May 13, 2013

Chickens, Predators & The Myth of Supervised Free Range

Part of the responsibility I feel in writing my blog and keeping my Facebook page involves bringing awareness to problems and concerns that all chicken-keepers face. We have a lot of fun with stories and pictures of the pleasant side of keeping chickens, but important topics that make us uncomfortable must be addressed as well. My hope in sharing my experiences is that they will provoke constructive dialogue and thought about how we handle these issues individually. How we care for and keep our chickens and property safe is important to discuss, but in the end, our choices are personal and not subject to others' approval. 
With all the joys and benefits that come with keeping backyard chickens, there are at least as many heartbreaks and weighty decisions to be made about their care, chief among them, whether or not to permit a flock to free-range. This is a sensitive subject and for good reason- the stakes are high and the emotions it evokes, even higher.  

In a predator-free world, who wouldn't prefer allowing their chickens to roam freely, unconstrained by  galvanized mesh barriers to explore fresh, clean grounds, manage their own diets by foraging on insects and greens, all while getting plenty of exercise?  However, we do not live in a predator-free world and choices must be made based upon our own risk tolerances and what we feel is right. 
The Myth of Supervised Free-range
I find that writing about chicken-keeping topics in theory is much easier than writing about actual experiences because the theories must be held up to the bright light of reality. The theory of "supervised free-range" is that one can prevent or stop a predator attack from happening by being physically present with the flock. The concept of supervised free-range seems like a reasonable compromise between the two extremes of complete physical freedom and constant confinement to a limited area. My experience is that supervised free-range does not prevent predator losses. Just prior to dusk last night,  a coyote silently and skillfully procured his dinner from my flock as I stood nearby. My rooster, Blaze, immediately rushed to aid his hen, but they were long gone by the time he reached the crime scene.
While I wish it were true that my chickens are safer when I am nearby, it is simply is not the case. Free-ranging chickens, supervised and unsupervised are fair game within the food chain. A predator's hunger takes precedence over any fear of humans and the speed with which they procure their meal, quicker than the eye. While I was armed with only a camera last night, even if  I had been holding a loaded firearm, I could not have prevented or stopped the coyote attack from happening.

The attack itself, which occurred right behind me, is not depicted in this video, what the video shows is what was going on in front of me as it happened. By the time I turned around, the coyote was a vanishing blur and all that remained of my hen was a pile of feathers (also not shown).
video

There is no question that raising chickens on pasture is a more natural experience for chickens or that they are healthier as a result of being able to choose from nature's buffet of greens and protein sources. I prefer that my chickens live their natural lives fully and freely to confinement and if nature claims them back into the food chain, I accept that, grudgingly.


The messages I hope to impart by sharing this experience are that:
  • the benefits and risks of free-ranging should be thoughtfully weighed;
  • one's personal risk tolerance for loss should be carefully considered;
  • what one flock-keeper is comfortable with is the right choice for them- others need not approve.

 I am always mindful that we built our house in Nature's backyard, not the other way around and I accept the rules of the game that were in place before we imposed upon it

155 comments :

  1. so sorry for your loss. But as you said, it is part of nature and it does happen. It is sad to lose one that way but life is a constant circle of regeneration.

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  2. I'm so sorry that you lost one of your feather babies. Those of us that keep chickens generally know our risks. Mine get their daily range like yours do. I feel badly for your roo as well, because he 100% knew what had just taken place, and as fast as he ran to her rescue there was nothing left for her that he could do.

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  3. A great thoughtful article! I hope that all of my chickens live to a ripe old age far past their laying days, but if they are taken by a predator prior to that time I know that they have lived a life that most chickens only dream of - one that involves scratching and pecking, eating bugs, seeing the sun shine, and breathing fresh air and I feel good about that.

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  4. I enjoy your page so much! Im sorry to hear of your loss.

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  5. Sorry about the loss of one of your hens. Never easy and always discouraging, but as you said, mother nature reclaimed her. It is nice to see someone talking about the not so nice side of raising back yard chickens, if for nothing more than to serve as a reminder of what can happen. Thanks for all the information you share Kathy!

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  6. I am in the city limits of Asheville, NC but we still have fox. coyote, hawks, owls and the occasional bear. I have a large fenced area but am always concerned about predators. For me, even though I am very watchful I still allow my flock to roam freely in my 1/3 of an acre I do worry about one getting snatched. I guess I believe it is the quality of life that is important. I could never keep my chicks enclosed in a small area.

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  7. Teresa Stickels5/13/13, 12:00 PM

    I'm so sorry for your loss, but I appreciate you turning this difficult situation into a very useful blog entry for the rest of us. Very balanced and non-judgemental, something that is usually lacking on the internet. I was chilled to watch Blaze, who clearly heard that something was amiss, and was searching around for the source of trouble. Poor guy, to figure out just a moment too late where the danger was. He is clearly a good protector - but some things can't be stopped. I have lost two hens to predators over the last year. My girls are in a completely sheltered (wire all around as well as over the top) run, but even then, some very determined creature who rightfully considers my home his home got in anyway. it really is impossible to make a chicken coop into Fort Knox. I don't like losing hens (especially because I feel I should be able to protect them), and I'll do whatever it takes to make their home safe and secure, but in the end, we are all a part of a giant food chain and I have found some solace in that.

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear that you lost one of your hens! I would never consider that a predator could take one of my hens while I was in the yard with them. Hunters are so quick and stealthy, as they have to be in order to eat. Thanks for reminding us of the dangers of free range. I'm going to keep allowing my ladies out in the yard, as the benefits outweigh the risks here in the city, but I may have to reconsider when we move to the country!

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  9. Kathy-I'm so sorry. I absolutely agree with the myth of "supervised free range" as I had a Cooper's hawk swoop right down in front of me recently-my girls had just enough time to take cover under one of our apple trees. It all happens so quickly, and leaves one feeling so helpless. The video gave me chills-Blaze is fearless!

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  10. Sorry for your loss...i lost one last week!! Heart broken!!

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  11. Jessy Gaffen5/13/13, 12:11 PM

    I'm glad you shared this, Kathy. We do "supervised free range" and I do believe that it does offer some level of protection in our case...and it keeps our hens and ducks on OUR PROPERTY and out of the road or neighbor's yards. We also know that it's not 100% effective, but also feel that our hens and ducks are happier, healthier to have their free range time. We do what we can to protect them, but like children, they have to "spread their wings" too and live their lives fully.

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  12. I had the same thing happen to me , But it was four hawks !! I was out with my chickens with my oldest daughter and her hubby and two of my grand-kids ,When a hawk came down and picked up one of my smaller chickens , we lost 4 chickens that day , while we stood there dumb founded as to what in the world was going on ,but as we jumped into action it was to late , I hate that helpless filling !!!
    ~ Kelly~ from Empty nest farm and Chickens for the soul .

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  13. I am sorry for you loss, Kathy. I, too, have lost a hen to a hungry coyote. As saddened as I was, I agree with you on letting them live their lives fully and freely. I love watching my flock frolic on a beautiful spring day, knowing how much they appreciate it after a long winter's confinement.

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  14. Mine free range during the day. I have lost two hens to a hawk, who with his mate lives in the forest abutting our property. We also have black -headed vultures, who will actually take live prey. So far, their presence, sitting on an outdoor light post, makes the flock head for their enclosed run. Our two guineas always have their eyes to the sky and sound alarms frequently when flight is detected. They also warn against cats, etc. They start running for the enclosure and the flock follows. We do have animal fencing, which is a deterrent for coyotes, wild hogs, deer. If we see hawk or vulture we head out and scare them off with a pellet rifle or by throwing rocks! In any case, I prefer to let the girls and our one rooster have their freedom.

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  15. so sorry for your loss. My first start with chicks are 7 silkie chicks. do not plan on total free range because I do not have the heart for the loss. I plan on having a movable topped pen to give my girls protection at different areas of my property.

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  16. Great profound thoughts on the subject Kathy! So sorry that you had such a frustrating experience. Thank you for sharing with others so they can absorb the knowledge and choices.

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  17. wonderfully stated. I too let's my flock free range and have had a hawk on several occasions swoop down right next to me in an attempt to grab my girls, as if I wasn't there. That being said I've chosen to not hang glimmery things, mount a scarecrow or an owl, hang flags as a deterrent because if a screaming human clapping 2x4's together staring directly at a hawk doesn't deter them, then nothing will. I'm willing to cry my way through a loss occasionally in order to see my flock graze in our home orchard. You get to see their true personalities and honestly they love it. It cuts down on feed costs, helps control bugs in our orchard, I have less barren grass areas because they aren't forced to forage in a 10x10 spot. I'm sure if I kept them contained I would have as many losses from disease transmission as I do to predators....all I can say is when letting my flock free range they become multipurpose for me!

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  18. Thank you for this article. Much appreciated. Lost two to an eagle last week.

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  19. Erskine Clan5/13/13, 12:49 PM

    I'm so sorry for you to lose a member of your flock. I've weighed the cost and see how content my chickens are from being able to roam free and can't bring myself to cage them in. We hadn't lost many to predators until a particularly dry summer. Then the bobcats became very bold and snatched hens from right in front of us. We eventually had to kill two scraggly bobcats that year. They were struggling to find food and would have kept coming back until our flock was history.

    That said, we've lost very few members over the years and I feel the benefits for the chickens far outweigh the risk. Now I have a small group in a fenced backyard but still there is a fox family, nasty raccoons and predators from above. As long as I'm vigilant with shutting them in at dusk, there's been no problem. I've lost two hens in four years to a raccoon but my roo stands up to the fox and he trots off to someone's dog food dish down the street. They have plenty of tree and shrub cover to hide from air threats. They just love their space too much to confine them.

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  20. Randy Francis5/13/13, 12:57 PM

    Thank you for this commentary! It is right on as far as I'm concerned. In my opinion, the overall happiness and well being may be worth a loss. The chicken's risk is somehow understood by them. I believe that, like us, they want to balance their happiness with the possibility of peril. It may cost me money from time to time but I witness how they celebrate their freedom when I let them out to roam and it would break my heart to take that away.

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  21. Oh...that sound of the attack brings tears to my eyes! I'm so sorry. I have personally ran outside to address squawking to see a hawk pinning one of my hens down on the ground. The rush of the dog and myself through the door was enough to scare it off before she could be seriously harmed but it scared me so much. I agree with you that you have to weigh the risks in your area but it is so sad to lose one of your flock. I continue to let me girls have free roam of the yard but I try to keep in mind the risks.

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  22. Kristin Dorton5/13/13, 1:18 PM

    I'm so sorry that you lost one of your girls. I free range mine, as well, and from time to time I will lose one. It is heartbreaking. Every time I reassess the situation and determine whether I need to build them a run and keep them penned up. So far, though, I truly think that the happiness and healthfulness that free ranging grants the majority of my birds far outweigh the rare occurrence that I lose one. Like the saying says, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". Many people will think me heartless for it, but as a chicken keeper I must do what I feel is right for my birds, and so should you. Hopefully that coyote was just passing through, desperate, and won't be back!

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  23. That is so sad... I have had so many of my chickens eaten and so I know just how horrible is really is. But I actually feel proud of that rooster for reacting so quickly :)

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  24. Hugs. The loss of a lady is no laughing matter.

    I lost one of mine a few months ago. Sadly, it was one of my favorites. She got through a hole in the fence we didn't know about and the neighbors dog ... well, I think you can finish the sentence. The hole is repaired and the girls are again free ranging, but with more trepidation than before.

    We aren't totally in the wild as you are. Our home is more quasi wild land. Close to town and neighbors, but far enough out to be rural. My biggest concern here is skunks and predator birds.

    I chose to let my girls free range when the weather is good, but I do at times with a heavy heart.

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  25. Marianne M. Smith5/13/13, 1:30 PM

    So sorry this happened! Totally agree with you on the personal preference piece/ not for others to judge. And predators are fast and furious... Thanks for sharing this experience and for your insightful thoughts!

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  26. Mean Dovey Cooledge5/13/13, 1:45 PM

    your attitude is correct. I have lost chickens to hawks and falcons, but some have lived 5 years, free ranging (and not always supervised) every day. that you built in Nature's backyard, is the reality, and i think the trade off is acceptable.

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  27. Jennifer Johnson5/13/13, 1:56 PM

    I am so sorry for the loss of one of your hens. I too, battle the pros and cons of "supervised" free-ranging my hens on an almost daily basis, and I am sure that it is only a matter of time until the inevitable happens to my small flock. Thanks for sharing your experience and bringing to light that tragic things can happen despite our best efforts to prevent them. This is part of the gig of owning and caring for animals, furry or feathered!

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  28. Aww..I am so sorry for your loss. It's always sad to lose one of our hens. I had a close close while mowing the other day, but luckily the Rooster had the hens safely in their pen and the huge hawk flew away when I walked toward the coop.

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  29. Evelyn Qualls5/13/13, 2:23 PM

    Are you sure you don't want to re-consider a flock guardian dog? I believe that that coyote will return looking for another well fed free ranging hen. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  30. I am so very sorry for your terrible loss. What a wonderful rooster you have. x

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  31. I am so sorry for your loss! Thank you for this gentle reminder. I have been letting my chickens free range each evening and have been more lax lately with not keeping an eye on them. I would be devastated if I lost one to a predator, so I need to rethink where I stand with free ranging. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Tammy
    ourneckofthewoods.net

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  32. joely pentlow5/13/13, 2:49 PM

    I am so sorry for your loss. I have my girls in a covered run but I am debating if to let them out when they get older. My main issues would be local dogs off the leash.

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  33. Debi Bolocofsky5/13/13, 4:52 PM

    Thanks so much for shariing this post. I never thought about this part of raising chickens. I have just read articles about free range chickens being better and that sometimes free range on larger places may not really be free range.
    Have a great week.
    Debi

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  34. I don't mind when I loose a hen to wildlife (owl, hawk, fox) ... what I don't like is losing one to dogs that are allowed to run/roam. The dogs don't seem to kill to eat ... they kill to kill and leave a dead/injured chicken behind.

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  35. Sorry for your loss, I am really enjoying your blog. I have many free-range chickens, 4 roos to look after them, and two dogs who leave the chickens alone but despise coyotes. While I have witnessed one coyote attack and seen the results of two others, I also accept it as part of nature and allowing my chickens to lead a more varied and nutritious life. The losses that hit me hardest are from stray dogs that come looking for a free meal or who just want to "play." Last year I lost 17 to a stray dog pack that didn't eat a thing.

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  36. Karen Bates5/13/13, 6:12 PM

    Sorry for your loss, you must have been so frustrated when it happened right (behind) in front of you! I agree that we live in a predator's environment and must live with the consequences....but it can still be a bummer. I am lucky to have not loss one to predators ...thank heavens.....because they free range all the time.

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  37. Not an easy subject to cover, but so important. I no longer really free range my birds. The last predator was a bobcat, who was faster and more stealth that a coyote. Stray dogs have also been clever predators.

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  38. What an enlightening post. I don't have chickens. I live in the suburbs and have recently given some thought about having chickens. I'm thrilled to be able to get some insight. Thanks for joining us at the Let's Get Social Sunday blog hop. Have a wonderful week!

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  39. Randy Francis5/13/13, 7:31 PM

    I can't find my post...darn.

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  40. poor baby didnt deserve it sorry you lost one of your flock x

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  41. Tina Favara5/13/13, 8:10 PM

    Well Said and I too share your philosophy on the topic. We recently lost a hen suddenly to unexplained death and the losses are hard however they come but I would not trade what we've gained for no the absence of loss- I also believe that my young son will be much more well rounded and better equipped to deal with really tough losses that are inevitable in the human existence as a result of raising and yes sometimes losing chickens.

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  42. Ah, poor Blaze....he tried. By the time he knew it was too late too. I was watching him closely in the video. He would have been there if he could have.

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  43. Natural order of events in the natural world. The hen lived a beautiful life on your farm and the coyote will live another day thanks to his speed and agility. Nature is amazing.

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  44. I'm so sorry for your loss. How heartbreaking and frustrating. We lost 4 a few weeks ago to a fox in broad daylight. I thought we were "safe" because we'd been diligent about getting the locked up before dusk. Agree with the majority of the comments below. It makes me sadder to see them locked up every day than it does to lose one on rare occasions to a predator. I'd rather feed the local wildlife than have them die from disease like they did the first year when we were afraid to let them free-range.

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  45. Sorry for the loss, but as you said nature can claim them. I was very lucky to have been present when a chicken hawk grabbed up one of my chickens and I scared him off by taking chase. I assume she was so heavy it dropped her as he was flying off but if he had flown away with her there's no way I could have stopped him. I and the chicken were very lucky that day. Amazing how fast they are. Chicken hawks and owls have even tried to pick up our little rat terriers sometimes, even when we're outside with them. So far we've been lucky they haven't been picked off. We assume a bobcat climbed up the ladder our turkeys use to climb the oak trees to roost in as one was dragged from the tree and off through the woods leaving a trail of feathers. She was so big we just don't see how a raccoon could have done it and certainly a coyote wouldn't have climbed the ladder or tree to get to it. But wild animals need to eat too. That's the life on a free range farm sometimes.

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  46. Reshanda,


    If my comment goes from moderation to printed (and it should), you might consider reading it concerning controlling predators through educating them......it really works.

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  47. I'm so sorry for the loss of your hen - it must have been chilling to realize the coyote was stalking your flock right behind your back. Your presence did not deter him (or her). - that is frightening! I get angry when this happens to my flock too but know all creatures are trying to procure a meal for themselves or for their young even as we try our best to protect our flock.
    . How impressive was Blaze??? He sensed what was going on and didn't hesitate - he ran to her aid. What a wonderful rooster! I think any of mine would have high tailed it to the coop.

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  48. Awful, Kathy. I am so sorry. What a lovely, brave rooster. I cannot have roosters where I live in the city, and the predator list is long, even on my Urban Farm. I have a predator proof coop and run, but I have areas of the yard where they are allowed out while I am home. They really aren't safe unless in my Fort Knox, and I know that --- but they are SO happy when they are out! I have heard of chickens being taken by hawks and eagles while the people are right there as well. It is definitely a personal decision. This topic is sort of like indoor/outdoor cats. I can see the pros and cons of both, and to me it really is a circle of life issue and how up close and personal you want to be with it. But, isn't that why most of us raise chickens? So we can eat eggs from happy, healthy chickens? hugs, Mindy

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  49. Me , too. I only have six hens and would be devastated by the loss of any of them. They have been confined to a run that is way too small for them, but they are thriving. My husband is building a movable run for them next weekend so they will have more ground area but will still be safe.

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  50. danielle page5/14/13, 10:12 AM

    Great piece Kathy! Well done. You are so right - it is not all fun and fluff and people need to weigh all aspects and make informed decisions without being judgmental of others. And nature belongs to nature, everything has to eat. Sory it was one of your beauties. What a great rooster. So brave, warning the girls and rushing to the rescue. I too live in an area that is mostly "wild". I chose it for that reason and choose to keep most of my acreage wild. My girls now have a fortress of a run and coop but I do like to supervise free range too. The coyotes don't bother us too much here because all the neighbor dogs out of wich the closest is a LGD that has adopted our flock (he chased a bear once). I feel a little less confident now after your post - and that, is not a bad thing.

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  51. That's sad. I live in the city, but I'm livestock zoned. I appreciate this post because I'm studying before I take on a big responsibility. I have a large, fenced yard, but plan to build a big coop. I think my chickens have some protection from being in the city...less wildlife...however we still have possums and lots of dogs and cats around so they won't be able to free range all the time.

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  52. Terry Kessinger5/14/13, 11:25 AM

    How traumatic to witness that event. I really, really appreciate you post today. Especially, "what one flock-keeper is comfortable with is the right choice for them- others need not approve." It's so easy to judge, and don't we all hate that feeling for ourselves? Thank you for sharing and reminding.

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  53. Mary Gilbert5/14/13, 12:09 PM

    I am so very very sorry! We almost lost one of our hens to an Eagle...luckily, hubby was able to scare it away...took TWO times and getting very close to it. Hubby heard the comotion went out and saw "Marty" being carried off by the eagle. He clapped and yelled and the eagle dropped Marty. However, as soon as Marty landed...the eagle was right on him again. Hubby threw rocks and that scared the eagle off for good. It was scary and we were so upset thinking we'd lose Marty. NOPE! Good old Marty is just fine...AND...he's the hero of the flock.
    I have to agree, however, free-range is what I WANT for my flock, and I understand the risks. So far...we've been lucky (only had chickens since October 2012) and I may feel differently if (when?) I lose some of my girls...

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  54. Wow, that was intense! I am so sorry for the loss. I always get a little sick to my stomach when one of my boys alerts and runs, thankfully, we've yet to have any daytime attacks. Thanks for sharing this with the poultry community.

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  55. I understand how hard it is to lose one. I lost 14 in one night to raccoon that entered via tiny hole that I did not see. Plz enter me in the giveaway for either the vetericyn or grit. Ty

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  56. Thanks for sharing this sad tale. Ultimately, each Hen Keeper must choose what's right for them.

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  57. I am so very sorry for your loss! I have a wayward hen that didn't show back up to the henhouse this evening and I am hoping that she is pacing outside the pen in the morning. I just hope that one of us sleeps tonight.

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  58. We had a possum actually GET IN our chicken coop the other day! Terrifying! My husband was able to shoot the stupid thing and nobody was killed fortunately, but we got lucky.

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  59. Harborview Hens5/16/13, 11:34 AM

    It broke my heart to hear of your loss. Unfortunately, unless they are locked up 24/7 this will affect any of us who try to free range or supervised range. I recently started supervised freer ange and luckily they forage under the pines an Japanese maple with low lying limbes. I carry a staff just in case (my old hiking stick) They are so happy to be out, I cannot find the heart to lock them in. I only do this when I release them from the chicken tractor and walk them back to the run and coop. I am having seconf thoughts. Once again,,my heart goes out to you, SO sorry for the loss of your little girl. Irene

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  60. I'm so sorry. We have foxes that frequently dash across our four acre lot. They only visit our property occasionally, because our 9 month old Great Pyrenees has taken up chasing them off. We didn't think our puppy was interested in our chickens, but to our horror, she killed one of our favorite chickens this week. We felt terribly guilty, as this was only a dog, acting like a dog. We realize now (sadly) that our new coop must have a chicken pen that will keep our dog out, since we can't trust her with the chickens any more.

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  61. Hi, Kathy, I wanted to feature your ladder with plants but for some reason the link said that the page could not be found!

    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/recycled-ladder-turned-planter-total.html

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  62. Amber Curtis5/17/13, 11:31 AM

    I've waited a few days before leaving a comment, but I've been thinking about it since I first read it. First of all, I'm sorry for your loss. Poor rooster, too. When I moved with my two cats from a city apartment to a house in a small, rural town, I had to decide if I would let them outside. Mostly, though, they made the decision. My female was a Munchkin -- she weighed seven pounds to her birth brother's 15. But she took to the fields behind my house as if she owned them. Many nights, I had to take the flashlight out and call her in. Many nights, she ignored me. When I lost her three years ago, her brother and I were devastated. But we knew that she had spent her last years as she wanted. I like to imagine that an owl picked her up and took her home to serve as a mascot for his parliament. Much better image that the ghastly reality. My chicks are young yet and they are confined to a pen in the backyard for now. I haven't made the decision about letting them wander free (it's a tiny backyard). We have owls, coyotes, neighbor dogs, and loads of cats. I guess I'll cross that bridge later. Thanks for sharing your insight and experience. I really admire you.

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  63. I keep thinking "oh, how cool to keep chickens; we could do that!" Though reality would be different for us. Even though we're in a residential area, there are cats around, including mine (outside not by my choice). We also have a hawk; we've witnessed it catching and eating squirrels. Foxes. I chased 3 away that had surrounded a neighbor's cat. Keeping animals is not for the faint of heart.

    Thank you for sharing your post at Motivation Monday!

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  64. TheChickenChick5/17/13, 9:04 PM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and support, Mindy!

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  65. TheChickenChick5/17/13, 9:06 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Danielle. ♥

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  66. TheChickenChick5/17/13, 9:09 PM

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Felicia. I appreciate it.

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  67. TheChickenChick5/17/13, 9:18 PM

    Any luck, Kenna???

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  68. TheChickenChick5/17/13, 9:18 PM

    Yikes. Sounds like you need to fortify coop security with hardware cloth, Carolyn. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/coop-security-hardware-cloth-vs-chicken.html

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  69. TheChickenChick5/17/13, 9:21 PM

    Thank you, Irene.

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  70. TheChickenChick5/17/13, 9:46 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Amber.

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  71. Metalbone Ranch5/18/13, 7:45 PM

    I have to admit its one of the most frustrating things about raising chickens.Where we live we have a quartet of predators - Hacks, foxes, racoons and coyotes. I won't say how many we have lost over the last few years but its the name of the game when your free ranging. I just found today we are missing 2 more 4 week old chicks, likely the work of a Hawk. Heartbreaking and maddening when you go out and find your short on chickens.

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  72. So sorry for your loss! I often think about the potential of raising chickens, but realize that I don't know enough yet. Thank you for writing posts like this to educate and inform. And thanks for linking up to Motivation Monday!

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  73. Robin Willoughby5/19/13, 9:46 PM

    I love reading about your chickens....I live vicariously through folk like you because I can't have them!! And your chickens are the MOST interesting!!!

    And honestly...Vetericyn is the most AWESOME product!

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  74. TheChickenChick5/19/13, 11:21 PM

    Thanks Robin. I'm sorry you can't have chickens. :(

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  75. I'm sorry you lost one of your hens. I don't have chicken's but I love your blog and your facebook page. I've learned so much. I wish I could have chickens! http://pleasegivepeasachance.blogspot.com

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  76. PS the "beat heat" link isn't working for me

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  77. TheChickenChick5/20/13, 9:37 PM

    Try this link, kd: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/beat-heat-how-to-help-chickens-survive.html

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  78. TheChickenChick5/20/13, 9:37 PM

    Thank you, kd. ♥

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  79. So sad but it's reality.
    Thanks so much for sharing at the Creative HomeAcre Hop!
    Hope to see you again this week!

    http://back2basichealth.blogspot.com/2013/05/join-us-at-creative-homeacre-hop.html

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  80. Janet Rosenfield6/16/13, 4:06 PM

    We just recently lost our 60 pound tom turkey to a weasel attack! We left his carcass on the property and every morning he would be moved and more of him would be missing. We figured that as long as it had a food source it would not be killing another flock member or someone else's flock. Over the week he was picked clean. The same night as Tom's death we lost 2 ducks also. It is heart wrenching to loose one of your "children" but we did move into their terriortory. It did not kill to kill but killed because it was hungry. I wish we could prevent these killings but also know all we can do is try to keep our flock safe.

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  81. gale williams6/16/13, 8:49 PM

    so sorry for your loss. I live in the Catskill Mt, NY and feel the same as you. We have two big labs and a standard Poodle the labs are always with the chickens, they move around with them, in all these years I have not lost a single hen to a predator but I did loose a rooster to a fox protecting his hens.for some reason the dogs where not out yet. Even the hawks won't swoop down when the dogs are out.

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  82. This post helped me a lot in processing my first "free range loss" this week. You're so right, we live in Nature's backyard here too. Not the other way around. Thank you for all your amazing posts! <3

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  83. This was such an eloquent essay and helped me put my feelings about freedom and loss into perspective. A few nights ago we couldn't find one of our hens (just starting out and have only 3, raised from one day old) in the coop. Tears and grief. My daughter cried a long time and I was surprised that I did not, though I was so sad. With some introspection I found that I had prepared myself for this possibility. I knew that I had made a predator proof, roomy and clean coop, kept a fenced backyard full of gardens, protective niches and chicken fun, lived in a neighborhood with less nature and more people and enjoyed some of every day outside, side by side, with my chickens and other pets. I believed the life I provided and the life they chose was a good one and the risks were real but could be tolerated. Needless to say we found her the next morning roosting in the big fir tree, happy and healthy, just outside the coop and were so relieved and joyful that harsh reality was still a potential but not yet here.

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  84. TheChickenChick9/13/13, 1:34 PM

    I'm so relieved for you, Debra and glad to know that you were as emotionally prepared as possible for all possible outcomes of the situation.

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  85. I am in Cary NC. and last night , I saw a bobcat weighing in excess of 100+ lbs. creeping across my side yard I was by chance on my porch when it came across and quite honestly it startled me as I have never dreamt of seeing one in my quiet quaint little community. I know they are in NC. but I never knew Cary was in their inhabitance area. I grew up with dozens of feathered friends from bantams to guineas , but now I just have dogs and kitties who luckily were all indoors . I called law enforcement seeing that in my community I figured spreading the word would be the proper thing to do though they did not seem remotely concerned or phased they simply told me to call back during business hours and make a report and they only deal with domesticated animals. I felt like adding(until someone is attacked then you will scramble to come up with post tense vigilance)

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  86. I love how protective Blaze is!! <3

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  87. Tessica Reynolds11/4/13, 10:33 AM

    Oh your video brings tears to my eyes watching Blaze rush to aid his girl :-( It reminds me that as we free range here in the city, I need to make sure my entire family is ok with the prospect that something could indeed happen to one of our girls. As heart breaking as it would/will be to lose one, I know that I prefer them to be able to spend as many hours roaming around our small backyard as possible. The circle of life is certainly bitter-sweet.

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  88. Sandy Potter11/4/13, 10:38 AM

    WOW!!! That was indeed fast!!! I let my chickens out for a few hours each day. They have their sunning spots and dust bathing spots and eat their greens and pic through the bedding in the goat stall and the horse stall. I know there is a risk of raptors and foxes and the possibility of a coyote (tidewater Virginia) but the free time make my chickens so happy. I'll risk it.

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  89. My guineas protect my laying hens just like a rooster would--at least from hawks--by calling out an alarm and gathering them underneath cover. Fox and coyotes, on the other hand, are too quick and wily for any kind of protection. I've lost 4 hens to a neighborhood fox in the past year. The coyotes are afraid of my guard donkeys, but the fox waits on the other side of the fence for an unwary hen to come too close. He or she is in and out before anyone can react. It's sad, but I agree with The Chicken Chick; we built our hen house in the predators backyard. I grudgingly allow the fox his share....

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  90. Kathleen Tiberius Smith11/4/13, 10:47 AM

    I have seen signs of a fox in my yard (in the middle of town, no less) and have had my share of visits from raccoons and possums. None of these "varmints" have killed my chickens. My problem is with DOGS that my neighbors don't keep leashed/penned. Our town also has a problem with people from outside of the town dumping their animals inside the town--which was fine when we had animal control to capture the strays.

    I was home one day when dogs came through and killed 11 hens; they killed the rooster and mauled two hens earlier that week when I was gone--and my chickens were penned, not roaming free. I don't feel I should have to fence my property to keep out other people's dogs, but I'm starting to put electric fences around my heavily reinforced runs.

    I have a BB gun--that's all I'm comfortable with--and I patrol with my free-range hens when I let them out in the afternoon. I will use the gun if I must, but I'd just prefer that people keep their dogs confined.

    A dog in your yard is a pet; a dog in my yard is a threat.

    Sorry for your loss. Believe me, I know how you feel times 12.

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  91. Thank you for your insights and the reminder - that even
    with our presence the safety of our girl’s will never be guaranteed. We’ve had several hawk scares recently and for
    me, the risk comes hand in hand for the flock experiencing life as it was meant
    to be. . .

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  92. Lorilei-Medical Lake, WA11/4/13, 10:52 AM

    THANK YOU, better late than ever. Raised on a ranch in the Helena Valley (MT) and your story just reminded me how I need to prepare BEFORE I add the chicken house. Thanks again.

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  93. Thank you for this post. We are part of the great circle of life, and I guarantee a coyote does not feel sad about taking eating your chicken. I do not feel sad (maybe a little) for shooting him and selling his pelt to pay for the rising cost of feed. Besides my own little farm ecosystem, I would love to see the quail and turkey populations rebound.

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  94. Stephanie Serenity Steele11/4/13, 10:53 AM

    I am so sad for your loss. Over the 50 or so years that I have kept chickens I have had my turn in this bucket and I know how helpless it feels. Kudos for your non-judgemental attitude. I hope the coyote moves on

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  95. Chris Price Kluge11/4/13, 11:13 AM

    So sorry!!! But you are so right! I feel the same way as you. I only have 7 and live on close to 2 acres.. I love to let them out and do their things naturally. I try to provide as safe a place as I can, but I know this is not a guarantee that something won't happen to them. I just simply don't want chickens that are penned up all the time. You provide such a GREAT environment for your flock, and they have a great life while they are here!

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  96. Kristina Ashley Smashley11/4/13, 11:14 AM

    Yes, tis true. Having chickens is a delight, but can also be heart-breaking. In April of this year my girls were free-ranging... I was inside but we had lots of windows so I was watching them. I turned on the vacuum for maybe 10 minutes and when I turned it off and went outside all I found were feather piles all over the place. I recovered three hens immediately, but 7 were still missing. Found one more hen shortly after... driving down the road we found the rooster 1/4 mile away. Then a few hours later one more hen waddled in from hiding... she had a major canine bite wound in the middle of her back which I was able to treat and she recovered from.

    A mother coyote had been watching and waiting for some kind of distraction - the vacuum - and once it turned on she rushed in... killing FOUR hens. She buried one nearby before our Rooster escaped his pen (he busted down a locked wooden door to get to his girls) and chased her a quarter mile down the road (or she chased him, who knows, but he survived!) I'd had a flock of ten that in mere moments became a flock of 6 because of one sneaky predator (almost 5 had I not been able to save the little bitten one).

    My lesson in all this... is do your best to protect your girls without denying them a fruitful life. They're chickens - they need to free range sometimes... as backyard chickeners most of us understand it is inhumane to keep them penned their whole life... but be aware of your surroundings. And also, be aware of the cycle of life and understand that if a predator gets your bird... it is survival for that animal and thus a reminder of Nature and her ways. I love my chickens so much, and I will cry when I lose one... but we can't stop Nature... we are humans within the mix... not in control of it.

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  97. I'm so sorry for your loss and the feeling of helplessness that comes with it. You have a healthy attitude about the balance of life that I agree with, but it doesn't lesson the loss.

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  98. WhiteTaleFarm11/4/13, 11:58 AM

    Very sorry about your hen. We live in one of the most rural regions of Vermont on about 100 acres. This area is home to bears, coyotes, coons, fishers, weasels, skunks, hawks, owls, etc. Surprisingly though, we haven't lost a bird to predators. We have two German Shepherds and a Yellow Lab. I use an ATV to run the dogs around the property most days so their scent is all over and they are certainly not what you'd call 'quiet'. A few years ago, some coons would visit on occasion but they stopped once we got the Shepherds. Even at night, we don't always get out to lock the chickens in. I keep firearms handy at all times but nothing comes around since we got the Shepherds.

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  99. Toodles' Mom11/4/13, 1:10 PM

    I live and keep chickens in inner city Indianapolis. Coyotes den on the banks of Pleasant Run, a creek not so far from our home, right along busy roads and businesses. I would have no qualms about shooting at or actually shooting them or the multitude of raccoons and 'possums that live here in the city and prey on backyard chickens. The problem is that the law forbids the firing of a gun within city limits for the simple reason that one could hit another human being or a pet. The only traps allowed are humane ones, and they don't handle coyotes. Besides, what do you do with the animal you catch? Our only protection is a good defense in the form of a well-protected coop and run made as large as possible and the inadequate, but will-have-to-do, supervised free range.

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  100. Dorinda Oakes11/4/13, 1:43 PM

    We had the same thing happen. we keep two flocks now a free range flock and a "safe" flock.

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  101. So sorry for your loss but agree 100%..........I live in the country and my hens free range every day...over time we have lost a few but that is one of the risks that you take. The daily joy that my girls have in running free is worth the risk for me.

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  102. Cassandra Cranmer11/4/13, 2:54 PM

    A family of raccoons killed the pet rooster I had raised from a chick along with its offspring and the remaining hen several years ago. It's very sad to lose chickens especially when you raise them from a young chick. The raccoon dug under the fence of the hen's coop and dragged her out. By the time my mother's German shepherds got out there, it was too late. It was very sad. This time I'm doing an enclosed coop and having a solid bottom on it. With the chickens that died several years ago, their slabs and coops had to be moved due relocation of the septic tank and the cement slabs cracked when moved and an affordable source of slabs couldn't be found since we were dealing with an expensive septic tank relocation at the time. The company thought the area where the chickens were would be a better area for the septic tank and wouldn't do the project unless the chicken coops were moved.

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  103. Suzanne Schultz11/4/13, 3:19 PM

    well written, and I am so sorry for your loss. *hugs*

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  104. Sorry for your loss. I put aprons on my Girls after hawk came after them. Still keeping eyes open

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  105. My sympathies to you, Blaze and the flock on the loss of one of your own. Regardless of whether you had a weapon or not, the eons of skill development on the part of a predator versus prey has pretty much put the predator on top. You would have to be in the state of constant vigilance, constant awareness and constantly on guard to react fast enough to have kept the incident from happening. I was wondering, though, if there was a way to put up some sort of fencing that would be situated so as to force the predator to cross open space before actually meeting the fence. The rooster and hens themselves would notice the motion long before a human would, providing warning, and depending on the height and type of fencing, might slow a predator down long enough to allow the hens to find shelter. Cannot imagine the heartbreak of losing one of the girls, or guys.

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  106. Jenny Green11/4/13, 6:29 PM

    Most don't attack during the day, but the hawks sure do!!!!! At night all the predators come out, they smell dinner. We have a "chicken dog" that barks if anything approaches either the chicken coop or our front porch (which has a watermelon box and 27 chickies inside.

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  107. Great article! Being on the bottom of the food chain, leads us to devastating moments of panic, fear and sadness. Feel your loss and the feeling of helplessness at the time of the attack. I had free range flock when we lived down south for 18 years, as long as they got back in the coop before dark all was good! Then we moved up north, off grid, on a 110 acres, where only cattle had lived before. Needless to say predators of every kind, from bear to fishers roam the ranch. I won't ever consider any form of free ranging my flock up here. The difference of two completely different lifestyles. Keep the informative and stimulating articles coming, thank you!

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  108. TheChickenChick11/4/13, 8:40 PM

    Thanks Rochelle!

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  109. TheChickenChick11/4/13, 9:08 PM

    Thank you, Bonnie. We did install a fence. There is no open space behind our property though- just dense woods.

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  110. TheChickenChick11/4/13, 9:22 PM

    Thank you Suzanne. ♥

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  111. TheChickenChick11/4/13, 9:29 PM

    Thank you Jody.

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  112. TheChickenChick11/4/13, 9:30 PM

    Thanks Chris.

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  113. TheChickenChick11/4/13, 9:32 PM

    Thanks Stephanie.

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  114. Denise Allison Magil11/5/13, 12:43 AM

    so sad as girls wander further away from the yard into the woods i too think i might keep them in

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  115. You have permission to subdue the land from God Himself. Use your head girl, they make traps for that....

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  116. Thank You again for all your great info and well presented web postings!

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  117. Laura Graham11/5/13, 12:56 PM

    Thanks for this instructive post. I had never thought about "training" potential predators by using a gunshot. That may be a reason to get a rifle or shotgun to use for that purpose. I live in the country and am surrounded by woods on 3 sides. I remember my mother had a BB gun by the door that she used to "train" neighborhood dogs not to come in our yard to snoop and poop. It worked really well and was used infrequently, but we didn't have stray or neighborhood dogs in our yard. When I was a child, I didn't understand. Now I do.

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  118. TheChickenChick11/5/13, 7:46 PM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tessica.

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  119. TheChickenChick11/5/13, 7:46 PM

    Crazy, right? They're hungry and motivated.

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  120. TheChickenChick11/5/13, 7:54 PM

    Thanks Robin. :)

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  121. Vince Gentile11/6/13, 8:10 AM

    Your right, just yesterday after work I let my hens out of the run for a supervised foraging as I do most days, well just 10 feet in front of me a hawk swoops down and almost picked off on of my hens, i feel if it wasn't for the basketball stand that they were foraging around the hawk may have been successful

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  122. Julia Weeks-Bentley11/6/13, 5:08 PM

    I am sorry your for your loss. I do free range. I have 34 and they all free range on 5 acres, woods and a creek. I do not supervise and I am aware of the dangers. The precautions I take are some mean roosters and a couple of dogs who run free with the chickens....I also leave a bright barn light on 24/7....no losses yet but I expect there will be eventually....I do it because "and I have done both" the eggs and meat are so much better....I also get so many more eggs then before. But yes, I do worry about predators...I guess in the beginning I had hoped having baby chicks each year would make up for any losses but so far I have not had any problems. I suspect it is because of the dogs.

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  123. TheChickenChick11/6/13, 9:24 PM

    Scary. I'm glad it was not a successful attempt.

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  124. neanderthal7511/7/13, 7:16 PM

    Sadly, most city folks get their 'information' from anti-hunting channels like Animal Planet, Nat. Geo., or anti-hunting organizations such as World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, or PETA.


    People in this very large group have never seen an animal starving to death in the Winter, listened to its labored breathing, or see the remains up close and personal, smelling the foul odor of an animal that's starved to death.


    Herd/flock/pack/covey management is an absolute MUST if we humans are to take our roles as conservators seriously, which IS part and parcel of our responsibility.


    It is more than unfortunate that far too many people really don't understand, or worse, don't want to understand, the real world consequences of stopping legal hunting from taking place.


    Whenever I visit Sheridan, WY, my mouth tends to water now and again, as the turkey populations in the Sheridan area are HUGE.....quite a few flocks even living in town, and sadly, some frequenting places like McDonald's for free and easy tidbits that aren't good for them.......


    A greater focus on harvesting foxes, coyotes, coons, and skunks, would INDEED improve both quail and turkey populations.....that is a proven fact.


    Good luck to you and thank you for your kind words.

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  125. neanderthal7511/7/13, 7:28 PM

    You're welcome Lorilei.


    When you're considering your coup positioning and layout, please don't forget to consider the DEPTH and GAUGE of your fencing for your coup!


    Most folks believe in only going down 12", but I still swear by getting as close to 24" as possible, as well as going up a couple gauges in wire size to fight the bigger teeth and bite power of badgers and coyotes.


    Labs and other large dogs can dig DEEP in order to see their 4 legged friends next door, so the motivation for a badger/coyote/skunk is much greater when they're hearing the clucking from frightened hens inside the coupe as they are digging.


    I would also recommend heavier boarding for any portal/hatch/lid that opens into your coup: gnawing at thinner wood planks has yielded many skunks, coons, and yotes a LOT of free chicken suppers for their efforts at the corners of such entrances.


    Remember, think like a predator and how that predator will utilize the 'tools' they have to use, in order to get your hens.


    Hope this helps and thanks again for your kinds words.

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  126. Penne Dietor11/9/13, 12:26 AM

    WE have a 6 foot wooden fence around our yard .Lost a chicken right after my husband let the girls out about 7 a.m. In retrospect that's when preditors hunt.Early and later in the evening.It came over the fence right after he went into the house, si that cat was stalking us. Now I do go out with girls and watch them .They tend to stay close to the house and me now.. I haven't had trouble sense But I think Bobcats are less likely to come near people than a coyote they are way more bold.

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  127. Susan Cottrell11/9/13, 9:40 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm new here and look forward to reading more of your posts. I'm about to move out to the country and have been planning on chickens for many years when this day would finally come. I need all the help I can get!

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  128. TheChickenChick11/10/13, 8:11 PM

    Don't bet on it, two bobcats came frighteningly close to my husband and I on two different occasions.

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  129. I am always open to advice on how to protect my chickens. What was your situation with the bob cat..I have a 6 ft wooden fence and i am always NOW out visably close with my girls. Ever since the last attack they seem to stay close to the house on the patio with me . I hate to keep them cooped up all day it's not healthy .I have considered having the person who built mt my coop come build a a large atrium for them when they are out of the coop. But the foraging they do when out in the garden is so beneficial to their diet and well being

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  130. TheChickenChick11/13/13, 12:12 AM

    Fencing definitely helps.

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  131. Chickenman050111/13/13, 8:22 PM

    How can i prevent a attack from a fox

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  132. TheChickenChick11/13/13, 8:36 PM

    Only by keeping the chickens enclosed in a coop and run fortified with hardware cloth.

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  133. I can't get the video to open. Is there a link directly to it?

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  134. TheChickenChick11/14/13, 7:02 PM

    For some reason that is a mystery to me, I can no longer find the original video on my YouTube channel, so I can't give you the link. Sorry. :/

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  135. I started out my chicken adventure this spring with 6 chicks. I was just thinking how much I enjoy them when 2 days ago, a large predatory bird of some kind killed one of my full grown hens when free-ranging. It was surprisingly near the house. It appeared to be an immature bald eagle. I thought the risk at this point would be a fox, coyote, etc. I felt so badly about it, that I have not let my remaining 5 out for 2 days now. My husband and I were discussing free-ranging just now. The chickens want out so badly and I realize that this is just part of nature. I think I will allow them out tomorrow. I didn't think I would get any more for a while, but now I am thinking I will get a replacement and maybe a couple of more this spring.

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  136. TheChickenChick11/14/13, 9:13 PM

    I'm sorry for your loss, Mary. It never gets any easier to loose a pet.

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  137. TheChickenChick11/14/13, 9:15 PM

    It sounds as if there is much more than coccidiosis going on with this bird, Elaine. At 3 years old, the likelihood of serious reproductive dysfunction is very high. If you have a vet, I would contact them for an exam STAT.

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  138. Great story, we do 'supervised' free ranging now and yes, we've lost some to hawks on the other side of the tree line. But, I did save one of my hens from the talons of a golden eagle too. Now, they've been so terrorized lately, they won't come out of the yard.
    Love the video and how your roo went running to save the poor hen. Sorry for your loss.

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  139. Jenerous Soul11/22/13, 1:40 PM

    Very well said. So sorry for your loss.

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  140. i have shared this story with others and I think it will back up what you have said. this past August my then 15 year old son had our flock in the back yard (we know we live in a rural area and are aware of the dangers) as he stood 5 foot away from his favorite bantam hen "Chocolate" a juvenile eagle swooped in and nailed her to his absolute horror he ran to intercept and although he scared off the eagle the damage was done. It struck with such force that it broke her neck and there was no saving her. My children fully understand the food chain but also have made the decision to allow our peeps the maximum amount of freedom possible with the least amount of danger. they only are allowed out when we are home otherwise they are in their yard. And while we know we can't always save them we do our best to keep them safe and have accepted that there will be losses. thank you for bringing awareness to this topic.

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  141. I am sorry for your loss and share your pain. I lost half my flock this year to predators this year. I invested in a Livestock Guardian Dog. He is worth his weight in gold. I'm in central North Carolina and my predators range for the large coyote to the common small predators. I strongly recommend researching Livestock Guardian Dogs and talk with breeders. I chose an Anatolian Shepherd Dog. He's four months now and amazing. He lives right in with my birds and Pygmy goats! I've not lost a bird yet!

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  142. What an excellent blog! I just got my info here on impacted egg and am treating my hen Red as we speak (resting comfortably..she seemed to actually enjoy the warm sitz-bath, though not-so-much the finger with the KY jelly up her chute!)
    Now for my "Fox cure" :
    We have lost almost half our 15 free-range chickens we started the year with..mostly to foxes, which have moved into the area now that there seems to be less coyotes (foxes won't breed where there are coyotes). They would obviously be watching ther place..sometimes the attack would come less than 15 minutes, middle of the day!- after we'd been out there rototilling etc, when the hens love to pick there afterwards ( we lost our favorite hen that followed us around like a dog.)
    Everybody kept telling us we need a dog, but I haven't the time in my life right now to properly train one, and our road is much too close (That's how we lost our last dog years ago and a couple of cats too)...so I decided to make a BARKING DOG TAPE off the internet that sounds like a whole kennel-full. I play it a couple of times a day..random times, so the predators will be kept off-base. And because foxes are our biggest problem and they're so smart, I add a little extra "reality" to the barking by 'borrowing" some of my neighbor's Great Dane poops and flinging them around the perimeter of the range , especially where I see tracks. If I have to go out for a few hours I often leave a radio on..PBS is good because the talking probably scares them more than the music. I've been doing this for over a month now and haven't lost anymore chickens after that awful week when I lost 2! The chickens, and even our cat, has gotten used to the barking dogs...they know it's "Our" dogs, and they live in that little box...long as the fox doesn't figure it out, we're golden!

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  143. I am always mindful that we built our house in Nature's backyard, not the other way around and I accept the rules of the game that were in place before we imposed upon it.



    Thank you! With this one sentence you have won me over! So many do not understand this concept that nature is the one we need to understand and work with. "Do No Harm" is my motto! Again, thank you!

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  144. Gen Damon Sours12/27/13, 10:00 AM

    I love this, I especially like how much you emphasize about what works for one person doesn't require approval of others. For us my dogs "babysit" the chickens while they free range. The dogs do a good job of keeping away land based predators but unfortunately they don't stop the Eagle attack. I have had my flock reduced from 44 to 29 in just a matter of a few days. The eagles livingin a tree on my neighbor's property had 2 babys this year and between them feeding the eaglets and the eaglets returning to the area in the fall, I lost a lot of very loved hens. We hazed the birds when we discovered in late spring and early summer that it was Eagles taking the hens. We calle Fish and Game to better understand our rights and the hazing process before we hazed them. It took 2 months of keeping chickens locked up and hazing the eagles for them to go away. We then started letting flock free range again just to have the eaglets return in the fall and hunt the hens for a few days before we realized they were back. I think the dogs are unsuccessful in keeping away birds of prey due to be trained to not chase and kill the hens. But the dogs have been very effective in keeping coyotes off the property. Thank you for sharing this.

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  145. Jackie Moore Maphis12/27/13, 10:12 AM

    Great thoughts, last month I lost 4 hens to a predator in 2 days and still have not caught sight of it. raccoon or possum, I am not sure. (and one lost to grief) Until then I let them chose where they roost. After this I had to chose for them and lock them all in the hen house at night. I liked being able to look out onto the backyard with my first cup of joe and see the girls all standing at the fence looking for me. Now I look out on one lone girl left from my original flock and realize I have to change.

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  146. I free-range my girls (and boy). Last year I had a Wynadotte
    Roo named Penrod ( he came to an untimely end when he decided my husband was
    the enemy) to keep my girls company. They are in a safe coop during the night
    but are allowed to range our back yard during the day, which has a 5 foot chain
    link fence. They get to enjoy the garden and a small patch of woods. My husband
    was in the house one afternoon when he heard Penrod and the girls making a
    terrible ruckus. He stepped out on the back porch and there was a hawk going
    after the hens. By the time he got down the steps, the hawk had grabbed Sophie
    (a grey Easteregger) and was trying to pick her up. He ran over to them and the
    hawk let her go – she ran towards the shed (which is on cinderblocks so the
    girls can go underneath for shelter from the rain and sun. The hawk flew after
    her and went under the shed also. My husband followed them and managed to scare
    off the hawk. Poor Sophie had a nasty tear under her right wing but it didn’t
    bleed very much, thank goodness. We put antibiotic powder on it for a few days
    and it healed up. However, she has never been quite the same… she is VERY
    skittish and won’t let us get to close to her anymore. She also doesn’t hang
    with the flock as much as she did.

    ReplyDelete
  147. TheChickenChick12/28/13, 2:24 PM

    Thanks Lynn. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  148. neanderthal7512/28/13, 8:32 PM

    Hey Linda,


    You're quite welcome! It's hard to know you're going to be faced with having to protect your flock, but they look to you as their sole protector, and while that fence will work in many cases, coyotes can really dig well, as can coons, skunks, badgers (past master's at it), and roaming dogs.

    Don't forget to extend your fence well down into the ground......I still remember well the horror and anger I felt when opening the door to my couple and finding all 15 of my girls dead, the victim of a skunk.......I don't want anyone else to experience that and face such devastation.

    We're ALL part of the 'life cycle' and that includes yotes, coons, and le Pues..........if I have to choose between them or my girls.......the girls win.


    Take care, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!


    JR Bailey

    ReplyDelete
  149. Susan Shelly3/24/14, 4:19 PM

    We have had chickens for about 10 mos. and had let them free range for at least an hour morning and evening and hadn't had any problems - until last Tues. I was in the garage tending to our Mama Silkie who has 3 new chicks. One chick had passed away that morning so we were sad anyway. Heard some cackling out by the coop but I didn't go right away as sometimes they "talk" to each other and I didn't recognize that this was different. When I got out there a hawk was standing on Jessie, our sweetest, tamest little Bantam hen. I chased him off but the damage was already done. Jessie didn't make it. I keep reliving this and can't forgive myself;O((

    ReplyDelete
  150. TheChickenChick3/26/14, 10:40 PM

    I'm sorry to hear it, Susan. :(

    ReplyDelete
  151. Tammy Townsend4/1/14, 7:21 AM

    A few days ago 2 of our girls fell victim to a predator(s). We still don't know what happened. One minute they were out in the yard (we had 6) and the next my husband came home from work and came inside to as what happened! He found feathers and nothing else! The girls were taken in 2 different areas of our yard. I feel guilty for 2 reasons - one because of allowing them to enjoy the free range in our yard and two - because of letting them free range they became victims of predators. Some say hawk and others say coyote. It was early evening and with the house closed up we did not hear any screeching. Our dogs now seem very skittish and nervous outside. We aren't sure if they are smelling something or what it is. My girls are so much happier when they are outside - they were miserable this winter locked up in the coop the majority of the time. :(

    ReplyDelete
  152. TheChickenChick4/4/14, 10:03 PM

    Sorry to hear it, Tammy. :(

    ReplyDelete
  153. Today I had my first hawk attack. She is ok now (I hope). The vet cut an area of her feathers off and gave her a shot. I have her separated until she heals. I know that this would not have happened if she had been in her enclosed run. It breaks my heart to see her hurt, but I think it would break my heart even more seeing her restricted in a small space unable to be free and enjoy her days hunting for bugs.

    ReplyDelete

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