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What do I need to free range silkies in a small yard?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Zland, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. Zland

    Zland In the Brooder

    Oct 13, 2013
    CA USA
    I spent the weekend building our coop for six silkies and sizzles. (We can have up to six hens—to start with we have four chicks.) It's pretty darn sad but solid and good while we learn more about what our chickens like and need. I wouldn't bet on it being super predator proof, but I have a hard enough time getting it open that I think it's a good start. When the chicks are ready I feel confident putting them in there at night.

    The coop is in our backyard. It's too dark to measure but I think it's about 25' x 15'? (New house, heh.) There's a 6' wooden privacy fence. Our house has an open plan with a sliding glass door in the main living area opening to the yard. So, for most of the day I am within view of the backyard.

    How safe would it be to let our chickens free range in our yard as adults? I feel like not at all, especially with silkies. But maybe I'm being overprotective? I just hate to spend a lot of time and money building a run if the flock would be happier and reasonably safe free in our yard. I'd also like to wait and build a really good run (and coop) when we're more knowledgeable about chickens and have made some planned changes to the property. Of course I'm not interested in learning any lessons the hard way by losing a bird! We do have some flexibility in moving the coop around, providing cover, other creative ideas.

    Thanks for your help!

  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    It would be wise to build a run for them, for the times when you spot a predator. Also if you want to go out of town you can be sure that they will be safer in a run.

    Chicken wire isn't predator proof, and thus 1/2 inch hardware cloth is the only thing that keeps out rats and weasels, which kill chickens too. You can apron the hardware cloth out if you want to deter against digging predators without having to dig a ditch to bury the fencing.

    Silkies have a difficult time seeing flying predators. They cannot fly as you know so they would be easy targets for anything coming into your yard, even cats when they are little. I have seen a cat attack a full sized Campine (small hen but not bantam), who went vertical by flying and escaped the attack.

    Oh, I only mentioned the hardware cloth if you wish to make a Fort Knox coop and run. Personally I just use field fence for the run and have an automatic coop door opener which closes them up for the night in the coop. Some people like to make sure they are safe from digging dogs when they are at work.

    But I do have heavy knotted netting overhead for my silkies which has saved their lives three times this week alone as I saw hawks trying to kill them from inside my kitchen. Of course the hawk flies away with no dinner, thanks to the netting. Think snow load if you hang netting. Shade cloth is another option for protection from hawks- I have that on their dog kennel. They have a dog kennel too, attached to the coop (always line the bottom with another type of fencing or the hawks and owls will pull them through the fence).
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  3. Going Quackers

    Going Quackers Crowing

    May 24, 2011
    On, Canada
    The silkies here don't "free range" that said most are not in a fort knox set-up i have plenty of other birds who free range so it's not needed to be.

    Silks don't fly up like bigger chickens do, for instance my big hens clear a 4ft chain link and head off into the fields most of the day alongside my big ducks, but i am rural so it doesn't matter much.

    I would personally make a small run, so when your not there they can be outside and then try letting them loose in the yard when you are. Sounds like your in a more densely populated area so while you may not have obvious preds they come out when you offer up something they'll like, coons, cats are a BIG one in close living areas, and dogs but good fencing should keep them out. (the dogs, the others climb)

    As i say basically knowing what your threats are is important, silkies are small and get into areas that bigger birds don't, plus that lack of flying even for a short burst is of huge disadvantage. Do watch for air preds even in a more close living area, i have heard of stories of people having birds swooped down on.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
  4. Zland

    Zland In the Brooder

    Oct 13, 2013
    CA USA
    Thanks for your help! We do have hawks and I'm sure there's at least one cat. Looks like I will be buying some hardware cloth next month. And the month after that, and the one after probably, considering the price, lol. Thanks for the netting tip! We're all shorter than the fence so that might be really helpful. :)

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