbors dogs want in, all they have to do is walk in the water around the fence to get to our property. I know that they can't be completely safe there but...

I really think that the chickens out there are very healthy and happy. I know that many breeds do fine confined, but I do care about the quality of life of my pets. I would rather them live a full life chasing bugs, scratching and bathing in the dirt and yes, even playing in the water if thats what they like. We make a reasonable effort to keep them safe but life is a balance of all things, chickens included.

What I guess I'm trying to tell you is; as long as you can stand to lose some chickens because you want them to have a happy, unconfined life then by all means, let them free range. At some point in your lifetime, your chickens will become a 'tragedy' by dieing or being killed. That is pretty much a given. Its your decision how they (and you) live life.
Mine too. Out all day, locked up safe at night. They even have enough sense to stick to the low brush during the hawk times. Good rooster comes in real handy too. He can't fight off the bigger predators, but he can warn the girls and give them time to skidaddle.
I wouldn't do it without some real vigilant LGDs running with your flock. You are asking for trouble otherwise. It may not happen today or even tomorrow....but soon the predators that hunt during the day will find your flock. Foxes are prime examples...can snatch a bird before you even know what happened.

Good dogs are a great deterrent~even for neighborhood dogs. Mine would never allow a strange dog in the yard without serious blood and guts flying.
I think noodleroo has the right of it. It's a choice that you will make. Cat owners have to decide whether to let their cats out to enjoy life as natural hunters but prey to illnesses and injuries that they would never experience if left inside. Some decide one way, some another. I've decided both ways at different times with different cats. It's much the same with chickens.

I lost one pullet to a raccoon last year at dusk, and 5 to migrating Cooper's Hawks. I cried a lot, then ordered more chicks for this spring. The four I have left are very happy, healthy chickens.They still free range all day and are in a secure coop at night. They are much more savvy than last year, more careful about being close to trees or other shelter, and the rooster that remains is very alert and keeps the girls pretty close to him. (He attacked the hawk last fall and saved one of the girls). I hope the new chicks learn quickly but I anticipate losing more eventually. But I will continue to allow them to free range because they love exploring where my husband has cleared, digging worms from a newly prepped section of garden, taking dust baths in the sand pile or my flower garden, begging for treats on the porch and trying to sneak into the house where the treats originate. If I confined them I might have a whole new set of problems to contend with, and they really are happy content chickens.

Good luck with your decision - whichever way you go, that's the right choice for you and your chickens!

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