When to let chickens out of run and be with cats?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by kickinthethroat, Jun 26, 2016.

  1. kickinthethroat

    kickinthethroat Out Of The Brooder

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    May 10, 2014
    Hey all,

    We have 2 month old white leghorns, 12 hens and 2 roos. Currently they are confined to a chicken run, but I'm wanting to let them roam.

    We also have a golden retriever who is inside when we are, and 5 outdoor cats, 3 males and 2 females.

    I'm not worried about the dog, he will listen and catches on quick... but I'm wondering at what age will the chickens not be a target for the cats? Or another question... at what age will the chickens be able to put up a fight with the cats?

    Currently the chickens are in the run protected with chicken wire... the cats just lay and watch them. Sometimes they watch behind rocks, and sometimes they sit right next to the chicken wire and watch. Usually there is always at least one cat out there watching them in the run.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2016
  2. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I really don't think that is a one size fits all question. Some cats are fine with chickens, some never will be. I might be concerned that they seem to be watching the chickens so much.
    I'm assuming your cats have never been exposed to chickens before? Do they hunt? Mice? rats? rabbits? birds? That might give you a clue.
     
  3. kickinthethroat

    kickinthethroat Out Of The Brooder

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    They are watching, but none have tried swiping at them through the wire or anything... maybe just curiosity?

    They have caught a few mice and moles/voles. Never a rabbit... 1 bird if I remember correctly.

    Let's just say the cats would go after the chickens currently... then my question is... as the chickens get bigger, is there a point where they will become large enough to where the cats would no longer want to pick a fight?
     
  4. Mys Teri

    Mys Teri Out Of The Brooder

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    May 15, 2016
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    I personally have 3 cats. Two, I think would be fine with the chickens, but one is a hunter (and not allowed outside at all). If the cats are always outdoors, they might be more inclined to hunt than a mostly indoor cat.

    If you think the cats are unlikely to attack, I'd do a controlled test, once the chicks are taller than the cats: put the mildest cat and a roo in a confined area. One with perches and places for the chick to hide would be ideal. Stay with them, and take one out at the first sign of trouble.
     
  5. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Again, not a single answer. Depends on how feisty your chickens are. Leghorns aren't that big. When I was a kid we had some brown egg layers (probably mix breed duel purpose) and bantams and the cats quickly learned to leave the chickens alone including the new babies, but we had some feisty mother hens who would attack anything that looked at their babies.
    Our cats now are inside only but we brood the babies in the house and they don't bother them. But we still keep our eye on them. We haven't had a problem with other people's outside cats. I would watch them very carefully till I could see their interactions. I would probably want them to be introduced to very big chickens and preferably a rooster.
     
  6. Mys Teri

    Mys Teri Out Of The Brooder

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    My hunter cat killed an owl twice her size when she was young, so size doesn't matter as much as personality.
     
  7. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The outdoor cat that came with our property routinely and successfully takes down squirrels, rabbits, gophers, moles, incredible numbers of mice... and the list goes on. He also keeps our rodent population under control and guards our stores of feed- never once had a bag broken into and he's a very people friendly cat. So, of course there's the issue of the chickens. Not a large cat- between 7-8lbs and he can take down a full sized rabbit (and we've watched him do this), so a chicken isn't outside his abilities.

    He stalks them from the outside, and once he's been 'made' he'll come out into the open and lay right by their run, so while it looks like the cat is just minding its own business watching some 'chicken TV'- chances are the chickens are being watched like lions watch a herd of prey animals. And then sneaks behind a rock again. Usually there's a lookout (my roos are still babies) that busts him, but he has zero physical access to them- chain link with hardware cloth woven into it- plenty else to go after, but the chickens still attract his attention.

    Ultimately we made the choice to have a big run (155 feet perimeter fence) composed of chain link (electrified on the outside) and floor to ceiling hardware cloth. Ceiling is hawk net to keep hawks out and prevent lighter chickens that can make it 6 feet from flying out-- and to provide enough of an annoyance that going over the fence isn't easily done from an adjacent tree by the cat.
     
  8. kickinthethroat

    kickinthethroat Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks all for your replies.

    An update:

    I did a control test, and let one of the roos out. The cats basically ignored him. I then moved my chicken run fence away from the coop so all could get out. It's amazing how differently they act when they are free.

    Today is the third day of letting them roam, and so far so good. We have some pine trees near the coop with some thick underbrush, so the chickens love to just go in there and disappear, which is good since it provides some protection in case something happened.

    Some of the cats actually hang out with the chickens now, they were huddled together under the tree in the rain.

    The big bonus is that they poop outside instead of the coop!

    I'll probably close the run back up tonight though, since we will be gone tomorrow. They've roamed with us gone yesterday, but still want to play it safe.
     
  9. carlf

    carlf Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Glad it worked out. Free ranging chickens are generally happier chickens.

    I advise closing the run door every night unless you have a dog in the backyard with them. Even then, its better safe than sorry. Our hens stay in the backyard with our Lab all day but the gate to the run still gets closed very night & opened in the morning.
     
  10. kickinthethroat

    kickinthethroat Out Of The Brooder

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    We have the pullit shut coop door, so that closes automatically every night after they go in the coop. Then they will sleep in a secure coop for the night.
     

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