543 Day Writing Journey

Why Don’t You Free-Range Your Chickens? Day 188.

Aunt Wendy three years ago with the newbies

I dedicate this post to Aunt Wendy, our silver-laced Wyandotte who passed this morning. She was five and although she was tiny, she was the boss. All the others respected her and moved out of her way when she wanted them to. Enjoy string cheese with Barbie and the others, sweet Wendy. You are so missed. You have no idea.

Gisele with her baby chick

People have asked me why we don’t let the chickens free-range. Five years ago when we started keeping chickens, we looked into the practice and realized very quickly that it is not feasible for our feathered family members. For us, it’s mostly about their safety:

  • We have German shepherds. Although Gisele will sit with the chickens all day long, allowing them to pick at her fluffy fur and roam around her feet and tail, the other pups most likely will not.
  • Hawks have always frequented our properties. In Southampton, we saw red-tailed hawks every day and they would perch right atop the chickens’ pen, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Here, we have mostly Cooper’s hawks and they’re notorious for sitting high at the tops of the tall pines waiting for their chance.
  • Other birds of prey such as owls will take a chicken, and we have plenty of Barred owls and also Great-horned.
  • Wildlife such as coyotes, bobcats, foxes, bears (which don’t usually bother chickens), raccoons, etc., have frequented our properties. They are natural predators and love to eat chickens. (Possums like their eggs and I have heard of them killing chickens, but it’s quite rare.)
  • I would hate for our chickens to make their way to the road and get hit by a car. At times, unfortunately, drivers are careless or worse, deliberately malicious.
  • Where I live, there are dogs who run free around the neighborhood, and in the beginning of our time here, they would hang around in our yard eyeing the chickens.
  • Cats don’t usually mess with chickens, but it can happen. Also, in the springtime there may be chicks which a neighbor cat would easily and happily scoop up.
  • Other chickens in the neighborhood may free-range which would cause problems with ours. They may fight each other which could end badly, and they can carry nasty diseases which we don’t want around ours.
  • Our birds may become a nuisance to the neighbors or even become lost or taken.
  • We don’t want them using our vehicles and front porch as a bathroom. What a mess that would be!
  • They are little beggars! There’s no way we would find a second of peace if we wanted to sit outside, which we do frequently. They would be sitting with us, begging for food and attention. It’s our fault, yes, but it just would be a mess.

We have an enclosure with a safe sleeping space. They are free to fly and roost up high, and they can sleep in the nesting boxes or on the outside roost, but they are locked up secure at night.

They have entertainment, treats, and heavy-duty protection from the elements, and they also have friends. As much as I would love to set them free to explore and run, they just won’t survive it. I am not against free-ranging and truly envy the practice, but it just won’t work for our chickens here.

Click HERE to read more about free-ranging chickens.

Click here to see why I’m writing: 543

2 thoughts on “Why Don’t You Free-Range Your Chickens? Day 188.”

  1. I’m so sorry about your loss of Wendy. I hated losing mine when they aged. They all have their own personalities. People don’t realize that unless they have had them. I never let my flock free range (25 of them) for the same reasons you stated. I hated the way the hawks waited above in the trees, just hoping an opportunity would arise. Their outdoor run all around the coop was covered in wire so they were safe. They had a ramp leading up into the coop, as it was raised up on stilts, and every night the door was closed up. One night as it got dark I realized I hadn’t closed it yet. I was scared to death by a hissing sound when I got out there! There was a possum in there! It ran out when I got out of the way. Did you know that snakes will go for their eggs? Thankfully I never came face to face with one of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing this. You can never be too careful. We’re all sad about Wendy. We had her five years! They DO have their own personalities. We tried not naming the newest ones but that didn’t last. Yes snakes are something we look out for. You know snakes love the Southeast.

      Liked by 1 person

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