What are the several ways to protect free-range chickens? One thing I like about free-ranging is the freedom my birds enjoy while roaming the backyard and my peace of mind. But my greatest concern is their safety outside their coops. Chickens are easy targets for predators, thieves or your neighbors’ pets. For that reason, you should find ways to protect them especially when they are foraging in the yard.
You can fence your yard, build chicken chunnels (tunnels), cover their run, and provide safety shelters among other ways. Your birds deserve protection throughout to avoid exposing them to dangerous elements such as predators. Keep in mind that raising chickens is a resourceful investment that needs protection.
Keeping your birds safe is easy and rewarding in the future. Though most chicken owners may not realize its importance in the first place, some have taken safety measures seriously. This is the case, because they understand the great benefits that come with protecting their flock of birds. With that in mind, you may also consider keeping an eye on your chickens when they are free-ranging. So, the following tips will help you achieve this goal in the best way possible.
Important Tips to Protect Free-Range Chickens
Fence the Yard
The first step to protecting your chickens is by fencing their run to keep away four-legged predators. The fence will discourage predators such as bobcats, skunks, coyotes, and mongooses from accessing your chickens. Also, the same fence will prevent your birds from wandering all over and wreaking havoc to your neighbors’ gardens.
- Make sure that you use durable and firm fencing materials when enclosing your chickens’ yard. You can choose welded wire mesh, electric netting, poultry wire or other fencing materials with relatively small openings. A good fence will keep most of the predators out and your chickens in.
- While erecting a fence around the yard, make sure that it is tall enough to prevent coyotes, bobcats or other notorious jumpers from harassing your birds. These fantastic jumpers are able to clear 4-foot high fences to steal chickens and get away quickly.
- Therefore, ensure that your enclosure is tall to deny these dangerous predators access to your birds. On top of that, add cover nets to prevent any troublesome wild animals from vaulting your fence.
Build Chicken Chunnels (Tunnels)
- These are tunnel-like structures that work best for free-ranging chickens. The tunnels are made from poultry wire to confine chickens in one area of the run. These structures serve many functions which include protecting chickens from predators.
- Most importantly, they are affordable and you can move them to different places within your backyard. If you want to keep your birds safe when they’re free-ranging, you should consider providing them with chicken chunnels.
Make the Area around Your Chicken Run Unfriendly to Predators
- Most predators thrive best on their ability to sneak and pounce on their suspecting prey. So, it’s advisable to remove this ability as one of the several ways to protect free-range chickens.
- Look around and assess the situation. If you spot any overgrown grass, bushes or small trees near your birds’ free-ranging area, cut them down. With these hideouts gone, predators will have no place to hide. As you may know, predators are powerful when it comes to attacking their prey in a vast open area.
Cover Your Chicken Run
- Another effective way of protecting your birds at any time of the day is by covering their run. You can use a chicken wire-netting, game-bird netting, welded-wire fencing or install a random network of crisscrossing wires over the run.
- These protective materials will discourage owls and hawks from attacking your birds. For better protection, choose small-size mesh fencing materials to cover your chicken run. If not, raccoons or other dexterous four-legged animals may gain entry into the yard and kill your birds.
Keep Your Chickens Locked Up at Night
- During the day you can let your birds roam the yard searching for edibles. But at night you should consider locking them up as a way of keeping them safe. Most predators hunt when it’s dark and might take advantage of the darkness to launch their assault on your chickens.
- To avoid such cases, you must train your flock of free-ranging birds to return to their coops at dusk. Also, you can install an automatic chicken door or coop door to allow your birds in whenever it gets dark.
- Chickens are smart and they will learn the routine of going back to their coops every night. Once in the coop, make sure that the doors are locked up well to keep predators or even thieves away.
Bury the Mesh-Wire under the Perimeter
- If you are an experienced chicken owner, you should be aware that predators come from any direction. This means they can attack your birds from the air, from the ground, and underneath.
- In addition to covering the run and providing an enclosed perimeter, you should bury the mesh-wire underneath the perimeter. This will deter any predator that tries to dig its way into your chicken yard. On the other hand, you may use hardware cloth to ensure that toothy critters don’t find their way inside the chicken run at any time of the day.
Regular Inspection of the Yard
- It is never enough to provide a fence around your chicken yard or covering the run unless you perform a routine inspection of these facilities. In this regard, make sure that you check for access holes and seal them to keep some predators out.
- Small animals such as weasel can easily squeeze through such access holes to kill or take away your chickens. You can avoid such incidents by checking for weak spots or damaged structures and patch them as soon as possible.
Get Rid of Anything that attracts Predators
- Your chickens are the main predator attraction when free-ranging. But other factors attract these dangerous animals to your chicken run as well. These include the chicken feed, rodents, and uncollected eggs.
- Getting rid of the things that bring predators close to your chickens will help you keep your birds secure throughout. Start by collecting eggs daily and keeping them away from the yard. Secondly, minimize chicken feed supply that attract rodents such as mice and rats. Most importantly maintain cleanliness around your chicken yard.
Construct Safety Shelters
- Free-ranging chickens are always at risk of being attacked by predators or your neighbor’s pets. But they have a higher chance of evading an attack if they have a place to run whenever they are threatened. You need to build low-to-the-ground shelters to provide refuge for your birds in case of an attack.
- These shelters will work best to deter predatory attacks mainly from above. This is due to the fact that birds of prey cannot fly under to take away your chickens. At least, your free-ranging flock will feel safe under such safety shelters.
Find Some Help
- Finding some help is one of the several ways to protect free-range chickens. This comes about especially when you cannot spend most of your time watching over your poultry. So, you will have to look for someone to take care of your birds while you are away.
- Alternatively, you may include one or two roosters to watch your free-ranging hens during the day. Roosters are believed to be defensive when it comes to protecting their hens. These male birds will most likely fight back other small predators while guarding other chickens in your yard.
- You can also get help through the use of a trusted guard dog. Ensure that your dog will not turn to your birds and feast on them before trusting it with your flock.
What is the importance of protecting your free-ranging chickens? Since your flock of birds is one of your greatest investments, they need protection all the time. In return, you should expect them to become more productive in terms of fresh eggs and delicious meat. To add on that, your chickens are a reliable source of income whereby you can raise them for commercial egg and meat production. Chickens are a good source of organic manure that is rich in all nutrients for crops. Finally, these birds help in controlling pests and weeds on a farm by feeding on these elements.
Besides the threat from predators, which other problems should you expect when your chickens are free-ranging? Before you decide to allow your birds to free-range, you need to know the downside of this practice. In this case, you will have to spend time hunting for eggs in your backyards because your chickens will lay almost anywhere while free-ranging. Again your neighbors will not be comfortable with your chickens destroying their crops or gardens. This may lead to some conflicts between you and your neighbors. But with proper protection, none of these incidents will bother you when you practice free-ranging as a way of raising chickens.
Protecting your chickens should be your primary concern to avoid losing them to predators or thieves. Luckily for you, there are several ways to protect free-range chickens. So, you may use the tips highlighted above to help you keep your birds safe in your backyard.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!