How do protect your free range chickens? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I would like to have free range chickens but we have a coyotes, hawks and others. How do you protect yours?

-- Storybook Farm (, March 06, 2001


You will probably want to close them up in a coop at night to protect them from the coyotes and such. I'm not sure what you can do about the occassional loss to the hawks. The other day I actually saw grackles chase off a hawk from my chickens--hadn't known they were good for anything :-) Don't know if roosters will chase a hawk, have seen a broody hen attack one when it came close to her brood. :-) mary

-- mary, texas (, March 06, 2001.

I would say to let them range in an area where there is natural cover. Couple that with a wary breed and they will run for cover when they see stuff flying overhead.

Mine loved our field of Christmas trees and assorted brush for foraging and just plain hanging out. Never lost one to a predator.

-- Michael Olson (, March 06, 2001.

If you live in a high predator area- you can't protect them. If the hawks, owls and eagles don't get them, the coyotes, bears, bobcats, foxes, wolves, badgers, mink,---well, you get the idea. To maximize their safety, keep them in a secure coop and run for most of the day. Let them out in the afternoon and they will go back in the coop before dusk. They still get some "free time" and eat a lot of bugs, but the risk is lessened. A dog that won't hurt the chickens but will chase off intruders doesn't hurt either but that can take a lot of training.

-- Peg in NW WI (, March 06, 2001.

My chickens range in a fenced area all day long. I have not lost one to a hawk or fox/coyote in a long time. Just the dog. :( (I know. I've been reading the Chicken Killing Dog thread.)

One thing I do to help the chickens is to put an A Frame shelter in the open field for them. All it is is two pallets tipped together and secured across the top with rope. This gives them something to roost on in the field during the day and to go under for shade/shelter. It also encourages them to range more of the feild away from the coop.

I've also found the lighter colored hens were the first ones to disappear. So, I don't have any white hens except for 2 a neighbor gave me when moving away.

They are closed up securely in the coop at night.

-- Heather in MD (, March 06, 2001.

I found that the hawk went after my seabright (little banti) but not the larger chickens. Coyotes come out at night so I shut the chickens in when they come in to roost. Same for fox and raccoons. Mine also run for cover when they see something fly by. By the way, I was losing chicks from a penned in area and couldn't figure out why until a crow flew over and the chicks ran screaming. (Never thought about the crows) Put a deer fence cover over that until they were old enough to run with the others.

-- Dee (, March 06, 2001.

Hello storybook, What I have done to protect my chickens was to build a chicken moat. What is a chicken moat you ask? It incorperates an idea that solves several garden/chicken problems. Let me explain. Basically, you build two fences, one inside the other. At one end of the fence you attach you chicken coup. Both fences are six foot high. The inner fence just small enough to allow a three foot area between the two fences for the chickens to walk around in. Now, at the other end of the two fences you build a gate. You want to be able to walk through the gate without having chickens getting loose. The gate entrance is closed off on both sides of the fences so the chickens can not cross through. They have a tunnel that I made out of chimney cinder blocks directly under the path you would take to get into the center of the two fences. Now, the center area is where you build a garden. Let me explain what you have here. First, your chickens are protected from coyotes because they can not jump over the six foot fence. The chicken run is too narrow for hawks or other birds of prey to navigate. Thus, your chickens are now safe from harm. Second, you have now built a safe area to grow an organic garden. The chickens will eat any of the insects that try to enter your garden. Since the chickens will walk around the perimeter of your garden all day long searching for the juicy juice bugs that make free range chickens so good tasting. And since you have a double fence you can rest assure that the deer will not jump it to eat your vegetables. Third, It is a cool idea and makes you look really smart when people come over an see your chicken moat. If you want to see a picture of mine, just go to my photo album on my webpage. After your bring up the homepage, just click on the Ozark Lifestyle photo album on the left of the page. Sincerely, Ernest

-- Ernest in the Ozarks (, March 07, 2001.

My birds free range during the day and tuck themselves into the pens to roost at dusk. I then close the gates. Here's some sites that may be useful to you.

The Chicken Tractor allows the chooks to graze, but they're still confined:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Here's a bunch of plans for coops and also some different kinds of tractors. Both urls are to the same site. WebTV is evidently fighting with Geocities and we with WebTV can not get into Geocities sites. By using Surfola, and typing in the Geocities url we want to see, they convert it for us. (More info than you wanted, but maybe it'll help other WebTVers.)

-- ~Rogo (, March 07, 2001.

Guinea's will help protect them but they make so much noise it's hard to listen to. When I put 3 new roosters out in the field with the rest, the guineas actually chased them all over the field. One guinea even held on to the roosters tail as he was fleeing. All 5 of those guineas kept the 3 new roosters away from the flock, actually surrounding the regular chickens. It was cool. But they scream at everything, even at me painting the barn. Is there such thing as a mute guinea?

-- Cindy in Ky (, March 07, 2001.

Lotta folks have lost guineas to hawks, fox, coyotes, etc. Their scream doesn't necessarily scare off a hungry predator, 'specially in spring time when the predator has babies to feed. Heck, even the roosters will herd the hens into the pens when hawks are around, but those hawks are quick! I haven't seen any grab my chooks, but I'm pretty sure I've lost some chooks to them.

-- ~Rogo (, March 08, 2001.

I have lost a duck and my favorite hen to a bobcat. That BC was so brazen he came right up within 10 feet of our open front door to steal off my hen. I will never let my birds out again. They have a nice yard attached to their house and they are now definitely confined to it. Not worth the worry or the loss.

-- cindy palmer (, March 09, 2001.

Ernest, I checked out your pictures of the Chicken moat. Great idea. Think I will try it in spring , if it ever gets here. How high a fence did you use? Would it help to clip the hens wings? I have hawks, bobcats and owls here, not to mention dogs and cats.

-- Kate henderson (, March 10, 2001.

A surefire natural way to protect your free range chickens from hawks during the summer months is to attract a colony of purple martins. Erect a martin condo or a bunch of gourds and start a colony. They will chase off any hawks that come too close to their nesting areas.

-- Gary (, March 12, 2001.

Hey Ernest in the Ozarks, I loved your website. I felt like I was right out there with you all. It was nice to have so many pictures to look at the various things you and your wife are accomplishing.

-- Colleen (, March 13, 2001.

Predators can be hard to control once they get a foothold. I've lost all of my chickens this year...35 One goose and 2 ducks. I used to free range my chickens for years with no problems. Then a hawk decided it liked chicken. I have a 100ft-50 fenced in area by some trees and one day I went down to the coop and there were 5 dead hens with a hawk sitting on one eating away. I surprised the hawk and it jumped up and tried to fly but flew into the fence wire and became tangled up. Always the smart one I ran up and grabbed some garden gloves. I untangled it from the wire and being carefull of its beak I admired how beautifull it looked. Not thinking about it's talons....big mistake! It swung it's talons around and sunk them into my hand with the strength of a vice. The strenght of it's grip was amazing. Luckily my wife was close by and my screaming brought her running. Not wanting to kill it, I now had to figure out how to extract it. After about 20 minutes of prying and carefull pulling I guess the hawk figured he'd had enough. He released his grip and relaxed, as he did I threw it up in the air and off it flew. Thinking that would be the last I've ever see of him. Nope, two days later it came back and killed 2 more chickens. Another chicken a few days after that. Then another. Getting desperate I decided to run nylon line zig zag back and forth on top of the wire the entire lenght of the area. I added some surveyors tape so it would flap in the wind. This did the trick and for a week or so the hawk would sit in the tree watching, but never would come down thru the lines. This was about 8 years ago, and untill the last year never had any problems while the chickens were inside their run. Free ranging outside is a different story now. I'd lose the occaisional one to a coyote or eagle and figured they were free game, so I didn't worry too much about it. That changed last summer when a bobcat and cougar moved into the area. I've moved my chicken coop twice and now it's about 75 ft from the house. The last of my chickens went over my 8 ft fence a few weeks ago. I've redone some of the fencing and added a hot wire so hopefully that will help. If you free range you take your chances. I did fine for 12 years untill the free food sign went up. The idea of a guard dog is looking more and more attractive. I have 30 new week old chicks, so I'll keep trying. Good luck.

-- Kent in WA (, March 13, 2001.

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