What to do about free ranging?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Susiemag73, Sep 21, 2016.

  1. Susiemag73

    Susiemag73 Just Hatched

    Sep 21, 2016
    Orange County, NY
    Hi All,
    I just started limited free ranging my 11 week old flock. They are out when I am around, in their run when I'm not. I believe it was the 3rd day and I went in to make lunch. When I came back out I noticed one of my GL Wyandotte girls was missing. We found her with her head off, neck still attached but stripped. I am thinking hawk or owl, not too sure. But now I don't know what to do. I want to free range, but I don't want to lose any more. There are many reasons I want to free range, but one of the biggest is that my dog recently came down with anaplasmosis and I want the chickens to eat the ticks. The vet actually said this would be my best solution for the ticks, as we don't do chemicals. Any suggestions?
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    At least for the time being, I would advise not letting your flock free range. Since the attack was during the day, it may well have been a hawk - once they know there's food around you can be sure they will be back.

    Having lots of ground cover is helpful for your flock - plants, shrubs, small trees - things that make it more difficult for a hawk to swoop, and nearby places of refuge for your birds. Some people suspend fishing line over their gardens (or parts that are more open). I'm sure that there are many more options that others will suggest.

    I free range my flock all day, every day. I have put their feeding stations in the area of the garden with most protection. Only yesterday, a falcon tried, but aborted an attack and this was most likely due to being spotted by the flock and the cover that they had, for protection.

    The only birds that I have lost have been young ones (two in the past 2 years) - about 3 months old. As your birds are around the same age, it may be an idea to postpone free ranging until they are fully grown - around 6 months old. At that age, they are wiser, plus adult birds seem less of a bit-size option for some hawks / falcons (where i live, at least).

    There will be other suggestions coming your way, I'm sure.

    Good luck
  3. gadus

    gadus Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 28, 2015
    When my birds were getting too big (and too stinky) for their ever-shrinking brooder, I too thought why not free-range them the whole day and put them back in the brooder only for sleep? I loved the idea of letting them get "crazy" outside and also to combat our Lyme-disease-carrying tick population. And except for the colossal mine-field of poop in their wake, the free-ranging went well. But I was lucky, my neighbor down the street lost two to foxes, right under his nose. I have since built a large run and no longer truly free-range them.

    Unless you have an actual fenced-in free-range area, complete with anti-digging wire, you're taking a risk. Yesterday, I saw some free-ranging on semi-industrial scale-maybe 100+ Reds contained by an electric fence-, in an old pasture. My wife and I were looking at what appeared to be a large white area rug in the middle of the area-and then the rug moved...it was a St. Bernard or something of that nature. I know of another gal who also does the same thing with another large hound and her birds even sleep out at night.

    Several people have suggested roosters-that they would, in the event of an attack, become your sacrificial , er, lambs. When I build another flock in a year's time, that's what I'm going to do, add two roosters to the flock. And then, perhaps, I will fence in an area and let them free-range to their hearts' content. My two cents.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 18, 2016
    How big of and area is this "free range" and is it fenced in any way?

    Can any land based varmint that wants to simply wander in and go to work? If the answer to that is yes, then letting your birds out to run around is serving them up to any and all varmints who might wander in. Most of them like chicken, so you can count on them coming back. Why not? For all they know, you put your birds out just for them to munch on.

    If it is fenced in, they you have a different problem. For whatever reason, the fence didn't keep them out. I have a standard height chain link fence in my backyard I have watched cats, skunks, possums and raccoons go through like it wasn't even there. Most manage to slip under any sort of dip in the bottom of it. A few inches seems to be all they need to get past it. Not so much with larger canines.....dogs, no foxes or coyotes I've seen to date, but the determined ones could probably jump over it. For most of those, a stationary fence of that type is not much more than a nuisance. They live in the wild and encounter fences like that all the time and don't think anything of it.

    What they really don't like to tangle with is an electric fence. That thing bites back. From the varmints perspective, that changes everything.
  5. carlf

    carlf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 2, 2016
    Mobile, AL
    Sounds like a hawk. It will be back.
    Other than more cover for your birds to hide under and a good mature rooster to stand guard, your main option is a fenced run with a top. Otherwise you will lose them one by one.
    Even with a roo, you will probably lose more birds.

    Does your dog stay outside with them? That could help. Our lab stays outside when our hens are in the backyard. We have lots of hawks and owls and haven't had a problem..

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